The Assumption of the Blessed Mother into Heaven
Perhaps the greatest Fiat Our Lady had to make, was saying Yes to staying on earth after her Son Jesus had left her physically to prepare her place in Heaven. We must remember that she was with Him throughout His life, from the day He was born, through His early years, then His public ministry, to the day He was crucified. She had to have grieved terribly when He was taken from her.
We believe that when Our Lord Jesus rose from the dead, the first person He came to was His dear Mother Mary, even before appearing to the women at the tomb. If that is so, He may have given her the reason, at that time, why she had to stay on this earth. The only thing that makes sense would be for her to remain as a support system for the Apostles and disciples during these early days of the Church. Every time they looked at her, they would see Jesus. She was the living representative of Our Lord here on earth. They could draw strength from her.
But what a price He was asking her to pay. He had to know that her only desire was to be with Him. To stay on the earth while He left her was breaking a lifelong bond. Did Our Lord go to Mary and ask His most precious Mother to sacrifice precious time with Him, time when she could be with Him in Paradise, in order to nourish and protect the early Church? Was He entreating her to deprive herself of the Beatific Vision, for however long it would take for the Apostles to feel secure without her? If so, one thing we know; she said Yes again; because that always was, and still is, what Mary does; she says yes. But it had to be a very hard yes.
Our Lady went to Ephesus with John the Beloved for a time, and then she returned to Jerusalem. She could not have stayed away from the city where God had been so clearly present, by the physical presence of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We're told she walked on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem every day, tracing and retracing the blood-stained footsteps of Jesus, as He walked to His death. We believe, with the price of her tears and pain, she remembered her Son's anguish on this Way of the Cross, and through Our Lady's actions, the Stations of the Cross, as we know them today, were instituted. Therefore, when you pray the Stations of the Cross, whether in your church or on Pilgrimage at a Shrine, or actually on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, where it actually happened, you walk the Way of the Cross accompanied by the Mother who could not forget the Son Who walked the Way of the Cross. Do this in memory of Him!
"Come then, my love, my lovely one, come. (Song of Songs 2:10)
"For see, winter is past, the rains are over, and gone." (Song of Songs 2:11)
"Show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is beautiful." (Song of Songs 2:14)
It was time. Our Lady had remained on this earth too long. She wanted to see her Son again. She was tired. Little did she know that her Heavenly Family missed her as much, or perhaps even more than she missed them. The Angels and the Saints couldn't wait for their Queen, their Empress, to be brought into their midst. We're sure, Our Lord Jesus, although He was always involved with matters of great consequence, missed His Mom also.
And so, let us attempt to see with our heart's eye what was going on in Heaven, and on earth. Our Lady was about to join Her Son in Heaven. We are sure her long time friend and princely consort, the Archangel Gabriel, was the one sent to earth to announce the Good News to Mary. She must have begun making preparations for her departure as soon as she heard. John was most likely the one she told. After all, he was the one who had been with her since Jesus died. We can see him breaking down in tears, at the thought of losing this most precious gem, but we know he understood and obeyed. As for her other children, the Apostles, our first Bishops, she told them without telling them. She tried to distance herself little by little. Could they sense she was preparing for a long trip?
It's three days before her dormition. We are in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. All the Apostles are expected at any time. We can just picture Peter and Paul being transported from Rome by Angels, as well as some of the others. Had the Angels informed them why they were being summoned to Jerusalem? They had known for some time that Mary's departure was imminent. Had they steeled themselves for it? No matter how hard we try, we cannot protect ourselves from the grief of separation. We can see these brave followers of Jesus breaking down like children, desperately trying to hold back tears in her presence, but not doing a very good job of it.
Our Lady was probably the most composed of the entire assemblage. She loved these children, as if they were her very own. They were her Son's community, the ones who were continuing His work on earth. They loved Him; they were loyal to Him. And she loved them, but she wanted to go Home. Her Son Jesus was waiting for her. On the day of her departure, she asked each of the Apostles to bless her, which they did. At this, they could not hold back any longer. They broke down completely, crying hard tears; they bent down and kissed the hem of her gown. They tried as best they could to capture a lasting memory of her breathtaking face in their minds, to burn the expression of her in their hearts for the rest of their lives.
Our Lady was not subject to the sins of Adam, having been immaculately conceived, born without sin. We believe she never aged beyond thirty-three years old (considered the perfect age), the age that Jesus died. While the Apostles and disciples watched their bodies break down and decay, she always remained that breathtakingly beautiful child/woman they had known from the day they had first met her. She never changed. But we are sure, she was tired. Could they not see that? We can see her blessing all the Apostles individually, as a great light filled the room. Jesus and His Angels had come to take His Mother home. Although they didn't see Him, we are sure they could feel His Presence. Was there a conversation between Jesus and Mary? She had waited for this moment. Our Lord beside her, she lay down, folded her hands, and went to sleep.
