“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.”…
Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, 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. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians15:20-26, 51-58).
The above Scripture comes from the Second Readings of the Vigil Mass for the Assumption, and the proper Mass of the Assumption. In this text, St. Paul teaches and reminds the Corinthians (and us) about certain key realities surrounding death. The first thing, primarily, is that death is not the end. Christ, he says, has been resurrected! Through His innocent suffering and death, and by His resurrection, He has overcome death! Paul calls Him the “firstfruits” of those who have died. Since all of us were born dead spiritually—without grace in our souls—because of Adam’s sin, we all are fated to die physically as a result of both his original sin and our own actual sins. But now Christ has paid the penalty for sin, and His resurrection is the guarantee that those of us who are united to Christ in baptism, and have lived our lives in obedience to Him, shall also rise up with Him at the last day! This is what Paul is saying when he tells us that death is the last enemy to be destroyed.
This is our hope as Christians, that just as Christ has been resurrected, so He too will resurrect us, reuniting our souls to our bodies! And as though His own resurrection of divine-and-human flesh was not guarantee enough of our own resurrected merely human bodies, Christ has given us a second foretaste of this future resurrection through the wonderful honour which He paid to His Mother, by assuming her into heaven to be with Him. For Mary’s presence in heaven is different from the other saints in this way—that while they are there in spirit only, and still await the resurrection of their bodies, Mary has been brought to heaven both body and soul!
And while Mary’s Assumption into Heaven is a wonderful sign of hope for us of our own future resurrection and glorification, her assumption primarily is Jesus’ filial act of honour towards her. Moreover, this privilege follows logically and fittingly on that other, greater and primary privilege of Mary: her Immaculate Conception. For Mary was protected by a singular act of God’s Grace from the stain of original sin. That is, Mary was the first human being since Adam and Eve to have been created in a state of grace! And unlike Adam and Eve, who nevertheless threw away that grace, Mary treasured it and remained in it her whole life.
In our reading, St. Paul tells us that death came about through Adam’s sin, and that the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law (1 Cor 15:56). Since through Christ’s victory (v. 57), applied to Mary in a pre-emptive fashion, she was able to keep the Law through His grace and remained free from sin, then the penalty of sin, which is death, could have no power over her. And so it was, as the official declaration of this dogma states, that Mary, “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory (Pius XII: Munificentissimus Deus)”.
And so, Mary was taken up into Heaven, to dwell with her Son, in a place of honour. There she reigns as Queen Mother to Christ the King, interceding for us to Him, as King Solomon’s mother did with him on behalf of Adonijah (1 Kings 2:19-20), imploring graces for us. Let us then honour her as Christ Himself has, and proclaim with the Church the words of the Canticle:
My dove is my only one,
perfect and mine.
She is the darling of her mother,
the favourite of the one who bore her.
Girls have seen her and proclaimed her blessed,
Queens and concubines have sung her praises,
‘Who is this arising like the dawn,
fair as the moon,
resplendent as the sun,
formidable as an army?’ (Song of Songs 6:9-10)
Mother Mary, clothed with the sun, with the moon under your feet, continue to inspire us with hope and grace, toward the work of the Lord, knowing that it is never in vain.
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