Today is one of my favorite solemnities celebrated in the Catholic Church—the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. What a gift that we get to celebrate the assumption of Our Lady—soul and body—into Heaven!
The word “hope” has been resounding on my heart these last few days. I’ve been reflecting how alive I feel and fully myself when I am able to live in hope?
I almost imagine Hope as the literal mantle wrapped around Our Lady. In and through her maternal intercession, she gives me the gift of hope whereby I can trust in the Father’s promises.
Whereby I can hope.
Her mantle is my protection against the lies and distractions of the enemy.
In the first reading at Mass, we hear of the Woman crowned with stars in the Book of Revelation. I can’t help but also think of how this same woman was promised to us in Genesis 3:15—the protoevangelium, or “first Gospel.” Speaking to the serpent after the Fall, God the Father says:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
This is why most often we see statues of Our Lady with her standing upon and crushing the head of the serpent.
Mary is the woman—the woman so full of grace because God chose to dwell within her. …the woman who participates in God’s eternal plan of salvation.
The most amazing part of all of this is that in and through the gift of our Baptism, He chooses also to dwell within us—in and through our very bodies.
…but He doesn’t stop there.
Today’s feast recognizes the great hope we have in the Resurrection.
Our being human means that we have both a body and a soul. Unlike the Cartesian dualism so many are accustomed to, we see both our bodies and souls as important gifts—as part of who we are. Only when integrated and whole, both body and soul, are we ourselves—human persons created in the image and likeness of God.
Our culture has truly missed the mark in understanding the gift of the human body. While our bodies are a means by which we come to experience things, they are most importantly the tangible gifts that allow us to express who we are.
I often share with my students that our bodies are the only tangible, material thing we have with us from conception till death. Everything else passes away. In fact, the philosophical definition of “death” really is the separation of one’s body and soul.
Today we remember that our hope is in Christ who gave Himself even unto death so that we might have life–in abundance and for eternity. His rising is a promise to us of what He has destined for us.
I love to think of Our Lady as she who “found her beloved and would not let Him go.” Not only did Our Lady conceive of the Son of God within her very body, but she also received His Spirit again at Pentecost. This fullness—this guarantee of abundance where our hearts burn from within us—is our destiny. We have a good good Father, and He will not leave us orphans.
Before the Fall, man and woman existed with God in a state called “Original Justice.” There, we, too, were full of grace and so intimately united with God. In and through our mutual disobedience, we fell from this state of perfect harmony with God. As a result of the disharmony with God, we also experienced disharmony with ourselves, with others, and with all of Creation—all of the gifts entrusted to us from the beginning. We each experience the fruits of this death, both spiritually and eventually physically.
Upon His death, Christ did not just go to sleep. He physically died so that even that dark human experience could be redeemed. After rising from the dead, He ascended into Heaven, promising to send His Spirit again to us. Our Lady, who was present in the Upper Room and praying with the Apostles as they waited, must have been full of such joy to yet again wait in hope to receive the gift of the Spirit.
…and so here we come to the beauty of the Assumption. I love to think of Grace as the glue that puts back together all of the broken pieces we have as a result of the Fall. With each little “yes,” Our Lady was choosing to receive more and more this gift of grace.
Grace is what integrates us.
Grace is what makes us whole.
Grace is what makes us new.
And so, Our Lady leads us as any good mother does—further up and further in. She reveals to us the depths to which the Father desires to go with us. He desires truly to bind up every wound and dry every tear. He desires to re-integrate our very beings, our entire beings—both body and soul as one.
Today, we celebrate the gift of our having bodies—living temples of the Holy Spirit.
Today, we celebrate the gift of hope—that we, too, will one day rise again with our very bodies.
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).
Today, we celebrate so good a mother who hoped against all hope that “the promises spoken to her by the LORD would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45).
May we, too, live in the hope of His promises.
“I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me” (Song of Songs 7:10).
And, ladies, before you shame your body or condemn each supposed flaw, please remember that your body was created as a gift entrusted to you by the Father. In and through this great gift, you express who you are to the world. In and through this body, you tangibly image God to all of creation because in and through this body, you choose to love and be loved.
Contrary to the misunderstandings swirling around you, your body in its unique design glorifies the Creator. May we each have the grace to see our bodies as the gifts that they are—not based on their size or their weight but instead on how we have offered them in sacrifices of love every day. Whether big or small, our tangible presence to those around us–only possible in and through our very bodies–is a gift that can be life-giving…and therefore holy.
“You are all beautiful, my beloved; there is no flaw in you” (Song of Songs 4:7).
I pray that each of you might hope in those words of Truth. Our Lady’s being assumed into Heaven testifies to the depths of those words. And such words are the hope that Truth provides for us.
May we learn to live in such a way as to remember the great gift of our bodies, without condemning or obsessing. May we remember that we are daughters of a Father who has ransomed us from the effects of death. May we rejoice that we will receive the beautiful gift of our bodies back one day, for no part of us that is good will ever be squandered.
Your body is good.
Your body is beautiful.
Your body is a gift.
“Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful” (Song of Songs 4:1a).