Posted by: Fr Chris | August 14, 2019

Dormition/ Assumption of Our Lady, 2019

Afterfeast of the Dormition of the Mother of God - Orthodox Church in America

Holding the soul of Our Lady, Jesus comes to lift her body into heaven as the apostles mourn her death

 

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Pius XII proclaims the Assumption of Our Lady as a dogma that must be believed by all Catholics in communion with the Holy See.

On November 1, 1950, Peter’s successor, Pope Pius XII, infallibly defined the doctrine of Mary’s Assumption into heaven. This made it necessary for all Catholics to believe that Our Lady was taken up into heaven, body and soul. It is the only time that papal infallibility has been invoked, as Pius was speaking ex cathedra on a matter of faith.

This is not a new teaching, but rather the confirmation of an ancient belief in the Church. Writings about the death of the Virgin and her transition into heaven go back to the second century, which means it probably was spoken of in the first century. Thus, it is a teaching from the foundations of Christianity. In the 9th century. St John Damascene wrote that:

It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped when giving birth to him, should look upon him as He sits with the Father, It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.

 Microchimerism  comes into play with the dogma, as science confirms the necessity of the bodily assumption of Our Lady. In the simplest of terms, microchimerism is the process by which a smattering of cells live within a host body but are completely distinct from it. In human fetomaternal microchimerism (or “fetal cell microchimerism”), every child leaves within its mother a microscopic bit of himself — every pregnancy, brought to delivery or not, leaves a small amount of its own cells within the body of the mother — and those cells remain within her forever. Therefore, a small amount of Jesus’ cells remained within Mary, for the whole of her life. Where we Catholics have a limited experience of Christ’s flesh commingling within our own upon reception of the holy Eucharist, Mary was a true tabernacle within which the Divinity did continually reside.

In Psalm 16:10 we read about how the Holy One will not undergo corruption.  Christ’s divine body did not undergo corruption, but rose in glory and ascended into heaven. It follows that His mother’s body, containing cellular traces of the Divinity (and a particle of God is God, entire) could not be permitted to decay, either. The science makes the theology accessible, because, suddenly, there is no need for guessing: at her Dormition, Our Lady’s body, holding Christ’s living cells within it, could not remain on earth and decay. Of course, it would have to join itself to Christ in the heavenly dimension.

An interesting point can also be raised regarding Marian apparitions. Our Lady probably died in her late forties or early fifties. At that age, a Palestinian woman was elderly and worn down by the physical hardships of life in the first-century. Yet at every recognized apparition, the visionaries always remark on how beautiful she is, how young she looks, and that she has a beauty that no one can fully capture in art. Saint Bernadette patiently detailed how the Lady from the grotto looked to a sculptor hired to recreate the image in a statue to be put in the grotto at Lourdes. But when he presented his finished work, she remarked sadly that no one could really show her loveliness.

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The shrine of the empty tomb of Mary, Jerusalem 

Why does this matter? Our Lord’s body was glorified after the resurrection. It is an extremely ancient tradition that when the tomb of Mary was opened on Mount Zion, it was filled with flowers. This is why to this day people send flowers to funerals: it is a testimony that we believe in the resurrection of the dead.

Our Lady’s body is also glorified after her bodily assumption. And this glorification is in order to show us, as Vatican II teaches in Lumen Gentium. when her earthly life was over, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords, (cf. Apoc. 19:16) and conqueror of sin and death. In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior in restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace.   Mary in heaven is also the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise she shines forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come (cf. 2 Pet. 3:10), a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God.

Our parish is dedicated to Mary under the title “Perpetual Help” a title which she herself gave to the icon in the apparition in Rome in 1499. She most definitely is a sign of certain hope and comfort to us: her radiant beauty is not only from her sinless state, but a sign to every human being of what awaits the glorified souls in heaven at the resurrection of the body at the end of time. She calls us to do as she did – conform ourselves to her Son ,Jesus Christ, through a living faith and charity to others.

Neither the tomb, nor death, could hold the Theotokos, who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions. For being the Mother of Life, she was translated to life, by the One who dwelt in her virginal womb.

Our living Mother of Perpetual Help calls us to imitate her Son, so that we can live with Him and with her and all the saints of heaven. No one here will get younger – we all get older, we all go to one destiny that no one can avoid. But death is  not the end, but merely a step into the real life that we have been preparing for as Christian pilgrims on earth. May we follow Mary’s example of steadfast faith and love, and be one with her Son here in this life, so as to fully enjoy Him in the life to come, as Saint Gregory Palamas urges us to do:

Though we may be incapable of containing your riches, increase our capacity and so grant them to us that we, saved and strengthened by your grace, may glorify the Pre-eternal Word Who was Incarnate of you for our sakes, together with His Unoriginate Father and Life-Creating Spirit, both now and ever and forever. Amen.

 

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