My lover speaks; he says to me, Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come! For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone.
Songs 2, 10-11
“From henceforth, all generations shall call me blessed; for the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
Luke 1, 48-49
“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”
Matthew 24, 35
No Christian can ever hope to grasp the truth of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Assumption body and soul into Heaven while failing to focus on the person of her divine Son and his Gospel message. The Divine Word made flesh embodies all that God has spoken to us in sacred Scripture and declared to His one true Church in sacred Tradition with respect to His good will and saving acts (Jn 16:12-13). While our Lord Jesus Christ dwelled among us, the Divine truth was clearly and visibly manifested by his words and mighty deeds. We can know who Jesus personally and truly is in his divinity and humanity only by listening to his words in conjunction with his supernatural acts of love and compassion.
What our Lord and Saviour has thus mercifully done and accomplished for us all temporally and eternally is a sign of the goodness and righteousness of his word. Jesus could never deny and contradict himself by dismissing any of his own precepts which originate from the Father and are declared in his Person. Surely, he could never fail to do something which he morally would expect us to do in a similar circumstance. Jesus has claimed to be “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6). Thus, by deeply reflecting on the divine personality of Jesus whom we have personally come to know by his words and deeds, spoken and performed in his sacred humanity, we may see and appreciate what great thing he must have done for his mother in honour of her and by his infinite love in accordance with the will of his heavenly Father.
“For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
John 18, 37
In our case, we can apply the dictum “actions speak louder than words.” But with respect to our Lord, by his divinity, it might be more accurate of us to say that his words speak louder than his actions. Every miracle Jesus performed during his public ministry out of compassion for the needy bore testimony to the truth of his divine word. Now, the supernatural deeds of our Lord mustn’t be underestimated considering his teachings, but the fact remains Jesus was condemned to death for blasphemy by the Sanhedrin and not for the performance of miracles. His death sentence was sealed, when he declared to the chief priest Caiaphas: “You have said so. But I tell you: From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mt 26:64). Our Lord was crucified for affirming his divinity notwithstanding any of his miraculous deeds which the scribes and Pharisees had already dismissed as works of the Devil (Mt 12: 22-37).
Indeed, Jesus had paved the way for his eventual arrest and conviction by alluding to his divinity when he claimed to have the authority to forgive sins. The Jewish elders were deeply offended and outraged by our Lord’s words, for they believed only God had the authority to forgive sins. They were appalled that Jesus dared to assert himself as equal to YHWH. Meanwhile, they cared little about the healing of the paralytic (Mk 2:1-12). Our Lord’s spoken word was what cast an unfavourable impression on the scribes and Pharisees, who had hardened their own hearts in their obstinate religious pride and zeal and refused to listen to the truth (Ps 69:8-9). And so, our Lord condemned them for this unpardonable sin of the soul (Jn 9:35-41).
You stretch out your hand and save me, your hand will do all things for me. Your love, O Lord, is eternal. Discard not the work of your hands.
Psalm 138, 7-8
Jesus told his disciples that he came into the world not to do his own will, but the will of his heavenly Father (Jn 6:38). It was because of his obedience to the Father by suffering that the Son was made perfect to be the source of our salvation and designated by God to be our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek (Heb 5:8-9). If Jesus had violated any of God’s commandments and failed to align his human will with his divine will, the scribes and Pharisees would have had just cause to accuse him of performing miracles in the name of the devil and dismiss his teachings as hypocritical, for our Lord would have compromised the credibility of his words. Healing the sick on the Sabbath did not violate, but conformed to the spirit of the law, regardless of what the religious elders believed, if in fact they meant it.
But the Gospels reveal that the Son of Man showed impeccable moral courage in what he humbled himself to do to please the Father (Mt 3:17; Lk 22:42). God’s will held top priority in our Lord’s life, especially when he had faced circumstances that ordinarily would compel the human will to follow the course dictated by natural instinct. Fortunately for us, the divine will took charge when Jesus was summoned to conform his human will to the will of his Father (Mt 26:38-39; 27:40-44). His triumphant agony in the garden and death on the Cross confirmed the constancy of the Son in doing the Father’s will and keeping His commandments (Heb 4:15).
Let us not unfaithfully suppose that our Lord could be inconstant, now that he is in Heaven where he acts as our intercessor before the Father. We should have good reason to doubt what Jesus said about his doing his Father’s works if it appears he failed to do the work of his Father, of assuming his Mother body and soul into heaven in accord with the Divine moral precepts of the Mosaic Law. We have no reason to believe in anything Jesus has said and done if in fact his mother’s body – God’s masterpiece of human re-creation – lies corrupt in a lost tomb, albeit all his purported miracles, including the claims of the Apostles of his own resurrection; since the Jesus whom we have come to know by his words and deeds could not possibly be so cold and indifferent towards his own mother contrary to the moral precept of the Law.
