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Allison Welch Feast Days Ink Slingers Mary Saints

Happy Feast of the Assumption!

When I taught high school theology, it was one of many vocabulary words that students got confused: Assumption, Ascension, Annunciation. To help them remember, I offered a type of mnemonic device.  

Which vocabulary word is used to describe when Jesus bodily rises to heaven and which word refers to Mary’s rising? The word with an “m” in it is the word referring to Mary’s rising, I offered. “I thought you said all of the Mysteries of the Rosary were about Jesus…?” one astute student said, catching me in an apparent contradiction about the 4th Glorious Mystery of the Rosary, the Assumption of Mary.  

Ah, but even the Assumption of Mary is ultimately about Jesus, I suggested. Everything about Mary points us to Jesus; she magnifies the Lord. While Jesus ascended into heaven by his own power, Mary was assumed, not by any power of her own, but by her son’s. Glorious mysteries about the power of God indeed! 

As the mother of two sons, it gives me great solace to know Jesus came back for his mother’s body at the end of her earthly life. After giving birth to her son, through and with her own body, Mary swaddled and nursed his, gently bathing and burping his flesh at the beginning of his earthly life. Again in his death she held and washed her son’s body, none other than the flesh of the only begotten Son of God. Of course Jesus would take care of his mother’s body at the end of her earthly life, after she had dedicated hers to caring for him.  You can’t out-give God.  

It’s hard to imagine it–a body ascending into heaven. While the bodily Assumption of Mary is part of our Catholic Tradition (dogmatically defined in 1950), there are Scriptural precedents for it, namely Enoch and Elijah in the Old Testament. And of course, the Ascension of Jesus in the New Testament. Both Scripture and Tradition–and the Ascension of Jesus and the Assumption of Mary–remind us today of our most ancient creed as the Apostles understood it:  “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” 

The resurrected Jesus was not a ghost, a disembodied spirit. Scripture tells us Thomas touched Jesus’ side and that Jesus ate with the disciples.  Some of the earliest heresies involved the denial of the physical world, dismissing it as evil. “Right teaching” tells us that God entered into his creation by putting on flesh

Two thousand years ago Jesus, began the process of sanctifying and redeeming the created world, pouring out his blood to reverse The Fall of humanity. He did this out of love for us so we might not know eternal death, but live with Him as bride forever. We were created for the Divine life, and while separated from this by sin, we are destined for eternal communion with God incarnate. (Of course we must confirm this destiny, in the flesh, by surrendering our our will and intellect to the will of God to be animated by His eternal Spirit.)

In the age of the Walking Dead, many of my students had a hard time accepting as good the resurrection of the body. Their cultural understanding of the body was that it is more of a cruel cage that contains and restricts the soul and that upon death, we would be freed once and for all from its confines. This is not Catholic teaching. St. Theresa of Avila wrote: “The spirit is not in the body, the body is in the spirit.”  While evil can destroy the soul (Mt 10:28), it is the spirit that gives life to the body and to the soul.    

Because of sin we are mortal, but that is not God’s original or redemptive plan for us. Thanks be to God, we joyfully await the resurrection of the body.  This is the witness of the martyrs, who willingly and generously gave of their flesh in the way of Christ. 

Mary was such a beautiful example of another kind of martyrdom, a “white martyrdom,” that dare I say motherhood itself, done well, models for humanity.  In fact Mary is a perfect example of how the spirit is intended to animate us, body and soul.  “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Luke 1:46-47).  This is Mary’s yes to the will of God. Thanks to her Immaculate Conception, she is so full of grace that she gives birth to the “wholly other.” While this may fill us with wonder and hope, the bodily Assumption of Mary should not surprise us for she is the first of His many disciples.

In Catholic theological terms we are “bipartite”–composite beings made of body and soul. It is ironic that in our earthly life, we spend so much time preoccupied by the body and its needs, often disregarding the needs of the soul. Then in death, we quickly dismiss the body and cling to the idea of an eternal soul. May God, in the person of Jesus and with the help of the Holy Spirit, come to our aid. May our spiritual Mother, Mary, pray for us.

On this Feast of the Assumption, let us do as our Church compels us: let us feed and nourish our body and soul with the Bread of Angels in the Holy Eucharist. Let us joyfully surrender to the wisdom that calls us into Communion with God and his Church, fully embracing in humility both: the human and the divine, united as one. 

I’ll see you this Thursday at the intersection of heaven and earth!

