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ON ASSUMPTION

Read­ing Time: 4 minutes

Introduction

Accord­ing to the litur­gic­al arrange­ment of the Cath­ol­ic Church, every August 15 is the feast of the assump­tion. And what is the feast of assump­tion non-Cath­ol­ics might ask? Accord­ing to the beliefs and teach­ings of the Cath­ol­ic Church, East­ern Ortho­dox Churches, Ori­ent­al Ortho­dox churches, Church of the East, some Luther­an churches and oth­ers, the feast or solem­nity of the Assump­tion of the Blessed Vir­gin Mary is the bod­ily tak­ing up of Mary, the moth­er of Jesus, into Heav­en at the end of her earthly life. In oth­er words, Assump­tion com­mem­or­ates the belief that when Mary, the moth­er of Jesus Christ, died, her body was “assumed” into heav­en to be reunited with her soul, instead of going through the nat­ur­al pro­cess of phys­ic­al decay upon death. The church accords this unique hon­our to the Moth­er of the Saviour of mankind.

Prac­ti­cing and ser­i­ous Cath­ol­ics will also remem­ber The Coron­a­tion of the Blessed Vir­gin Mary. This is linked with the Assump­tion of Mary. The Coron­a­tion of the Blessed Vir­gin Mary is the fifth of the Glor­i­ous Mys­ter­ies of the Ros­ary. This Mys­tery comes imme­di­ately after the fourth Glor­i­ous Mys­tery. There­fore, the idea that the Moth­er of Christ was phys­ic­ally crowned as Queen of Heav­en after her Assump­tion is a tra­di­tion­al Cath­ol­ic belief echoed in the Holy Rosary.

Is there any dif­fer­ence between Ascen­sion and Assump­tion? Yes! Ascen­sion is the final step in Jesus’ vic­tory over death. With his Ascen­sion, Jesus’ resur­rec­ted body enters fully into the glory of heav­en, thus ful­filling the prom­ise of the Paschal mys­tery. On the oth­er hand, and as explained above, Assump­tion cel­eb­rates the day that Mary was raised into heav­en without her body facing the decay of death. While Jesus, the Son Ascen­ded, Mary, the Moth­er, was Assumed. What a won­der­ful rela­tion­ship between Moth­er and Child!

Munificentissimus Deus

On Novem­ber 1, 1950, invok­ing his dog­mat­ic author­ity, Pope Pius XII defined the dogma the Assump­tion of Mary thus: By the author­ity of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own author­ity, we pro­nounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immacu­late Moth­er of God, the ever-Vir­gin Mary, hav­ing com­pleted the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heav­enly glory. The name of the Apostol­ic Con­sti­tu­tion with which pope Pius XII pro­mul­gated this dogma is Muni­fi­cen­tis­simus Deus – The most boun­ti­ful God. In 1854 Pope Pius IX made an infal­lible state­ment with Inef­fabil­is Deus on theImmacu­late Con­cep­tion of the Vir­gin Mary, which was the found­a­tion of Muni­fi­cen­tis­simus Deus.

Message

Accord­ing to the Gos­pel of Luke chapter one, when the angel vis­ited Mary to inform her of the assign­ment pre­pared for her by God, when Mary wondered how she could ful­fil such task, the angel went ahead and assured her that God has arranged everything. As a fur­ther assur­ance, the angel informed her that even her rel­at­ive Eliza­beth has also con­ceived a son in her old age, and she who was called bar­ren is now in her sixth month. Imme­di­ately the angel left, Mary took off to vis­it Eliza­beth. The con­tent of that vis­it is the Gos­pel read­ing for this Sunday – Luke 1:39–56.

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to the hill town coun­try of Judah to vis­it Eliza­beth. It was the joy of the inform­a­tion giv­en to her about Eliza­beth that made her to make this vis­it. Eliza­beth has been without child, and it has not been easy for her, liv­ing in a cul­ture that dis­reg­ards and dis­respects any woman who can­not give birth to a child. We can ima­gine her con­di­tion. But from this ter­rible situ­ation, God saved her. Yes! God saved her from the embar­rass­ments she has been facing due to her childlessness.

It is good that Elizabeth’s case is taken up on the day we are rejoicing for the assump­tion of Mary, the Moth­er of our Saviour. In some sense, the church is focus­ing par­tic­u­larly on moth­ers and their fam­il­ies. We should use the occa­sion of the Assump­tion of the Blessed Vir­gin Mary to reflect on the gift, role, and import­ance of moth­ers in the fam­ily, in the church, and in the soci­ety. We should also ded­ic­ate part of our reflec­tion on the con­di­tions of those moth­ers and couples who are yet to hear the cry of a baby in their homes. We are happy today because we have been saved from etern­al dam­na­tion, thanks to God’s inter­ven­tion in and through Jesus Christ. Thanks also to John the Baptist who pre­pared the way for Christ. Both Christ and John the Baptist were nur­tured by their moth­ers, Mary and Eliza­beth. Nat­ur­ally, we have not for­got­ten their fath­ers – Joseph and Zechariah.

In Igbo land, no mat­ter how much a woman is loved, if she can­not con­ceive or if she has not yet con­ceived and giv­en birth to a child, that is a very big minus on the part of that woman. Ini­tially, fam­ily mem­bers will keep telling her it does not mat­ter. But with time, it will really mat­ter. It will be a ser­i­ous issue. This has led to many prob­lems. As we rejoice with fam­il­ies, let us pray and ask God to bless those women who are still without chil­dren, the same way he blessed Eliza­beth, so that her fam­ily mem­bers, friends and rel­at­ives will run to her to con­grat­u­late and rejoice with her once they receive the good news that God has inter­vened in her case.

After the mes­sage of the angel to Mary, she replied: “Behold, I am the ser­vant of the Lord; may it be done to me accord­ing to your word.” She sur­rendered and allowed God to take charge. We pray for moth­ers to sur­render to God and allow God to take charge of those situ­ations that are weigh­ing them down. May God show them the way and the best solu­tion to their cases.

The Assump­tion of Mary is due to her faith and stead­fast­ness in God. We pray that moth­ers be stead­fast in their roles as moth­ers so that after their toils, God may reward them abund­antly. May they live to enjoy the fruit of their hard-work. May they be blessed by their chil­dren. And more import­antly, may they enjoy the ever-pres­ence of God both here and hereafter.

Prayer

God our Fath­er, we thank you that you are always right beside us. We praise you, for you nev­er aban­don us your sin­ful chil­dren. We pray in the good times and in the bad that your praise would con­tinu­ally be on our lips. Though the earth may shake and the rain may come, we will not be shaken because you are always with us. Remind each mem­ber of our fam­ily today in a spe­cial way that you are always by our side. Bless our fam­il­ies. Restore peace and tran­quil­ity in troubled fam­il­ies. Bless and encour­age the moth­ers. Strengthen the fath­ers. And sus­tain your children.

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