“Therefore, the Virgin is immortal to this day, seeing that he who had dwelt in her transported her to the regions of her assumption”
St. Timothy of Jerusalem, Homily on Simeon and Anna
Arise, Lord, come to your resting place, you and your majestic ark.
Psalm 132, 8
“Even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
John 10, 38
Christians who believe their Lord’s claim to be con-substantially one with the Father in his divinity should do so in all honesty with less certitude of faith, unless they also believe what he must have honourably done for his mother as the Divine precept enjoins us to do – that is honour our mother. In true faith and knowledge of God, without which we cannot be united with Him, Christians must understand that Jesus owes it to Himself as God to be true to His own word, considering His divine goodness and righteousness. Our Lord, therefore, could not but obligate himself to honour the woman whom the Father had predestined to be his mother, from whom he acquired his sacred body and precious blood by the power of the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins and the redemption of humanity (Lk 1:35).
Our Lord is flesh of her flesh; the body he received from his mother in the hypostatic order of his incarnation was “bruised for our iniquities” (Isa 53:5) and his blood which mixed with her blood in his mother’s womb was “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28). Our Lord and Saviour is “one Physician both of Mary and of God” (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Ephesians, 7, c. 110 A.D.). Jesus could not, then, exercise his power in opposition to the commandment of his heavenly Father without denying his own Divine word which proceeds from the Father in their substantial unity. To be true to ourselves, we must honestly say and do what is on our minds and in what we will and express. The Triune God-head is a consubstantial triune of Persons: Mind or thought, Idea or Word, and Breath or Expression.
Obviously, our Lord cannot break any of his own commandments, since he never commanded himself to obey them in the first place. But since he has commanded us to observe them, Jesus must hold the moral precepts of the Law to be worth following himself, especially since they do originate from him in his oneness with the Father whose moral attributes he possesses in their essential oneness. Our Lord refused to break the First Commandment when he rejected Satan’s proposal to bow down and worship him in return for dominion over all the earthly kingdoms. Sacred Scripture reveals our Lord’s response to the Devil: “Be gone, Satan! The Lord your God shall you worship, and him alone shall you serve” (Mt 4:10; Lk 4:8). Jesus would have offended his heavenly Father and thereby renounced his own oneness with Him had he succumbed to the Devil’s tempting offer. In other words, he would have broken his own commandment and denied himself the worship owed to him by Satan. Indeed, Jesus would have disposed of his own sovereign dignity as “Lord of all” (Acts 10:36).
Being the Divine Word or Logos of God, Jesus is the visible manifestation of the invisible God. Just as our spoken words are visible manifestations of the mental assertions of our inner thoughts and reflect what we will, so Jesus is the visible manifestation of the Father as the spoken Word of God. What the Father conceives and wills, Jesus visibly produces as His Word in their substantial oneness together with the Holy Spirit in whom God acts. The commands originating from the Father have been given to us by the Son in an undivided Tri-personal God, so the command that we honour our parents has been given to us by Jesus himself. He is the voice that manifests the mind and will of God by the act of the Holy Spirit within the Holy Trinity. Thus, in true faith, we must believe that Jesus has as much honoured the Father as he has his mother by honouring her with the privilege, by maternal right, of her glorious Assumption body and soul into Heaven.
This Catholic dogma boils down to the honour a son must have for his mother to be true to himself in his divinity by being true to His own word or decree. Jesus could not possibly refrain from doing what he has commanded us to do unless he were not God. Nor could he act in disconsonance with the moral attributes of His Own Divine essence in oneness with the Father and the Holy Spirit if he were truly God made man. There is no reason for any Christian to believe what Jesus has claimed about his relation to the Father and his Father’s relation to him, if, in fact, he has failed to do the works of the Father.
Christians who reject the Catholic dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary might not know God as well as they think they do or who Jesus personally is well enough. The theological virtue of faith is believing in what should be in all its goodness and righteousness as a manifestation of God’s love in the Holy Spirit. Faith isn’t merely believing in what we want to accept as being real, but remains unseen. And there is no just reason for Jesus to deny his own mother the honour of her glorious assumption into heaven, so that the two of them can be fully reunited in body and soul, seeing also that she was preserved free from all stain of sin: original and personal (Lk 1:28). Mary’s Assumption body and soul into heaven is a corollary of her Immaculate Conception. Being preserved free from all stain of sin by a singular grace of God, our Blessed Lady was liberated from being subjected to the law of sin and the corruption of death (Rom 5:12, 18). Suffice it to say, God put her at total enmity (ebah/אֵיבָה) with the serpent (Gen 3:15).
