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By Fr. John Nahrgang, Catholic Exchange, August 15, 2019
Death is swallowed up in victory. These words of St. Paul to the Corinthians sum up in a certain way the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She contended with the Angel of Death at various junctures, as signaled by her confrontation with the dragon in the Book of Revelation. But the Assumption demonstrates that victory eclipsed death so greatly in her life that God would not even allow her earthly body to experience the corruption of death. Indeed, victory over death is at the core of the celebration of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A victory that came at the end of a most challenging but most graced life journey.
Lest we commit the mistake of celebrating her Assumption in isolation from the rest of her life, I would like to reflect on those major life events that brought Mary eventually to the kind of pinnacle that is the Assumption. A kind of crown won by many victories throughout her life thanks to her enduring faith in God’s providence.
Pope Pius XII & the Dogma of the Assumption
Almost seventy years ago, Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Dogma of the Assumption, which declares that the Virgin Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven, her body uncorrupted by the decay of death. Pope Pius also said that the Assumption was “a truth that has been revealed by God” (Munificentissimus Deus, 12). It was the truth that Mary “had actually passed from this life” and that “her sacred body had never been subject to the corruption of the tomb” (Ibid., 14). He also referred in a beautiful way to Mary’s body. He called it the “august tabernacle of the Divine Word” (Ibid.). August meaning majestic. He also said it “had never been reduced to dust and ashes” (Ibid.) Isn’t that a beautiful image? Her body was and remains a majestic tabernacle that God never allowed to be reduced to dust and ashes. A majestic tabernacle that, when the time was right, God assumed into the celestial Jerusalem.
Pope Pius XII said something else very important that reminds us not to celebrate the Assumption in isolation. He said that the truth of Mary’s Assumption had “shone forth in new radiance” (Ibid.,4) since his predecessor Pope Pius IX had proclaimed earlier the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
The Immaculate Conception, of course, refers to Mary’s privilege of being preserved from the stain of original sin at the time of her conception in the womb of her mother St. Anne. Let’s consider this for a moment. Why would he say that? Why would he say that Mary’s Immaculate Conception would make Mary’s Assumption shine forth with a new radiance? He said these two privileges weremost closely bound with each other. That’s something really worth meditating. ….