Mary the Rocket Ship?
Does the Assumption of Mary mean that Our Lady took off like a rocket ship into heaven like some of these paintings of the Assumption depict? Well, not exactly. Remember that no human being ever went to outer space until the 1960s! So for the ancients, the sky symbolized the unknown, the world that is beyond our own. In fact, the word for sky and heaven in Latin is the same word, caelum. And so, when we want to depict Jesus or Mary going beyond our world to the eternal realm of God that is beyond our dimension of space and time, we naturally would depict that person as ascending into the sky or assumed into the heavens!
We humans are bodily beings with a spiritual soul. Our bodies are not superfluous to us as if they were like an addon; they are part and parcel to who we are as human persons. Of course the original fall of humanity caused not only the corruption of our soul but also the corruption of our bodies. So the cells that make up our body now are obviously not the ones we have forever; as the old cells die off, they are constantly being replenished by new ones. In fact, during our present earthly life, researchers estimate that we essentially get a new set of cells every seven to ten years. Yet, even if we have all new material stuff every ten years, we still possess one and the same body. And when the time comes for us to go to the other side of reality, that one and the same body will go through an even more radical transformation!
The bodily Assumption of Mary simply means that radical transformation happened immediately at the end of her earthly life. When she was assumed body and soul into heaven, her one and the same earthly body took on different properties. This is implied with Jesus himself who was transfigured on Mount Tabor, who was difficult to recognize by his disciples after the Resurrection, and whose resurrected body had properties that allowed him to suddenly appear in different places and yet was still able to consume food! Our earthly bodies are amazing, but our heavenly bodies will be out of this world (pun intended)!
So on this feast of the Assumption, imagine just how incredible the Blessed Virgin Mary’s heavenly body is! “Eye has not seen…what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9). What does the Catechism say about the Assumption of Mary? “Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.” The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians.” (CCC 966)
In other words, Our Lady leads the way for us! God, in applying to Mary the redemption of his Son preveniently so that she would be freed from original sin before her conception, undergoes her bodily transformation at the end of her earthly life and is assumed into heaven to join her Son. We too will share in that destiny on the last day, and we’ll have these incredible bodies to experience that ecstasy!
Friends, the best is yet to come! That is what we celebrate with great joy on this feast of the Assumption!
Mary, assumed into heaven, pray for us!
Fr. Chas Canoy