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August 15, 2004

The Fourth Glorious Mystery

by Thomas A. Droleskey

The glorious feast we will celebrate this Sunday, August 15, was defined solemnly as an article contained in the Deposit of Faith by Pope Pius XII in 1950, just fifty-four years ago. However, the feast of Our Lady’s Assumption body and soul into Heaven has been celebrated by the Church from the early centuries of the Church. Consider the words of Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., in The Liturgical Year:

At Rome the Assumption or Domitio of the holy Mother of God appears in the seventh century to have already been celebrated for an indefinite length of time; nor does it seem to have had any other day than August 15. According to Nicephorous Callistus, the same date was assigned to it for Constantinople by the Emperor Maurice at the end of the sixth century. The history notes, at the same time, the original of several other solemnities, while of the Dormitio alone, he does not say that it was established by Maurice on such a day; hence learned authors have concluded that the feast itself already existed before the imperial decree was issued, which was thus only intended to put an end to its being celebrated on various days.

This great feast day is celebrated on August 15, to be sure. However, anyone who prays all fifteen mysteries of Our Lady’s Most Holy Rosary (please, I ignore most luminously the Pope’s "Luminous Mysteries) contemplates the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven every single day. The doctrine of the Assumption is intimately connected with the that of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception. It is indeed telling that the only two Solemn or formal exercises of ex cathedra Papal teaching in the recent past have been the proclamations of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. (The doctrine of Papal infallibility was proclaimed solemnly by the First Vatican Council, at which presided Blessed Pius IX. The exercise of Papal infallibility is not limited to solemn ex cathedra pronouncements.)

Our Lady was preserved from all stain of sin from the first moment of her conception in her mothers’s womb. She had a perfect human nature, that of Adam and Eve before their fall from grace in the Garden of Eden. Therefore, Our Lady was endowed with a superior intellect and a superior will. She had a delicate balance between her higher rational faculties and the lower passions. She, the New Eve and Ark of the New Covenant, was the singular vessel of honor in which she would enflesh the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity with a human body and a human nature by the power of the Holy Ghost. Although full of grace from the moment of her Immaculate Conception, Our Lady grew in holiness through the years as she, the Mediatrix of all graces and the co-Redemptrix of the world, surrendered herself to the will of the Father at every moment of her life.

Our Lady was presented in the Temple at the age of three by year parents, Saints Joachim and Anne, being consecrated to God at that moment. Our Lady had chosen perpetual virginity for herself, being given by God the privilege of conceiving a child by the power of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity and giving birth without any loss of her virginity. The woman who was conceived without stain of sin belonged to God from the first moment of her Immaculate Conception. That she should be given the privilege of being with God with her body and soul united to each other following her death should come as no surprise.

Although preserved from the stain of sin, Our Lady suffered its effects on many occasions in her life. The aged Simeon told her that a sword of sorrow would pierce her soul so that the thoughts of many hearts would be laid bare. She was forced to flee with her chaste spouse, Saint Joseph, into Egypt when King Herod sought to kill the Child Jesus. As the Co-Redemptrix, Our Lady suffered with her Divine Son as He suffered the cruel effects of our own sins and our own indifference. For the Flesh that was offered up on the wood of the Holy Cross came from her flesh. The Most Precious Blood that was shed for the forgiveness of our sins came from her blood. The Most Sacred Heart that was pierced because of our offenses was formed out of her own Immaculate Heart. As there was a perfect communion between those two Hearts, Our Lady suffered completely with her Son. Having grown in holiness throughout her years of faithful service to the Blessed Trinity as a single girl and as a wife and Mother, the pain of sin was as horrific and tortuous to Our Lady as it was to her Divine Son. No mother has suffered more than Our Blessed Mother. For no other mother was conceived without sin. No other mother had a perfect communion of hearts with her son. No other mother was so thoroughly repulsed by the thought of sin than our Blessed Mother, given to us at the foot of the Cross to be our Mother.