The Apostles stayed by her side for a long time, and then left the room. They decided that they would have the body of their Lady anointed with precious oils, the same as Our Lord Jesus' Body had been. They sent two of her maids into the room to do this. But the maids couldn't get near her body; the light was so brilliant, it blinded them. They left our Lady, and told Peter and John what had happened. They immediately ran into the room. The two Apostles knelt at the feet of their Queen. A voice from Heaven said she was not to be touched; Our Lord Jesus didn't want anyone undressing His Mother, not even her maids.
The Apostles could hear choirs of Angels singing. A unique fragrance of Heaven permeated the room. Her body and face glowed with a heavenly radiance. It was happening. They knew it. She was being transported directly to Heaven by her Son Jesus and the Angels.
Is this the way it happened? We like to think so. Your conclusions are as good as ours. There have always been private revelations, but we are not required to believe them. Over the centuries, one thing has always been certain, in art and Tradition of our Church: Our Lord Jesus assumed His Mother, our sweet Mary, that perfect vessel, into Heaven, body and soul. To paraphrase our Pope Pius XII, Jesus did it because it made sense to do it, and He had the power to do it. (Munificentissimus Deus)
There are many traditions as to when, and how, this all took place, such as where Our Lady's body may have been brought, to await her soul and her body uniting, as she was assumed into Heaven. Some say she was brought in procession to what is today called the Burial Place of Mary, at the Garden of Gethsemane, and placed in a tomb. They say, a huge stone was put outside her tomb, and guards stationed; three days later, her soul was united with her body, and she was assumed into Heaven, body and soul.
Another tradition is that her body was left in a chamber next to the Upper Room, where she had fallen asleep, and the Angels and Our Lord Jesus came for her there, and assumed her into Heaven. This room is now called Dormition Abbey (where Our Lady went to sleep), and is located right next to the Cenacle.
The tradition goes on to say that St. Thomas, doubting Thomas, was not there when she went to sleep. He came three days later, and wanted to venerate the body of his Queen. When he went into the room to pray before her body, he couldn't find her. She had already been assumed into Heaven. So naturally, doubting Thomas didn't believe. The tradition goes on to say that Our Lady appeared to Thomas, and verified that she had indeed been assumed into Heaven, body and soul. And that he might believe, she removed the cincture, which she wore around her waist, and allowed it to float down from Heaven to St. Thomas. After that, he believed.
The tradition goes on to state that the cincture was brought to Italy by the Holy Crusaders during the first Crusade, and was placed in the Cathedral in Prato, Italy, where it can be found today. We went to the Church in Prato, to view the Heavenly Cincture. However, it takes three keys to open up the treasure. One is held by the Bishop, the other by the Custodian of the Cathedral, and the third, by the Mayor of Prato. It takes a great deal of coordination to be able to view the Cincture. Needless to say, we haven't seen the Cincture of Our Lady, yet!
These are all traditions, possibilities. Any and all are possible and probable. But none of that really matters. What we believe is that Our Lord Jesus did it, our Pope confirmed it, and that's enough for us.
"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 to heavenly glory."
With these words, Pope Pius XII officially proclaimed the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven, on the 1st of November in the Marian Year 1950, the year of Mary. The Dogma was called Munificentissimus Deus. On that day, what we Catholics had believed in faith, from the very beginning, was proclaimed authoritatively and infallibly by our Pope, who was a loving child of Mary.
The church's teaching on Papal infallibility applies to many statements, but the Papacy has only proclaimed it twice, making formal ex cathedra statements:
The first time was on December 8, 1854, when Pius IX declared the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception;
And the second time on November 1, 1950, when Pope Pius XII declared the Assumption of our Lady. The invocation "Queen assumed into Heaven" was added to the Litany of the Blessed Mother.
In this dogma, our Holy Father closed the door on speculation. He declared that any skepticism or unbelief in our Lady's Assumption, which may have been held throughout the years, was invalid. The Church assumed that such doubts were held in good faith, but that now, they can no longer be held. That's the exciting and reassuring thing about our Church. When the Pope declares it, we must believe it. That's it. There's no need for speculation, or indecision, should I shouldn't I. We just obey. The decision is taken out of our hands. God speaks through the successor to Peter, and, as the little girl/woman, whom we honor here did, we also say a simple, but resounding yes.
To quote our Pope Pius XII once more, "Jesus did it because it made sense to do it, and He had the power to do it." There is so much logic to that statement. We're accused by our Protestant brothers and sisters of worshiping Mary. We don't worship Mary. But we do love Mary. We venerate Mary. We ask for her intercession with her Son. All this is so very natural. We would do the same with our earthly mother; why shouldn't we give this honor and respect to our Heavenly Mother? She is so very special in the eyes of the Lord. Why wouldn't He give her this honor? We thank You, Lord Jesus, for the gift of Your Mother. We know You have given her a special place in our lives, in the life of
the Church. You said to John the Beloved, "There is your Mother." You said to your dear Mother, "There is your son." referring to us, the Church. Thank you for that gift, Lord Jesus. May we never take her for granted.