Perhaps the following analogy may help us see how it is that Jesus would be dishonouring his mother by allowing her body, which bore him, to decay in the tomb. If our own mother, let’s say, accidentally fell into a dirt pit, Jesus would certainly expect us to rescue her out of love and respect. And our Lord would surely condemn us for having broken the Fourth Commandment by refusing to come to our mother’s aid out of indifference or even hatred. Surely, Jesus would have come to his mother’s aid under the same circumstance while they were still alive on earth. So, Jesus would be no less solicitous towards the needs and the dignity of his mother than we should be to our mothers, whether he be on earth or in heaven.
Our Lord has loved his mother with absolute perfection from all eternity in view of the Annunciation. And the love he has for her is infinitely greater than the love we might have for our own mothers, since he is God made flesh of her flesh. If we had the power to resurrect our mothers at the time of their deaths, we would certainly exercise it unless God forbade it and prevented us from doing so. And if that’s the case, our Lord would certainly exercise his power as well, if not more surely, since the love we have for our own dear mothers pales in comparison with the love Jesus has for his mother. Let us not presume that the love we have for our mothers is immeasurably greater than the love Jesus has for his blessed mother Mary.
“But Mary, the glorious Mother of Christ, who is believed to be a virgin both before and after she bore him, has, as we said above, been translated into paradise, amid the singing of the angelic choirs, whither the Lord preceded her.”
St. Gregory of Tours, Eight Books of Miracles, 1:8
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, and my soul shall be joyful in my God: for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation: and with the robe of justice he hath covered me, as a bridegroom decked with a crown, and as a bride adorned with her jewels.
Isaiah 61, 10
“Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”
Matthew 5, 17
How incredible it would be for any Christian to imagine (with no reasonable explanation) that our Lord could possibly dismiss any of his own precepts, either here on earth or in heaven where he retains his sacred humanity for all eternity (Col 2:9), by exacting the penalties incurred by Adam and Eve on his own beloved mother: “In pain you shall bring forth children until you return to the ground from which you were taken. For you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return” (Gen 3:16, 19). On the contrary, God said to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring” (Gen 3:15). Neither the Mother nor the Son were subjected to bodily corruption in the tomb, being equally blessed (eulogeo) by God in their shared humanity (Lk 1:42). So long as Jesus remains both God and man, Mary is his mother, and more than just a natural mother. Our Blessed Lady is the Mother of God incarnate (Isa 7:14; Lk 1:35, 43; Jn 1:14). She is not merely the mother of a great prophet or rabbi.
From earliest times, Christians believed that Mary was exempted from being made subject to the law of sin and the corruption of death together with her divine Son; since, by a singular grace, she was preserved free from contracting all stain of sin. St. Hippolytus ( ante 235 A.D.) draws a parallel between Mary and the sacred Ark of the Covenant, which was made of incorruptible acacia wood and lined with the purest gold both within and without, for it was fashioned to be God’s personal dwelling place during His physical manifestations (theophanies): “He was the ark formed of incorruptible wood. For by this is signified that His tabernacle (Mary) was exempt from putridity and corruption” (Orations Inillud, Dominus pascit me). Worms and insects are averse to acacia wood. So, for this reason, God instructed Moses to fashion the ark from this repugnant natural resource.
The Church Father adds that Jesus “took upon himself the holy flesh of the holy Virgin” (Treatise on Christ and Anti-Christ, 4). Both the Mother and the Son were of one flesh, so neither of them could have experienced death as the rest of humanity does. St. Ephraem of Syria (370 A.D.) also bears early witness to this traditional belief of the Church in Mary’s sinless being and freedom from all forms of impurity and corruption together with her Son: “Thou alone and thy Mother are in all things fair. There is no flaw in thee and no stain in thy Mother” (Nisibene Hymns, 27:8). These writings of the early Church Fathers implicitly bear witness to a Christian belief in the Assumption of Mary and, of course, her Immaculate Conception, if not personal sinlessness.
What is intriguing with respect to Mary’s freedom from all stain of sin is that Luke refers to Isaiah 61:10 in her Canticle of Praise or Magnificat (1:46-49). Mary rejoices in God her saviour, not because she is a sinner who needs to be saved like everyone else, but because she has been redeemed in the most perfect way: by being preserved free from contracting the stain of original sin by the foreseen merits of Christ, viz., her Immaculate Conception. God is revealing to His Church, though Luke was probably as uninformed as Isaiah was (sensus plenior), that He clothed Mary in “the garments of salvation” and covered her with “the robe of justice” by preserving her free from all stain of sin. This is evident by the fact that the same verse applies to the just merits of Christ in his sinless humanity and the Paschal mystery. Both the Mother and the Son are revealed to be equally blessed (eulogeo) in this way. And so, neither of them are subject to the law of sin and death because of sin as is fallen humanity: Jesus by his substantial grace of union with the Father and his mother Mary by God’s intervening saving grace (Jude 1:24-25).
