I’d like to offer some thoughts on an organic approach to understanding the Assumption and Queenship of Mary. What do I mean by organic? Mostly I mean an understanding that captures the organic connection between ideas and life. For example, you think about it something but those thoughts don’t permeate your actual life, don’t actually shape your tangible reality. It’s easy to fall into this- for example, confessing a conviction intellectually, but never giving roots to the conviction with action or effort.
Although this will be probably always be challenge in matters of faith, our church and times suffer from particular trends that exacerbate this mechanical separation of elements, including the separation of ideas from life, that go against the integrated nature of creation (also the separation of mind from body, God from daily life, etc). I’d like to consider these two great Marian feast days from this organic angle, that has implications for our real, tangible, body-and-soul-on-earth life. And I’d love to hear what you think about it.
Foundation – Sensus fidei
Growing up, I didn’t pay alot of attention to the Assumption. I’d heard it described as some random thing invented by Bishops to reinforce their own rightness about other Marian dogmas, and sometimes it did seem to me like something pulled out of thin air. Once I matured a little bit and started researching more, my thoughts and then my beliefs began to change. This blog post isn’t the place to go into the history of the dogma (feel free to do that on your own), but the most essential thing I learned was about sensus fidei, the “sense of faith” (or sensus fidelium, the “sense of the faithful”).
In regards to the Marian dogma of the Assumption, it basically means that part of the discernment was the deep listening to the hearts of the faithful, all over the world. In other words, not just, “What do theologians say about the Assumption?” but “What beliefs about the Blessed Mother have grown in the hearts of all the faithful, laity included?” In my research, learning this was enough for me to grasp that the dogma didn’t come out of thin air, but rather through reading the signs of divine life in the people of God. (For the scriptural and historical basis of sensus fidei, see Sensus Fidei: In the Life of the Church, wherein the Assumption is addressed in paragraph 42. To see what sensus fidei is not, here’s a helpful wiki article.)
Once an orange tree, always an orange tree…
When God grants a person a mission, it isn’t a temporary assignment. This is true for each of us, and in an exemplary way, for the saints and for Mary. God is the God of order and purpose and meaning – and the meaning He writes into creation doesn’t flip flop and change willy nilly. For a super simple example, an orange tree’s “mission” is always to produce oranges – it never produces bananas, for example. The nature of it’s being is organically, inseparably united to the nature of its doing. And the doing follows from the being. I must say orange trees do this alot better than we do lol. That’s the nature of the gift of royal freedom of course – we are free to choose to ignore who we are.
Here’s a simple example – imagine if Michael Phelps decided he wanted to be gymnast, because he thought Simone Biles was super cool. But Phelps’ body is built, through training that built upon the natural gifts already there (like double jointed ankles!) to be a swimmer. So he’d probably not make as good a gymnast as he does a swimmer. But he has stayed faithful to who he is, and is crazy successful in that.
What does this principle mean for Mary?
“The same faith-filled process of life and reflection of the Church about the beginning of Mary’s existence repeats with respect to the culmination of her life. Here the central, vital process is once again the unique position that Mary occupies in the whole plan of salvation. Just as her election to be the virginal Mother and permanent associate of Christ in the redemption of the world marked the beginning and development of her earthly pilgrimage, it should also mark the end of it. No stage of her life could be left without receiving the influence of the fundamental meaning that God granted to her person and that she freely accepted and realized.” 1
So Mary has the same mission in the Fiat that she has at the end of her life – she is totally and completely full of God, designed for the life mission of being the Mother of the Redeemer, the Mother of God and the Mother of the Redeemed. She fully embraced this mission – her doing always flowed forth from her being – and thus we can learn something about the end of her life from the way she lived her “Yes” from the start. How did she live it? Always with Christ.
“Where there is Christ, there also is Mary: Because, as is God’s plan, Jesus and Mary belong together by one and the same divine decree of selection in an inseparable two-in-oneness of life and work, we will always find Christ’s Mother where He is and works, and where she is active we will similarly encounter in some way the Redeemer of the world. The Savior lives and works in a transfigured state in union with the Father. We also find His Mother there as Queen of heaven and earth.” 2
Thus Mary, in fulfilling her earthly mission as always united to Christ and full of the Holy Spirit, follows Christ at the end of her life – because of the redeeming power of Christ, and because the Father wills it. Think about it – what was Christ’s victory, in the end? “This victory is concretely over sin and death. In the victory of Christ there is a special participation of Mary, given her association in the fight [against the devil] – that couldn’t be considered complete without her corporal glorification.” 1 As scripture tells us:
51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. (1 Cor 15)
So what does that have to do with Queenship?
