Back in 1993 I knew next to nothing about the Blessed Virgin Mary, a Lutheran pastor, perfectly unable to tell the difference between Her Immaculate Conception and Her Assumption. But both feasts bothered me, because they weren't "in the Bible."
In fact, Father Jim Berning, then Parochial Vicar of St Theodore's in Albert Lea, MN had a humongous portrait of Mary in his office. I remember that he once asked me whether I knew what it was. The Assumption? The Immaculate Conception? And of course I had to confess that I didn't.
I know better now.
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary wasn't formally defined as a dogma of the Catholic Church until 1950. However, the most ancient teachers in the Church, especially in the East, taught about Mary's glorification at death. Written stories about her death circulated among Christians as early as the third century A.D.
It makes one wonder about the reticence of New Testament writers to speak about Her. It falls into the same class as the doctrine about the Holy Trinity and Sacraments. You get glimpses of these teachings here and there in the New Testament. However, the truths are never as openly taught nor so clearly stated as the Church later would do after centuries of thought and reflection.
So it is with Mary. We see her, first in the proto-gospel prophecy of Genesis 3:15, and later primarily in the gospels of Luke and John and the book of Revelation. There she is always by our Lord's side and instrumental in His work of salvation.
But with this Feast we are not simply concerned with the individual fate of Mary.
What She became, we shall be.
And if you doubt that the Mother of God could or would be taken to heaven in a glorified state, then what about us?
Romans 8:30 talks about the Christian in this way;
"Those [God] predestined, he also called,;
and those He called He also justified;
and those He justified He also glorfied."
When you get down to it, Mary's Assumption is really setting the pattern for the rest of the Church, and following in the wake of Her beloved Son's glorifed fate.
Like Elijah and Enoch and perhaps Moses in the Old Testament, Mary simply got there first. In fact, this ascension to heaven makes real sense if, with the New Testament, we believe that Mary was the first Christian, the first to conceive Christ within her through the Holy Spirit.
So, this Solemnity fills me with holy longing to become all that God has called us all to be, predestined in Christ, justified in Christ, and soon to be glorified in Christ.
Just like our Mother Mary.