“It was fitting … that the most holy-body of Mary, God-bearing body, receptacle of God, divinized, incorruptible, illuminated by divine grace and full glory … should be entrusted to the earth for a little while and raised up to heaven in glory, with her soul pleasing to God.”
St. Theoteknos of Livias, Homily on the Assumption
[ca. A.D. 600]
You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.
Song of Solomon 4, 7
The corruption of death is an evil and a penalty for original sin which infects the bodies and souls of all Adam’s descendants who organically partake of his human nature. The guilt of Adam’s sin, nevertheless, isn’t personally imputed to his seed, so God did not negate His justice by conferring the singular grace of the Immaculate Conception on Mary in His mercy because of her unmerited election to the Divine Maternity. And so, by this singular favour, her preservation from bodily corruption upon death was just. God could only obligate Himself to observe His own ordinance in His righteousness, especially since Mary never lost her innocence as Eve had by committing any personal sins with the help of divine grace.
The words of the early Church Fathers bring to fuller light what Elizabeth means, when she says: “Most blessed (eulogomene) are you among women, and blessed (eulogemenos) is the fruit of your womb” (Lk 1:42). This past participle is used with reference to only Jesus (masculine) and Mary (feminine), besides the kingdom of heaven (feminine), in the New Testament (Mk 11:10). Both the Mother and the Son are indeed equally blessed (eulogeo) in God’s sight by having been set apart from sinful humanity and consecrated to Him in His order of redemption. So, it is only fitting, if not just, that Mary, who carried the Divine Word in her sacred womb and was preserved free from all stain of sin by the grace of God, should have a share in her Son’s glory in anticipation of the redemption of our own bodies on the Last Day (1 Cor 15:22-23). Anyway, Jesus meant what he said about our obligation to keep the Divine Commandments, and he exemplified with impeccable humility how we are to honourably treat our parents for the sake of God’s goodness and righteousness (Lk 2:51-52).
“You are she who, as it is written, appears in beauty, and your virginal body is all holy, all chaste, entirely the dwelling place of God, so that it is henceforth completely exempt from dissolution into dust. Though still human, it is changed into the heavenly life of incorruptibility, truly living and glorious, undamaged and sharing in perfect life.”
St. Germanus of Constantinople, Sermon I [A.D. 683]
Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and his ark of the covenant could be seen in his temple… A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
Revelation 11, 19 – 12, 1
“Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.”
Matthew 5, 18
Finally, we read in Matthew 15, 4: “For God said, ‘Honour your father and your mother.’ Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.” The Hebrew word for “honour” in this verse is kavodah, which means in the given context “to bestow glory”. It originates from the word kavod, meaning “weight” or “glory”. The truth is that the Son honoured the Father and was true to Himself as the Word of God by bestowing unprecedented glory upon the woman whom He chose to be His mother by assuming her body and soul into Heaven, as to be not only spiritually, but also physically present with her in their filial bond of love for each other.
Jesus initially honoured and bestowed glory on his mother at the first instant he created her soul and sanctified it with his grace preserving her free from all stain of original sin, so that she would be most becoming of a mother to him. By denying his mother this maternal right of honour and glory, which he himself has established by His word and given to Moses in the form of a Divine command for all to heed and obey, the withholding of his mighty deed for her gives cause for us to doubt the credibility of his word, for Jesus would be dishonouring his mother by refusing to bestow upon her the highest degree of glory he possibly could in his power, if in fact he has left his mother’s body, his own sacred flesh and blood, to decay in the tomb. Yet, we the faithful, who personally know the true Jesus, believe that he could never do such a thing such as dishonour his own mother, not if he is indeed the Word of God in the flesh of her holy flesh, as we Catholic Christians rightly believe in the sanctifying light of faith.
“It was fitting that the 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.”
St. John Damascene, Dormition of Mary [A.D. 697]
The LORD is faithful in all His words and gracious in all His deeds.
Psalm 145, 13
“Consequently, it seems impossible to think of her, the one who conceived Christ, brought him forth, nursed him with her milk, held him in her arms, and clasped him to her breast, as being apart from him in body, even though not in soul, after this earthly life. Since our Redeemer is the Son of Mary, he could not do otherwise, as the perfect observer of God’s law, then to honor, not only his eternal Father, but also his most beloved Mother. And, since it was within his power to grant her this great honor, to preserve her from the corruption of the tomb, we must believe that he really acted in this way.”
Pope Pius Xll (Apostolic Constitution) Munificentissimus Deus
1 November 1950
In honour of our Blessed Mother and the Mother of our Lord on the Feast of the Nativity of Mary
8 September 2017