Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Assumption

Yesterday we celebrated Mary's birthday in heaven. Though we also celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary's conception (December 8) and her birth (September 8), we remember her as well on the day she passed from this life to the next. This is the usual date when a saint is honored: their birthday in heaven. But in Mary's case, we have an extra reason to celebrate. We believe that Jesus not only welcomed her soul into heaven but also her body.

This makes absolute sense. One of Mary's titles is "Ark of the New Covenant." The Ark of the Covenant was the the special chest which the Israelites carried through the desert and into the Promised Land. It contained signs of God's guidance and care--the tablets of stone on which were inscribed the commandments that God had given to the Israelites to help them know how to live; some of the manna or bread-like substance with which God fed the People during their journey through the desert. Mary is truly an Ark as well because she carried within herself the New Law of Love and the Bread of Life--Jesus himself. Through Mary, God was more present to the world than ever before.

According to Blessed John Paul II, writing in his last encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia #55, "When, at the Visitation, she bore in her womb the Word made flesh, she became in some way a 'tabernacle' – the first 'tabernacle' in history – in which the Son of God, still invisible to our human gaze, allowed himself to be adored by Elizabeth, radiating his light as it were through the eyes and the voice of Mary." Thus it is altogether appropriate that no corruption should touch the Ark of the New Covenant, the first tabernacle in history.

We too receive the Bread of Life into our bodies. Blessed John Paul II also writes: "At the Annunciation Mary conceived the Son of God in the physical reality of his body and blood, thus anticipating within herself what to some degree happens sacramentally in every believer who receives, under the signs of bread and wine, the Lord's body and blood." We too, in a mysterious and sacramental way, become tabernacles.

However, we have sinned and, unlike the sinless Blessed Virgin Mary, we must experience the effects of sin in our bodies--death and the corruption that follows it. In the words of Genesis 3: 19: "Dust you are and to dust you shall return."

Christ's Resurrection and Mary's Assumption are our hope. Though sin leads to the corruption of our bodies, Christ promises to share the fruits of the Resurrection with us. He began with his own Mother Mary. Our bodies are not meant for corruption and annihilation but will one day, in a mysterious way, be joined to our souls and given a new and eternal life. Because we have eaten the Bread of Life, because we have become tabernacles for Christ truly present in the Eucharist, we too will one day be in heaven body and soul, just like Mary, just like Jesus.

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