Everything that the Church teaches us about Mary, the Mother of God, is intended to help us grow closer to her son Jesus Christ, and lead us into a deeper understanding of who he is and what he has done for us. It is important, then, that we understand the feast of the Assumption against the horizon of this salvation offered to us in Jesus Christ. Now this Christological horizon was underlined for us in our second reading from the first letter to the Corinthians. St. Paul reminds us that:
…… since death came through man, the resurrection of the dead came also through man.
For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life.
There are two points to notice here: first, St. Paul is firmly associating death with sin. It is because the first human beings sinned that death came into the world. Sin disintegrated the human person, both spiritually and physically. Our spiritual disintegration, on the one hand, took the form of a loss of the power granted to the first humans as a gift from God to love God and neighbour wholeheartedly. The first human beings had been granted the ability to martial all their resources be they emotional, intellectual, spiritual, or any other power towards the goal of love. Yet after the fall the human heart became fractured, it was no longer possible to direct our energies and affection undividedly towards what is most important. Instead, these same energies and emotions became dispersed among a plethora of healthy and unhealthy attachments to people and things that left us vulnerable to temptation and weak in our love of God. On the other hand, our physical disintegration took the form of the gradual decline of our bodily powers as our prime is left behind, and a new vulnerability to disease and injury. Eventually our bodily integrity is lost completely when we die and our bodies return to the dust.
The disintegration that we experience as human beings, then, both physical and spiritual, is a consequence of sin. Yet in the short passage we have just quoted St. Paul makes a second point: the resurrection of the dead also came through man…..in Christ shall all be brought to life. In Jesus, God healed human nature and elevated it by becoming man, by taking human flesh. Through the Holy Spirit the baptized are bound to the sacred humanity of Jesus, we are made one flesh with Jesus: He is our head, we are His Body and this union with God in the Spirit through the sacred humanity of Jesus has some important consequences.
First of all it means that through our union with Christ in the Spirit, we make contact with the eternal and infinite exchange of love that is the Holy Trinity. This contact with the eternal and infinite love of God causes or creates in us a new love that heals our spiritual disintegration and places in us a power to once again love God and love neighbour with a pure and whole heart, so as long as we do not resist this gift. Secondly, this union with the sacred humanity of Christ gives us a pledge of a future restoration and elevation of our bodily integration, for where Christ our Head has gone, we who are joined to His humanity in the Spirit will in the fullness of time follow. As Christ rose from the dead, then, we too will rise from the dead through our union with him; as he ascended into heaven, we too will ascend to be with Him and enjoy with Him eternal happiness.
It is our union with Christ, then, the touch of God, that heals and elevates our frail nature so that we can enjoy the love and friendship of God for all eternity. But notice, God has chosen to offer this salvation, this healing and this elevation, through taking human flesh. Our salvation is through the humanity of Christ, it is through our union with the man who is also God, and this sacred humanity entered the world through a human Mother: Mary, the Mother of God.
It seems, then, that whilst our salvation is entirely the work of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, the way that God chose to work out this salvation in history was to involve human beings. Mary was prepared from the very moment of her conception to co-operate with God in working out the salvation of the world. From the very moment of her conception she was full of grace, she was touched by God and protected from the poison of sin so that she might be worthy to be the means through which the Word of God might become flesh and enter the world. This touch of God meant that, from the very moment of her conception, Mary was fully integrated - able to love God and to love neighbour purely and wholeheartedly. As such Mary was prepared from the moment of her conception to give her consent to God’s plan for the salvation of the world at the Annunciation. She was prepared to the one who would nurse the infant son of God, and care for him as he grew. She was prepared to stand by the cross in agony with her Son as the mystical Body of Christ, the Church, was born from the blood of water which flowed from Jesus’ side. She was prepared to be the Mother of that Church, caring for the mystical Body of Jesus as once she cared for the physical Body of Jesus.
Against this backdrop, it is not at all surprising that at the end of her earthly life, Mary should be assumed body and soul into heaven. Mary was chosen to be the means through which the light of the world might be introduced to the humanity. She was uniquely graced, protected from sin, so that she might co-operate and with her Son’s saving mission. Being full of grace, she did not suffer the spiritual and physical disintegration which is the consequence of sin: she retained her integrity, both spiritually and bodily, throughout her entire life and so was taken up wholly, body and soul, by God to heaven at the end of her life.
St. Paul tells us in our first reading that: in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order. It is entirely appropriate that our Mother Mary, she who was without sin and the means through which salvation entered the world, should be the first to be taken body and soul into the presence of God. Let us ask her to pray for us, that we too might share that destiny through her son, Jesus Christ our Lord.