Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this evening we celebrate the Vigil Mass of the glorious Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In this celebration and occasion, we are all reminded of the moment when Mary, the Blessed Mother of God was taken up body and soul into Heaven, to enjoy forever the glorious inheritance and the honour that she has been worthy of, as the Mother of God and faithful servant of the Lord, full of grace and love for God and for her Son, the Saviour of the world. Her Assumption into Heaven marks the end of her existence in this world as she entered into heavenly glory.
First of all, the Assumption does not equate to the Lord’s own Ascension into Heaven, as this is one of the most commonly misunderstood aspect of the Assumption of Mary. The difference is that while the Lord Jesus ascended into Heaven by His own power and will, being the Almighty God and All-Powerful Divine Word Incarnate, Mary was assumed into Heaven by the will of God, and not by her own will or power. She was taken up or assumed into Heaven rather than ascending on her own volition and power. That is the clear difference between that of the Ascension and the Assumption that we all need to know.
Then, we may ask and wonder what the significance of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God is to us? The Assumption marks the occasion when Mary did not experience the lasting effect of death, but went on to assume her rightful place in Heaven at the side of her Son’s Throne, and she experienced that because she was first of all conceived without the taint of original sin, and according to tradition, remained free from sin throughout her life, and therefore because sin leads to death, and the latter is the consequence and punishment for sin, then sin has no hold or dominion over Mary. This is in conjunction with what we heard in our second reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the faithful in Corinth.
Mary was conceived without original sin as the Church taught through the Dogma of Immaculate Conception, another Marian Dogma besides the Assumption itself. And this has Scriptural basis as we ourselves have heard in our first reading today from the Book of Chronicles, where King David of Israel was welcoming the Ark of the Covenant coming into the city of Jerusalem, to come to dwell with His people after having been placed in the Holy Tent of Meeting for all the years previously. That Ark of the Covenant contained the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, the Law of God passed down to Moses, as well as the staff of Aaron and the manna, the bread eaten by the Israelites during their time in the desert.
The Lord’s own Holy Presence descended onto the Ark of the Covenant, and in the Scriptures, in the Book of Exodus and others, it was mentioned how God’s Presence came and sit upon the Cherubim crafted upon the top of the Ark of the Covenant. As such, the Ark of the Covenant itself was crafted using the finest materials of this world, from precious metals and other materials, and God had also blessed and hallowed it. No one could touch the Ark of the Covenant, and even the High Priest could only come into the Holy Presence of God once a year. When a priest accidentally touched the Ark to prevent it from slipping during an earlier, unsuccessful attempt by David to move it to Jerusalem, that priest was immediately struck dead.
Then why is the comparison with the Ark of the Covenant? That is because Mary is the New Ark, of the New Covenant. As the Ark of the New Covenant, she has been hallowed, blessed and prepared by God, unique above all other of His creations, to be the most worthy vessel bearing His Holy Presence. For no taint of sin can come even close to the Sinless One, the Lord, the Divine Word Incarnate, and when He came into this world through His mother Mary, being in her womb for nine months as all other human beings have experienced, the very vessel of His entry into this world ought to be as perfect and immaculate, as Mary herself, the Immaculate Conception.
If the old Ark was so precious and treated so respectfully despite it being made and crafted by the hands of men, then all the more that Mary is hallowed and blessed beyond all, since she was made by God Himself. And when the Archangel Gabriel hailed her as ‘Full of Grace’, this also refers to Mary as being completely free from sin even throughout her life, as for her to be the bearer of the Messiah, the Son of God Himself, she has to be perfect and immaculate. What may seem to be impossible for us, is possible for God, Who willed in singular grace for Mary to be so created and maintained in a state of full of grace.
It means that Mary loved God so much and was always in state of perfection of grace, that she remained faithful completely to God and the taints of sin, of pride and worldly desires, of lust and greed and many other worldly vices had no hold over her. And because of this, as mentioned, Mary did not deserve death and neither should she succumb to it, because it would have been so ironic for the Mother of the Saviour to succumb to death when her own Son had been victorious and triumphant over death. Yet, according to tradition and agreement by Christian scholars, Mary still did die in a way, but how?
That is because, it was explained that Mary, when it was time for her to rejoin her Son in Heaven, having loved Him so much, she could not be separated from Him, and therefore, just as He had endured death temporarily, she also went through it momentarily. Apostolic traditions stated that when the appointed hour came, the Apostles were gathered and asked for Mary’s last blessing, and she entered a sleep of death, and she was placed in the tomb. One tradition stated that because St. Thomas, one of the Apostles could not be there to see Mary one last time, he demanded to see the Mother of God one last time.
When the Apostles and the other assembled disciples opened her tomb, they were all surprised to find that not only that there was no trace of decomposition, but the body of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God herself had disappeared, replaced by a bed of roses. It was evident to all then that because her Son had been triumphant over sin and death, He would not have let her to experience the degradation of death, and took her up into Heaven, body and soul. And that is the story of how the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and its equivalent in the Eastern Churches, the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin came to be.
The Assumption matters to all of us because first of all, now that Mary is in Heaven by her Son’s side, she became our greatest help and intercessor, constantly praying for us, her adopted children, for us all sinners who are still separated from her and her Son. The Assumption gave us the hope that through the Mother of God, assumed into Heaven, we may have the sure way towards the Lord and His salvation, by following Mary and her examples, and through her constant intercessions. She has always showed her maternal care to us, and it has been evident in multiple occasions how she appeared in various instances to different people, calling on us to repent from our sins and to return to God.
Then, not only that, Mary’s Assumption into Heaven also gave us all a glimpse of our own fate in the end, if we choose to remain faithful to God, just as her own Son’s Transfiguration a few days ago had shown us as well. In the end of time, after the Final Judgement, all of us will rise up body and soul to be reunited with God, and to enjoy forever an eternity of true bliss and happiness. However, we have to be faithful to God and to be judged worthy of Him, or else we will end up in the eternity of suffering instead in the eternal damnation. The Lord has given us many opportunities and chances, and He has reached out to us generously with love, so that we may find our way to Him, and His blessed Mother Mary has shown us the most direct and surest path to Him.
May all of us draw ever closer to God, in each and every moments and opportunities available to us. May He empower each one of us to live ever more faithfully and with greater conviction and commitment from now on, following the examples of Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, who we remember of today in her glorious Assumption into Heaven. Holy Mary, Mother of God, gloriously assumed and taken up to Heaven, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.