The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
With only a few years shy of 100 years between the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and the declaration of the doctrine of the Assumption in 1950, this span of time is known as the “Marian century”. It is a time when the place of Mary within the Church received an unprecedented recognition. In light of this recognition, the Second Vatican Council felt that the monumentality of these documents did not necessitate further writing on Mary because the truth and the majesty of these proclamations had yet to bear full fruit.
Some may wonder as to the precedence of Mary during this time. The key to understanding this precedence is an examination of the times themselves, a period of transference of allegiance to the supernatural goal of the human person and its replacement with materialism. Whether it was the capitalist’s consumer paradise of fashion or the communist workers’ paradise of Minsk, both systems viewed the world as fulfilled by materialism.
The Church opposed this transference, realizing that it was a poor exchange for the glories of eternal life. The Church also opposed the view that the human person was a means to an end not, rather than an individual with dignity and rights. To clarify the goal and the means of human existence, the Church identified Mary’s yes to God as preserving her from the effects of sin, a grace gained by the merits of her son and her Assumption as the concluding effect of this yes. Mary stands as a model for Christians by her yes to God and for what will occur when one lives a life of conforming oneself to that divine will. Artists and poets were clear that this yes was not an easy response. Mary was portrayed in devotional practices and artistic representations as the Mother of Sorrows and the mother holding the dead body of her crucified son. It is interesting to note how many Jesuit parishes held devotions to the Sorrowful mother during World War II, a source of consolation to those who lost children during the war.
Today’s feast should not be understood as the prize we win when we say yes to God. Rather, it is the recognition of how much that prize must consume our lives and that winning of that prize takes all our efforts in combination with the Grace of God.