Any feast of the Blessed Mother Mary fills my heart with joy, so is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Holy tenderness of the Mother of God spurs in my heart a prayerful contemplation of the function of grace in the life of any person who accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior. I mean Jesus, the Christ, not some platonic ideal in the memory of the astral catalog, but the Son of God who was born in flesh and blood and carried in the womb of the Blessed Mother Mary as Scripture says, “born of a woman (Mary)” (Gal 4:4).
The doctrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was formally declared as a dogma of faith on 1 November 1950 by Pope Pius XII in his encyclical letter Munificentissimus Deus. To me, it is one of the best theological understandings of the ultimate blessing of freedom from sin.
Grace and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin
As I prayed and reflected on this feast, my mind went to God’s Word, as documented in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1, verses 26 to 31. I was particularly attracted by verse 28, where the angel greeted Mary, saying, “Hail, full of grace.”
This translation of the Greek κεχαριτωμένη follows Saint Jerome’s Latin translation of it as gratia plena (full of grace). In fact, many Church fathers agreed with this translation even before Jerome translated the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate) in the late 4th century.
Granted, some biblical scholars prefer to translate it as ‘favored one’ and numerous other variations. The consensus of the Fathers of the Church is sufficient for me regarding the “full of grace” rendering.
The word charis (χάρις), which is the bone of contention, could be translated as grace or favor. At least, this much is agreed upon by many, irrespective of their side of the argument.
One who is favored by the Lord, the one who is full of grace, deserves what grace offers. Sure, there are a couple of other biblical figures who were described as favored ones. Still, theirs are in no way to be compared to the greeting of Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Mary. Indeed, they are no match to the significance of the angel’s Annunciation to our Christian faith.
We Christians (Catholics, Evangelicals, Protestants, etc.) know the best favor any human being could receive is God. It’s salvation. And salvation is by the grace of God granted us in Christ. One who is full of grace is granted access to salvation too. Don’t forget that Mary had the unique privilege of carrying Jesus, truly God and truly human, in her womb. She was the carrier of Grace. What other evidence do we need to justify that Mary is full of grace? It was not simply by her biological pregnancy but also by her free consent (an act of the will) when she said the unalloyed “yes” to God. The yes led to the motherhood of all believers, the archetype of true faith.
In the Dogma of the Assumption, I see a logical conclusion of the result of fullness of grace. If sanctifying grace (the grace of justification) is all we need to be saved, what happens if someone lives a life that has the best possible divine approval attested to through the lips of the Angel Gabriel, “Full of grace”?
The Assumption of Mary, Immaculate Conception and Resurrection
No one is full of grace who has sin, or has sinned. We see how the Assumption dogma is closely connected with the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which was formally defined by Pope Pius IX in his Apostolic Constitution “Ineffabilis Deus” (8 December 1854).
To be sure, The Assumption is not comparable to the Lord’s Resurrection. In the Resurrection, the Lord, by his own power, went back to the Father. In the Assumption, we see the singular example of a creature who, by God’s grace, was assumed on the wings of Divine Grace to the bosom of the Blessed Trinity where she belongs.
This is how Pope Pius XII defines the doctrine: “Mary, Immaculate Mother of God ever Virgin, after finishing the course of her life on earth, was taken up in body and soul to heavenly glory.” She was taken up by the Lord to whom She, his mother, is as well his handmaid.
I pray that someday, we will meet Mother Mary and see her Son Jesus in the Trinity of Love. Amen.
Mary Assumed into heaven, pray for us.
[August 15, Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Rev 11:19A; 12;1-6A, 10AB; 1 Cor 15:20-27; Lk 1:39-56]