The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was already being celebrated on 15 August in the 5th century. It bore the sense of Our Lady’s “Birth into heaven”, or in the Byzantine tradition, her “Dormition”. The feast began to celebrated in Rome in the middle of the 7th century. It was not until 1 November 1950, that Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Dogma of Mary’s assumption body and soul into heaven. In the Apostles’ Creed, we profess our faith in the “Resurrection of the body” and in “life everlasting”. This is the ultimate goal and meaning of our life’s journey. This promise of faith is already accomplished in Mary, who is the “sign of sure hope and comfort” (Preface). It is a privilege granted to Mary, and closely connected to her being the Mother of Jesus. Since death and the corruption of the human body are consequences of sin, it was not right that the Virgin Mary – who is free from sin – should be affected by this natural law. Hence the mystery of her “Dormition” or “Assumption into heaven”. The fact that Mary has already been assumed into heaven is a reason to celebrate, to rejoice, to hope in the “already and the not yet”. One of God’s creatures – Mary – is already in heaven. With her, and like her, we too, who are God’s creatures, will one day be there too. Mary’s destiny, united to the transfigured and glorious body of Jesus, is, therefore, the destiny of all those who are united to the Lord Jesus in faith and love. It is interesting to note that the liturgy – through the biblical texts taken from the Book of Revelation and the Gospel according to Luke (the Canticle of the Magnificat) – helps us, not so much to reflect, as to pray. In fact, the Gospel suggests that Mary’s mystery be read in the light of her prayer, the Magnificat, that is, through the lens of gratuitous love that extends from generation to generation, and the predilection of the least and the poor. Its choicest fruit, you could say its masterpiece, is Mary, a mirror in which the entire people of God can see its own features reflected. The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, body and soul, is an eloquent sign of how not only the “soul” but also the “body” is included in the biblical observation that “God found it very good” (Gn 1:31), so much so that in the Virgin Mary, “our flesh” would be assumed into heaven. This does not exempt us from committing ourselves to life here on earth, but rather that with our gaze fixed on the goal, on Heaven, our Homeland, we are driven to commit ourselves during our present life to reflect the Magnificat: to rejoice in God’s mercy, to be attentive to all our brothers and sisters we meet along the way, beginning with the weakest and most vulnerable.

Proclamation of the Dogma

“For which reason, after we have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” (Pius XII; Munificentissimus Deus, 1 November 1950).Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

the promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.”

Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home (Lk 1:39-56).

Praising God

Today, the Virgin Mary, with her Magnificat, teaches us how to praise and glorify God. It is an invitation through which the Virgin Mary, today contemplated in glory, invites us to go beyond our usual mode of magnifying problems and difficulties. Mary is able, and today she teaches this to us, to look on life through another lens: our hearts are greater than our sins. And even if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts! (cf. 1 Jn 3:20) This is not, therefore, illusory, as if to say there are no problems in life. It is about appreciating what is beautiful and good in life and knowing how to thank God for it! This way, even problems are seen in their proper light.

God surprises

A second aspect that deserves to be highlighted today is the fact that Mary was a virgin, and Elizabeth was sterile. God is the One who goes “beyond”, who surprises you through His provident, salvific action.

The goal

Mary already experiences God’s glory. She has reached the goal where we will one day all find ourselves. This is why Mary is today a sign of consolation and hope because if she, a creature like ourselves, is already there, we can also join her there. Let us fix our gaze and our hearts on her who never abandoned her Son Jesus and who today enjoys the joy and glory of Heaven. And let us entrust ourselves to her so that she might help us journey the paths of life knowing how to recognize the great things that God accomplishes in us and around us, to know how to magnify Him with the hymn of our existence.

Prayer to Mary, Assumed into Heaven

O Immaculate Mary, Assumed into heaven,

you who are most blessed in the vision of God:

of God the Father who exalted you among all creatures,

of God the Son who willed that you bear Him as your Son and that you should be His Mother,

of God the Holy Spirit who accomplished the human conception of the Savior in you.

O Mary, most pure

O Mary, most sweet and beautiful

O Mary, strong and thoughtful woman

O Mary, poor and sorrowful

O Mary, virgin and mother

woman very human like Eve, more than Eve.

You are near to God by your grace and by your privileges

in your mysteries

in your mission, in your glory.

O Mary, assumed into the glory of Christ

in the complete and transfigured perfection of our human nature.

O Mary, gate of heaven

mirror of divine light

ark of the Covenant between God and mankind,

let our souls fly after you

let them fly long your radiant path,

transported by a hope that the world does not contain eternal beatitude.

Comfort us from heaven, O merciful Mother,

and guide us along your ways of purity and hope

till the day of that blessed meeting with you

and with your divine Son

our Savior, Jesus. Amen!

(Saint Paul VI)