As the solemnity of the Assumption approaches, it is good to reflect on her role in our salvation
By Bob Hunt
Every August, the Church celebrates the solemnity of the Assumption of Mary. It is a good time to reflect on the four central dogmas of the Church related to our Blessed Mother: the Immaculate Conception, the Motherhood of God, Mary’s perpetual virginity, and the Assumption.
The Immaculate Conception is the dogma of the Church that proclaims that Mary, by a unique grace of God, was preserved from original sin from the very moment of her conception. It is a gift given to Mary in honor of her being the Mother of God and to ensure that our Savior would be born of a pure vessel. Mary’s Immaculate Conception was the result of God bestowing upon her the graces won by Christ on the cross at the moment of her conception. Jesus is Mary’s Redeemer. How could this be, since the crucifixion obviously took place after the conception of Mary in her mother’s womb? God being eternal, He does not exist in time. All time for God is now, so there is no separation in time between the conception of Mary and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. It is no obstacle for an eternal God who exists outside of time to bestow the graces won by Christ on the cross to His mother’s soul at the moment of her conception. It is the faith of the Church that God gave this unique gift to Jesus’ mother.
The Council of Ephesus, meeting in 431, proclaimed Mary theotokos, that is “Mother of God.” Christians had long regarded Mary as Mother of God, but there were those who disputed this title because, in their minds, it implied that Mary was the cause or origin of Jesus’ divinity. Things came to a head in the early fifth century when Nestorius, archbishop of Constantinople, insisted that Mary was merely christotokos, or “Mother of Christ.” The Church at the Council rejected Nestorius’ claim and declared Mary truly the Mother of God. They reasoned that, since Jesus is God, and Mary is truly His mother, then she is truly Mother of God. Simple logic, really! Mary is not the origin or cause of Jesus’ divinity, but she is truly His mother, in that He was conceived in her womb, carried by her in pregnancy, and birthed by her.
The perpetual virginity of Mary has a long and honored tradition in the Church. That Mary consecrated herself in total gift to God, body and soul, is testified to by the Fathers of the Church and by the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 that declared Mary “ever virgin.” This dogma was further clarified by Pope Martin I in the seventh century when he proclaimed that Mary remained a virgin before, during, and after Jesus’ birth. Mary’s perpetual virginity is a sign of her total consecration to God. She is the Ark of the New Covenant, who carried the Savior in her body. Like the Ark, she is set aside in her unique place in salvation history, completely consecrated to God in every way. She could not, therefore, be given to any other.
The Assumption of Mary was proclaimed a dogma of the Church by Pope Venerable Pius XII on Nov. 1, 1950. The Holy Father said that Mary, “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” What greater reward could be extended to the Mother of God than to be joined to her Son immediately and completely at the end of her life. Mary’s Assumption is a precursor of our own glory, when we will be joined, body and soul, to the life of the Trinity in the kingdom.
A dogma is a truth revealed by God and defined by the teaching authority of the Church that is binding on all Catholics. The dogmas of the Church are not optional, but central articles of Catholic faith. These four dogmas related to Mary point to the importance of her role in our salvation, as the vessel by which our Savior was brought into the world, as the mother who first nurtured His body and His mind as a child, as one who united her sufferings to those of her Son, and as a precursor of the glory that awaits us all. Praise God for giving us such a strong and loving mother! May we turn to her embrace in our sorrows and rely on her prayers for our perseverance in faith.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.
Bob Hunt is a husband, father, grandfather, and parishioner at All Saints Church in Knoxville and is a candidate for the permanent diaconate.