SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION FO THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, ON SUNDAY AUGUST 15TH 2021 (Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab; Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 45:10, 11, 12, 16; R2: 1 Cor 15:20-27; Gospel Lk 1:39-56)
FR EMMANUEL OCHIGBO
THE COMPLETION OF THE CYCLE
On the 15th of August every year, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. This is the fourth of the five glorious mysteries of the Holy Rosary. As Catholics, we get a lot of questions from non-Catholics about the Blessed Virgin Mary, one of which is on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I do not intend to answer all the questions today. For this homily, I will be focusing on two aspects of the Assumption. The first is on the name, “Assumption,” and the second in on why or how the Assumption makes sense.
Let us begin with the name “Assumption.” A few years ago, on the Solemnity of the Assumption, one of my non-Catholic friends came up to me and said, “Father Emmanuel, I really love how you Catholics choose your words; for example, I heard that today you are celebrating the Assumption of Mary. I believe you call it Assumption because you are not sure of what happened to the body of Mary, so you decided to assume that she was taken up to heaven.” I smiled and I said to him, “I appreciate your effort, but you are far from the truth.” I then took his attention to language register. I reminded him that words ordinarily have no meaning until they are placed in a context or in relation to other words. For example, if I just mention the word “nail,” it will be difficult to know what I am talking about but if I take you to a carpenter shop and I mention the word, “nail” you will begin to think of that sharp metal that is usually driven into the wood with a hammer. And if I take you from there to a beauty salon and I mention the same word, you will immediately start thinking of the fingernail. Similarly, the word “assumption,” in one sense is what my friend thought about, “accepting something to be true without proof.” But in the context of today’s liturgical celebration, the word “Assumption,” takes a different meaning, it is traceable to the Latin verb assumere, which means “to take up,” or the noun in the nominative, assumptionem, “a taking up, receiving, or adoption.” So, the Assumption we celebrate today is “the taking up of the uncorrupted body of the Blessed Virgin Mary along with her soul into heaven.” Assumption is different from Ascension. The word “Ascension” is traceable to the Latin verb ascendere, which means “to mount or to go up.” Ascension is the going up of Jesus into heaven forty days after his glorious resurrection. Assumption is for Mary while Ascension is for Jesus. Jesus went up on his own, while Mary was taken up by God.
The second point is on how or why Assumption makes sense. In the Book of Genesis, God created man and woman destined for happiness, to remain in paradise. But Adam and Eve fell, they disobeyed God and as a consequence, God said, “Because you have done this you are going back to where you came from, you are dust and to dust you shall return.” So, the going back to dust, the decay of the flesh is a consequence of sin. In the New Testament when the Angel came to the blessed Virgin Mary at the Annunciation to deliver the message from God, he said, “Hail, full of grace.” These were the words from God through the Angel to Mary.” When a person or a thing is full, it means there is no space for any other thing to get in. Yesterday, I brought out my iPhone to take a picture and, on the screen, I saw “iPhone storage full.” I did everything possible to take just a single picture, but it would not let me, nothing else could get into the phone. Similarly, God declared Mary, “full of grace.” Since she is full of grace, there is no room for disgrace, there is no room for decay. Since decay came because of sin, Mary had no sin, so there was no need for her flesh to decay.
The second reading tells us that just as all died in Adam, so all will be brought back to life in Jesus Christ, the new Adam. Let’s try a comparison between the old Adam and the new Adam. In the old order, the woman, Eve came from the body of the man, Adam; in the new order the man, Jesus Christ came from the body of the new eve, Mary. In the old order, the woman, Eve, first disobeyed God and then made the man, Adam to also disobey God. In the new order, the woman, Mary, first obeyed God, and then taught the man, Jesus Christ to obey God. Remember the Annunciation, Mary obeyed God saying, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word.” Later, the new Adam, Jesus Christ, following the example of the New Eve, Mary, would say at Gethsemane, “Father…not my will, but your will be done.” He even taught his followers to prayer, “…your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.”
Furthermore, In the old order, Adam, and Eve, as a consequence of disobedience, were chased out of paradise. In the new order, as a reward for their obedience, the new Adam, Jesus Christ, and the new Eve, Mary would have to be welcomed into the new and eternal paradise. The original destiny of the human being is paradise, eternity with God. But that was lost in the old order. In the new order, Jesus came to restore what was lost, and so in the Ascension, Jesus has gone up to heaven with the male body that was chased way from the garden of Eden. But that does not completely represent humanity, the female body that was chased away from Eden had to be restored and that is what we have in the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the Ascension, Jesus took the male body into heaven without decay, and in the Assumption, the Blessed Virgin took the female body into heaven without decay to complete the cycle that began in the Garden of Eden.
The Blessed Virgin Mary was full of grace while here on earth, but God did not impose His will on her. God sought her consent through Angel Gabriel that she may give flesh to the Eternal Word of God, Jesus Christ, and she said, “Yes” to God. Jesus is in heaven with the male body, and Mary is in heaven with the female body. Where they are, we are all called to join them after our sojourn on earth. To be where they are, we must, like them, align our will with the will of God. As we celebrate the Assumption of the blessed Virgin Mary, we pray through her intercession that God may grant us the grace to always say, “Yes” to God, until we come to our heavenly inheritance, through Christ our Lord. Amen.