Our Assumption

Fra Angelico, The Dormition and the Assumption of the Virgin | 1430, Gold and Tempera on a Tabernacle | The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

Fra Angelico, The Dormition and the Assumption of the Virgin | 1430, Gold and Tempera on a Tabernacle | The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

“And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” -Luke 1.45

The Assumption of the Virgin is the culmination of the promise of the Resurrection: what Christ began in His flesh he continues in Mary, who today is assumed soul and body into the glory of paradise. Through the sublime vocation of the Mother of God, this Solemnity teaches and reminds us of the promise of salvation that is ours, of the value of the body, and of the high dignity of its offering as worship.

The Assumption is the pledge of our future glory. The Resurrection of Christ reveals the destiny of human flesh, that our mortal bodies are made for life eternal, that we “believe in the resurrection of the flesh” – that the final end of the flesh is its restoration to glory.

Mary is all mortal, one of us, who through a singular grace was conceived without sin: a woman who enters the plan of salvation through the predilection of God and by the free assent of her will. She becomes the tabernacle of Christ’s flesh with her maternal body – the New Ark of His dwelling. As she visits Elizabeth the words we hear from Elizabeth’s lips are the eloquent testament of her bold faith, and the marvels of God

“Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment

of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Luke 1.45

Blessed is she who believed!

These words unite the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. In the Virgin we see the fleshly embodiment of the life of faith, her profound hope that God keeps His promise, and the selfless offering of her will and of her body in the charity of confident obedience.

We also are called to believe in the same fulfillment, to believe that word of God is not uttered in vain – that the promise of the Incarnation continues, and is to be fulfilled even in us. The Woman who brought Christ into the world is the same intercessor who brings the world back to Christ in hope. A daughter of Israel, she longed for a Redeemer. As the New Eve, she nourishes hidden in her body the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As the Mother of the Savior, she brought God in the world and bears still for us the saving promise of Christ’s redemption.

In coming to her we near her Son. She who is “blessed among women”, and “full of grace”, is the image of the marvel that will become of us. She enters heaven entirely – body and soul – the resplendent manifestation of the power of the Resurrection, and the living hope of the promise of eternal life.

In the Assumption we also behold the glory of the human body that becomes the temple of the Most High, and of the human soul made perfect through grace. Mary is the first fulfillment of this destiny. As Mother of God, immaculate from her conception, her body does not undergo corruption, for it is free of the first corruption of sin, and so she enters the glory of paradise intact, as one who both bears and inherits the promise of the ages.

“So the King will greatly desire your beauty;

Because He is your Lord, worship Him.”

-Psalm 45.11

The King makes her the spotless abode of His Eternal Word, and He does desire her beauty. She becomes Spouse and Mother, and through this offering, she does worship Him – as a woman. This is the deeply feminine and maternal beauty of this solemnity in which we honor the Virgin who is made Mother of her Maker. The bodily receptivity of the Virgin at the Incarnation is completed as she is herself received into beatitude with her body – as she is assumed into heaven.

“Blessed is the womb of the Virgin Mary, who bore the Son of the Eternal Father!”

-Propers for the Solemnity of the Assumption

The Church today sings triumphantly about a womb. The womb that received Christ is brought into the womb of paradise: God came down to us in her flesh, and then brings her back to Himself in her flesh. Beholding her assumed into heaven, we behold the feminine glory of a fully human maternity that is raised to the dignity of bearing God into the world: she is the first chalice of the Body of Christ – her womb the tabernacle of His love. It is fitting that the body that bore Him is brought to the altar of heaven, for she is the first the altar of His advent into the world. Now she is resplendent in the beatitude that awaits those who receive Christ, even still, in His flesh.

The hidden life of the Virgin is finally revealed in the Assumption: her hidden fruitfulness is manifest. She who ponders the works of God in the silence of her heart (cf. Lk 2.19); she who marvels at the life of God growing in her virginal womb; who follows Christ in His hidden infancy and in the years of His preaching, is the same woman whose heart is then lacerated in the offering she makes of His Body on Calvary, and there becomes Mother of the Church. We behold in Mary’s dignity the destiny of every son and daughter of the Church she births at Calvary, where beneath the blood of His Cross she fulfills those words she first spoke to the servants at Cana: “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2.5).

And so it is that the sorrow of Eve is turned to joy! That every maternity in heaven and on earth is raised up. We look upon a creature whose soul was betrothed and spousally cherished by the Eternal Word – whom grace transforms into the image and archetype of the Church, His spotless Bride – and who now reigns as queen in the nuptial glory of the banquet of heaven.

We look upon a creature whose greatest act of worship was the offering of her body – a thoroughly human, feminine, and maternal offering which God himself receives and loves – and from which God takes on our own flesh and blood to save it. She bears the Son of the Eternal Father, and through this offering of her body we see how our bodies are temples as well, which we revere as holy, and through which we live the deepest intimacy of love, as we receive Christ in the Flesh even now and bear him into a world that still longs for salvation.

“I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,

to present your bodies as a living sacrifice,

holy and acceptable to God,

which is your spiritual worship.”

Romans 12.1

In the total consecration of her being to the will of the Father, in her resounding “Fiat”, she embodies the ultimate hope for our own salvation: to belong totally to Christ, that we may totally love him in our flesh, offering our own bodies as an act of worship.

We must make room for God to dwell in us, but first we must believe the promise made even to us will be fulfilled, and hope that our longing for salvation will be satisfied – that we also will become the pure womb that bears Him into life. Then we will realize how much more room there is in God for us!

For He promised

“Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven

is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

Matthew 12.50

Blessed now, indeed, is the womb that bore the Christ. Blessed also the breast at which He nursed! (cf. Lk 11.27) Blessed now, indeed, is she among women! She who bore the Word Made Flesh, now beholds Him in her flesh. We who near the altars of this earthly life with our own body, offering worship, receive Him anew.

In her we see our future

When that which is mortal clothes itself with immortality,
then the word that is written shall come about:

Death is swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?

The sting of death is sin,
and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.

-1 Corinthians 15.54-57

Our flesh, frail with every frailty, is vivified by the promise of life, and tends even now to that blessed rest – the final object of its desire, victorious in hope.

Her Assumption is the promise of our assumption – into immortal glory.

Ave Maria! Gratia plena…

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You may reach Maria Grizzetti at IncarnationandModernity@gmail.com

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