We are sinners, however. We suffer in this life justly. Even when we suffer unjustly as a result of the thoughtless actions of others, we suffer Our Lady, offering up our sufferings to her Immaculate Heart so that they can be presented to the Blessed Trinity. As Our Lady’s consecrated slaves, we thus help to participate in the work of redemption, trusting that the merits we freely surrender to her will help make reparation for the just temporal punishment that is due our own sins and to help to alleviate the suffering of the Poor Souls in Purgatory. We know that our bodies, which are destined to age and to deteriorate because of Original Sin, must suffer the corruption of the grave until the General Resurrection of the Dead on the Last Day, at which point our bodies will be reunited with our souls to enjoy forever the bliss of the Beatific Vision or to endure the sufferings of hellfire and eternal separation from God in Hell.

It is no accident that the bodies of some saints remain incorrupt after death, for while they were not conceived immaculately, they so thoroughly despised sin and loved God with such fervor as He has revealed Himself through His true Church that their bodies emit a sweet odor even centuries after they had died. The preservation of the bodies of some great saints thus teaches us the necessity of Our Lady being assumed body and soul into Heaven. For if those who were conceived with the stain of sin but who aspired to holiness are deemed fit to be incorrupt after death, it is only just and right that the body of the Mother of God be assumed body and soul into Heaven to be crowned as Queen of Heaven and of earth.

Our Lady is our sure fortress against the power of sin in our lives and in our world. After the Mass and Eucharistic piety, it is devotion to Our Lady which most efficaciously helps to mold souls in the image of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Our Lady teaches us how to fulfill the Father’s will by the following the Son in Spirit and in Truth through His true Church, outside of which there is no salvation. Her bodily Assumption into Heaven teaches us how we must love God, how much we must despise sin, and how much we should strive on a daily basis to resist sin and grow in holiness for love of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Turning again to Dom Gueranger:

Thou didst taste death, O Mary! But that death, like the sleep of Adam at the world’s beginning, was but an ecstasy leading the Bride into the Bridegroom’s presence. As the sleep of the new Adam on the great day of salvation, it called for the awakening of resurrection. In Jesus Christ our entire nature, soul and body, was already reigning in heaven; but as in the first paradise, so in the presence of the Holy Trinity, it was not good for man to be alone. To-day at the right hand of Jesus appears the new Eve, in all things like to her Divine Head, in His vesture of glorified flesh: henceforth nothing is wanting in the eternal paradise.

O Mary, who according to the expression of thy devout servant John Damascene, has made death blessed and happy, detach us from this world, where nothing ought now to have a hold on us. We have nothing ought now to have a hold on us. We have accompanied thee in desire; we have followed thee with the eyes of our soul, as far as the limits of our mortality allowed; and now, can we ever again turn our eyes upon this world of darkness? O Blessed Virgin, in order to sanctify our exile and help us to rejoin thee, bring to our aid the virtues whereby, as on wings, thou didst soar to so sublime a height. In us, too, the must reign; in us, they must crush the head of the wicked serpent, that one day they may triumph in us. O day of days, when we shall behold not only our Redeemer, but also the Queen who stands so close to the Sun of Justice as even to be clothed therewith, eclipsing with her brightness all the splendours of the saints!

The Church, it is true, remains to you, O Mary, the Church, who is also our Mother, and who continues thy struggle against the dragon with its seven hateful heads. But she, too, sighs for the time when the wings of an eagle will be given her, and she will be permitted to rise like thee from the desert and to reach her Spouse. Look upon her passing, like the moon, at thy feet, through her laborious phases; hear the supplications she addresses to thee as Mediatrix with the divine Sun; through thee may she receive light; through thee may she find favour with Him who loved thee, and clothed thee with glory and crowned thee with beauty.

We can never presume our salvation. Indeed, a priest in Allentown, Pennsylvania, closed an otherwise awful “homily” on the Feast of the Assumption in 1980 by saying, “Where are we going? We’re all going to Heaven.” There’s a little word for this: heresy (which is just part and parcel of the conciliarist religion). No, our salvation is not guaranteed. We neither presume nor despair of our salvation. We simply trust that Our Lady will pray for us nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

Our Lady, Queen Assumed into Heaven, pray for us.

Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe, the Apostle of Mary Immaculate, pray for us.

Saint Catherine Laboure, to whom Our Lady showed herself as the Mediatrix of all Graces, pray for us.

Blessed Feast day to one and to all this coming Sunday.


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