Mary wasn’t assumed by God into the Heaven to retire. As a dear friend recently said to me – saints don’t retire! “The assumption into the heavens means for Mary a new mode of existence in body and soul; she enjoys forever the beatific vision. This implies simultaneously a greater presence and possibility of action in the world…to proclaim Mary as Queen is to proclaim another gift received for her participation in the work of redemption” 1
So she is assumed into Heaven with her Son, the King and Lord of all, to keep doing what she’s always been doing – helping her Son in his mission of salvation. Numerous apparitions of Mary throughout the centuries seems to confirm this. Mary doesn’t rest from her motherly care for us, nor does she rest from taking a stand against the devil.
…and what does that have to do with me?
First off, it means there’s a warm Mother’s heart beating for us in heaven – as Fr Bryan Cunningham said in his Assumption homily at the Shrine last Monday. Her motherly heart is entirely turned towards each of us, with the sole purpose of bringing us closer to Christ. Mary isn’t living on as a mere spirit – her body is already glorified. So when we think of our own mother’s warm, human embrace – we can easily understand that that is the reality, too of Mary. A warm mother’s heart!
Secondly, it tells us an undeniable truth about our own dignity.
“In a time especially sensitive to anthropological realities, the royalty of Mary also manifests to us the dignity to which man has been called. It is a defense against every intent to lower him to the slavery of a totalitarian state or a consumer society, against converting him into a mere number among the anonymous masses or an interchangeable part of the machinery of production. Man is, by his nature, king of creation. A redeemed creature, Mary, already fully exercises this reigning next to the Lord.” 1
This goes back to each of us having a unique mission. We none of us are interchangeable or superfluous. Mary is our perfect educator, who will, if we invite her and give her also our own efforts, transform us more and more to fully carry out our God-given purpose in the world. “Mary is reminding us of the ultimate end of our life and what are the forces to achieve it. Pilgrimaging in communion with Christ, participating in his Pascal Mystery, we are called to be citizens of heaven. Our path is towards the Father.” 1
Lastly, it also teaches us that our very body is important to that mission:
“More over, the corporal glorification of Mary illuminates the meaning of the human body. It invites one to value it in its dignity and function of expression of the spirit, a means of communication with the reality and in-dwelling of the Trinity. The forgetting or devaluing of this dignity leads to an angelistic and disembodied living of christianity. The other mode of violating the dignity of the body is the exaltation and abuse of it. Mary’s Assumption is an energetic protest against a civilization that makes the body an idol, a mere object of pleasure, one more article of propaganda and consumption, an instrument of satisfaction of the lower drives. The human body is called to be holy and to participate in the final resurrection. Heaven is already inhabited by the glorious bodies of Christ and Mary.” 1.
So if we forget the dignity of our bodies as organically connected to our souls, we may lean into either under valuing it, by honoring only the mind’s participation in life, or by over valuing it, and letting our bodies run our lives, disconnected from sound decisions and thoughtful discernment. Mary is the only human being to ever successfully hold this creative tension within her being – the tension between the natural and the supernatural, the body and soul, the heart and mind, God and earthly life. In her Assumption and her Queenship, she not only shows us the “north star” of where to direct our gaze, she shows us the means for achieving it, and with her warm, mother heart, accompanies each and every step.
It is this organic understanding of the human person, embodied in Mary and exemplified in these two feast days, that our Church and our culture so desperately lack. I don’t think we will advance along that track without Mary. How can each us of take these ideas and let them transform our actual lives? What a pressing question! I’d love to hear what you think.
I’ll leave you with a meditation from Danielle Rose. Peace to you my friend, and happy Feasts of the Assumption and the Queenship of Mary!
The 4th Glorious Mystery: The Assumption of Mary
Based on Revelation 11:19a
Look at those hands, the faith they’ve held onto,
The things they’ve let go, the tears that they’ve dried.
These hands held my Lord when he was crucified.
Mary’s hands—they are now with you in heaven.
Look at those eyes, what beauty she’s seen,
Gazing with love upon bended knee,
Gathering all her visions of wonder and sorrow.
Mary’s eyes—they are now with you in heaven.
Lord, bless my hands, my heart, my breath,
Each step of my feet, each hair on my head.
You have built of me a temple out of mere flesh and bone.
You have given me a body for my soul’s eternal home.
Look at that heart, pure like a child,
Pondering the mysteries held deep within.
Pierced by a sword, she bleeds not from hers but the world’s sin.
Mary’s heart—it is now with you in heaven.
Bless us, Lord—we’ll soon be with you in heaven.
Bless me, Lord—I’ll soon be with you in heaven.
Music and lyrics written by Danielle Rose, spring 2003. Copyright © 2003 Danielle Rose Skorich, published by World Library Publications, http://www.wlpmusic.com. All rights reserved.
Fr. Angel Strada, Maria y Nosotros. Translated by me.
Fr Joseph Kentenich, Mary, Our Mother & Educator, p 125