Categories
Faith Formation Holy Days of Obligation Ink Slingers Kerri Mary

The Assumption: Finding Mary in the Darkness

At a young age I developed a fear of death. I don’t know what it was that caused me to fixate on this. It wasn’t the death of a relative or family friend. Not that I recall, anyway. I would often find myself lying in bed at night thinking about what happens to a person in death. My imagination ran wild during my bouts with insomnia at a young age. Often my mind would zero in on a feeling of complete and utter emptiness or nothingness. For a young girl, this was incredibly scary.

Even though I grew up Catholic and I believed in God (or had some elementary understanding in a belief in God), I still questioned whether what I was taught was actually true. Years later this gave me some comfort. That probably sounds contradictory, for why should I find comfort in my earlier doubts and questions? Because it tells me that I have always been seeking Truth. This is what our Catholic faith teaches us.

Man tends by nature toward the truth. He is obligated to honor and bear witness to it: “It is in accordance with their dignity that all men, because they are persons … are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth.” (CCC 2467)

As I was drawn back to the Catholic Church as an adult I discovered that I knew very little about the beauty of the Catholic faith. I had so much to learn! In particular, I discovered the Blessed Mother.

It’s weird, because I had chosen Mary as my confirmation name when I was in the 8th grade. Somehow, though, I never really learned much about her. My interest was piqued when I started learning about Marian apparitions. From there I began reading and trying to understand more about the various church teachings on Mary (the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, etc.). A whole new aspect of the Catholic faith came to life for me and I felt a connection to this blessed woman (Luke 1:48) that helped to strengthen my faith in her Son, God, and the one true Church.

The Assumption, in particular, had a profound effect on me. The insomnia I experienced as a child continued into my adulthood, but to a lesser degree. Those thoughts I had of death and the emptiness/nothingness that weighed heavily on me still crept into my nighttime thoughts. I had taught myself to focus on something repetitive to help calm my mind and get myself to sleep. Often counting was what helped. But as my faith grew I found myself reciting the Hail Mary instead. This simple prayer brought a peace to my soul that I had not experienced before. Instead of simply calming my brain, I was being comforted in my whole body and soul. Soon that fear of death began to dissipate to the point where I stopped thinking about it completely.

It happened gradually and I did not make the connection for a long time. Recently, as I was contemplating the Assumption of Mary in anticipation of this post, I had a light bulb moment. Mary brings me comfort when I struggle with my fears because she is a sign of hope in our belief of the resurrection of the dead. As the Catechism tell us:

A print we have in our home of the Assumption of Mary.
A print we have in our home of the Assumption of Mary.

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians. (from CCC 966)

The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Son’s Resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of his Body. (CCC 974)

What wonderful comfort to know that God has given Mary to us as our Mother to bring us comfort in our time of need. In my time of need, I pray for peace in the dark, still night and my Blessed Mother in heaven brings me hope of a life to come. With her help, I can defeat the demons that sometimes plague my thoughts in those quiet hours.

Today, not only do I know that my faith is rooted in Truth, but that desire to seek Truth also comforts my soul. As I said in the beginning, asking those questions then may have raised doubts, but in the long run, they proved to be the key to learning and accepting the One, True Church that was founded by Jesus Christ Himself.

As I anticipate the celebration of the Feast of the Assumption tomorrow I will once again be reminded that through Christ we have been given the gift of everlasting life. Mary, our Blessed Mother, is our symbol of hope. God assumed her to be with Him in heaven and through her we can anticipate our own resurrection one day.

What an incredible feast day it is!

Top image source: morguefile

Categories
Catechism Doctrine Faith Formation Holy Days of Obligation Mary

Happy Feast Day of The Assumption!

::Pulled from the Catholic Sistas archives, this post originally featured on August 15, 2012::

Did you know today is a Holy Day of Obligation?

You know what that means, right?

You should be heading to Mass…

…or have already attended the Vigil Mass last night

…or have plans to attend Mass* tonight if you haven’t gone already.

Beyond the usual “housekeeping” of sharing that it’s an HDO, there is the primary element of excitement that today is the day the Church celebrates Mary’s assumption into heaven, body and soul. Though the proclamation as Dogma was made official by Pope Pius XII in 1950, the Church in Her wisdom maintains that the Dogma has always existed.

How does that make sense in feeble minds such as mine? I will tell you something that has made the timeline of this Marian Doctrine make sense. Dogma of the Church is like the stars in the sky. Church theologians are the astronomers over time…as things are discovered in the sky over the course of time, it does not compromise the legitimacy of what was discovered. When a new star is discovered and named, we do not question its existence. It existed long before we found it. And this is how we approach Mary’s Assumption, the Holy Trinity, Purgatory, etc. There are many things in which our Faith has discovered and uncovered as time has moved along…the existence of these Truths of our Faith are not compromised!

