Life & Soul

Word This Week

The Assumption of the Virgin (1475-6) by Francesco Botticini

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour. From this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me.”

Even before the birth of her child, Mary had rejoiced in the salvation that Jesus would bring to a sinful world. At the Annunciation she had experienced, deep within herself, the palpable meaning of this salvation. It was no shadowy salvation, but a salvation embracing the fullness of her humanity, making her, quite literally, God’s dwelling place.

This is what we celebrate in Mary’s Assumption: that Christ, who did not forsake his humanity in death, but was raised up, likewise raised up his mother in the fullness of that same glorified humanity.

The prayers and liturgy for the Assumption emphasise Mary as the promise of such salvation for all who believe in her Son. St Paul, writing to the Corinthians, was a resolute defender of such a resurrection. He was writing to those who would reduce salvation to a pale survival of death, a survival in which our bodily humanity would be shuffled off. Thus he insisted that Christ, far from shedding his humanity in death, was raised up in its full glory.

Paul went on to proclaim Christ as the first fruits of the resurrection, insisting that all, in their proper order, would come to share in the fullness of his resurrection.

The assumption of Mary into heaven marked the fulfilment of this promise. We whose identities are so deeply rooted in our humanity are heirs to the same promise. Death, which seems to mock every hope, will be destroyed as a sinful creation is raised up in Christ. In celebrating what Mary became in the resurrection of her Son, we celebrate our own faith in what we shall become.

The vision of Revelation, a woman giving birth threatened by death, is full of meaning. For each of us there will be times when darkness threatens the light, when we seem more dead than alive. Christ’s Resurrection, and Mary’s Assumption, summon our faith to the triumphant conclusion of that vision. “Victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ.”