Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Assumption

Last Sunday, I had all kinds of great ideas about what I wanted to say about the Assumption. Then craziness happened, and it all left. I thought I might abandon the post completely, but in the end, I couldn't.

The priest's homily last Sunday started with the statement: "There is no biblical basis for the Assumption."

At one time, that would have had me squirming very uncomfortably in my seat. Last Sunday I smiled and agreed, not one whit disturbed by the proclamation. You see, I have never had a problem with the authority of the Church, built on the foundation of the apostles, with Jesus as the cornerstone, and the Holy Spirit leading it all. What I had a problem with was the Assumption. I've talked about all this before. It's not that I questioned that the pope had the authority to declare the doctrine of the Assumption. (Or is it dogma? That always confuses me.) It's not that he did it on his own; he did it based on history and after determining that 98% of the bishops felt this was a consistent belief in their diocese. He wasn't declaring something based on his own belief alone, but on the universal belief of the Church.

I also didn't have a real problem with the fact that this didn't all happen until the 1950's. It is not an addition to the deposit of faith, it is a gradually deepening understanding of it. There are many scientific discoveries that are dependent on earlier scientific discoveries. The process of discovering the fulness and depth of the what Christ has given us is much like that.

Of course, it would have made me much more at ease to have some comfortable proof texts, and had the doctrine proclaimed before the Reformation at least. It's easier when someone starts asking questions about what I believe and why.

The REAL problem with all of it is that I didn't want to defend it. It seemed rather irrelevant to me what happened to Mary's body. I didn't have a problem with believing it, only that it had to be a doctrine that we were all required to believe, and therefore explain to others. In what way does this advance my faith? Doesn't it just make more problems in ecumenical dialogue? What is the whole point of having a doctrine of the Assumption?

That is why I squirmed in my seat when it came to the Assumption. It seemed like a lot of fuss for no reason.

Now I see it differently. It is something that we believe because we hold Mary to be the Mother of God. It is a privilege that only she has received at this time (well, and maybe Elijah; not sure what the Church teaching on that is!). It does speak to the how she is special and different as the Mother of our Lord.

But it is relevant, because it is also a promise. Mary is now without sin, and without the stain of sin. She is so because of the grace of God, that same grace that is being extended to us. She is now body and soul in heaven. This is what we hope for, what we strive for. Mary being assumed body and soul into heaven, immaculate, radiating the glory of God, is a glimpse of what awaits us someday as well. She will always be set apart. She is the Mother of God. However, she is still more like us than she is like God. Who she is, is what God made her. Who she is, is an example of who we can become by the awesome grace of God.

The problems in defending the Assumption remain the same. But I no longer mind them, because I see the reason for asserting the belief. (I have always thought it was defensible; the difference is that I now have the desire to defend it.) As always, it is not only consistent with my other beliefs, but helps me to understand them more deeply. I was enthralled by the way the readings brought this out. Since this post is already long enough, I'll stop talking now, but I also enjoyed Alison's post on the subject. The readings are there as well, if you're interested.


  1. To me, the Assumption makes total sense. It's all in faith, for sure!

  2. I've never given much thought to it before, one way or the other. But I like your explanation.