Here are a few links to send you on your way on the history of The Assumption and some crafts to do with the kidlets:

HISTORY

Overview of the history of the Assumption

History plus video from the day of the proclamation

CRAFTS

Mary triptych craft

Mary coloring page and activity

Mary centerpiece

SONGS

Top 10 Mary songs

 

Categories
Apologetics Faith Formation Offering your suffering Prayer Sacred Scripture Splendid Sundays

Splendid Sundays: Catholics and the Rapture

Today’s Mass Readings, with a reflection below.

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 154

Reading 1           Wis 6:12-16

Resplendent and unfading is wisdom,
and she is readily perceived by those who love her,
and found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire;
Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed,
for he shall find her sitting by his gate.
For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence,
and whoever for her sake keeps vigil
shall quickly be free from care;
because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her,
and graciously appears to them in the ways,
and meets them with all solicitude.

Responsorial Psalm      Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

R. (2b) My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
I will remember you upon my couch,
and through the night-watches I will meditate on you:
You are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Reading 2      1 Thes 4:13-18

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,
about those who have fallen asleep,
so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose,
so too will God, through Jesus,
bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord,
that we who are alive,
who are left until the coming of the Lord,
will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep.
For the Lord himself, with a word of command,
with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God,
will come down from heaven,
and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive, who are left,
will be caught up together with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air.
Thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Therefore, console one another with these words.

or 1 Thes 4:13-14

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,
about those who have fallen asleep,
so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose,
so too will God, through Jesus,
bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

Gospel           Mt 25:1-13

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Reflection

Assumption of the Holy Virgin, Peter Paul Rubens 1626

This has been quite a year for end of times predictions.  For some of us, this is the first time we’ve been old enough (or at least aware enough) to observe the degree to which some groups of Christians believe “the rapture” will come in our lifetime.  It may feel like a new phenomenon, however there have literally been people in every generation since Jesus’s First Coming who believed that they would be the ones to receive the honor of being assumed into Heaven before death.

Catholics believe in a “rapture” too, as it is quite clear in the Bible and in Apostolic Teaching.  Whenever Christ returns, those among “the elect” in the Church Militant will be assumed body and soul into Heaven just like the Blessed Virgin.  However, there are two places of distinction between the Catholic view of the end of times (eschatology) and the view of those Christians who devised this year’s billboards.

 

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church…

St. Paul, Colossians 1:24

The first distinction deals with the placement of the “tribulation”; will it be before or after the “rapture”?  Scripture clearly describes a period of great suffering at the end of times.  Some Christians believe that the none of God’s faithful will have to endure the tribulation, and instead they will be raptured before hand such that only the non elect will be left behind to endure the reign of Satan.  However, Catholic theology embraces the role of redemptive suffering and does not shy away from Christians enduring great, great suffering.  We have a 2000 year history filled with saints who endured amazing persecution and martyrdom all for the Truth and the Glory of God.  We fully expect that during the tribulation we will remain here to minister to those who will fall into despair, we will remain to continue spreading the Gospel.  Thankfully, our Lord has already provided mercy for us during this time of tribulation, as Jesus consoles, “And if those days had not been shortened, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect they will be shortened.” (Matthew 24:22)  God clearly knows that His faithful can sustain a tribulation, but He also has recognized their limitations by shortening the time period of desolating abomination.

The second distinction between those in the imminent end of times “camp” (did you catch the joke?), is that we truly heed the words of Jesus:

* Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day you Lord will come. Matt 24:42
* So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. Matt 24:44
* But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son,
but the Father alone.
Matt 24:36
* Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matt 25:13

We are commanded to be prepared for Christ’s seconding coming as if it is is to happen in our lifetime, however, even Jesus was too humble to boast when it would be!  Now, don’t get this text wrong, it is not denying the oneness of the Trinity, it is however demonstrating the humility of Jesus’s human nature, a humility we would do well to imitate.  If even Jesus is to be so humble about when He will return, how then, if we are to follow His example, can we boast any approximation for His return?  This is exalting one’s self and knowledge above the example set by Jesus!

So, in the meantime let us be among the five virgins with oil in their lamps, ready for our Master at any time!  Let our souls thirst for our God, and let us bless Him while we live!  Let us stay awake, waiting for Wisdom at dawn, by His gate!  For whenever His coming may be, whether it be tomorrow or many generations from now, we will be basking in His glory, body and soul forever!

Disclaimer: This post was finished early and scheduled to automatically post on Sunday. The third commandment was not broken in the creation of this edition of Splendid Sundays =D.