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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Grace to you and peace. This weekend on Saturday, August 15th, we celebrated the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This occasion always reminds me of my nephew, Jonathan, and some of his friends, studying for their doctorates in neuroscience a few years ago. Apparently one of my nephew’s peers was often criticized because of a lack of evidence for the conclusions he presented in his papers. “You assume too much,” he was told, again and again. One time, when the students were passing by a Catholic church called the Church of the Assumption, they all turned to their friend and said, “Hey, you make too many assumptions, and now apparently you have your own church!”
My nephew and his friends, none of whom are Catholic, had no idea why there would be a “Church of the Assumption.” Eventually Jonathan asked me what it means and why. It’s a great question. We might ask a similar one. Why isn’t every Catholic church just a “Church of Jesus Christ”? Why all the fuss about Mary? Isn’t the Gospel all about Jesus and what he did and taught? Well, yes and no. Sure, the story of the Gospel is a story about the God-Man, Jesus, just like the story of the Fall in Genesis is about the first man, Adam. But just as we’re involved in the story of Adam’s sin, since we share our humanity with him, so also we are involved in the story of Christ’s Redemption, since we share our humanity with him too. As St. Paul puts it, “For as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:22). That’s why we call Christ the “new Adam”. But as soon as we say that, we become aware that something—or rather someone—is missing. The story of the Fall is not only the story of Adam. It’s the story of Adam and Eve. So, if Jesus is the new Adam, then who is the new Eve?
Mary is the new Eve. Just as the full story of our Fall cannot be told without Eve, so also the full story of our Redemption cannot be told without Mary. There are many revealing parallels between the old Adam and Eve on the one hand and the new Adam and Eve, Jesus and Mary, on the other. Here are just a few. (Can you think of others?)
• In the old order, the woman (Eve) came from the body of the man (Adam); in the new order, the man (Jesus) comes from the body of the woman (Mary).
• In the old order, the woman (Eve) first disobeyed God and led the man (Adam) to do the same; in the new order the woman (Mary) first said “Yes” to God (Luke 1:38) and raised her son Jesus to do the same.
• In the old order, Adam and Eve shared immediately in the resulting punishments of the Fall; in the new order, Jesus and Mary share immediately in the resulting blessings of the Redemption, the fullness of life with God: Jesus through the Resurrection and Ascension, and Mary through the Assumption.
The doctrine of the Assumption teaches us that at the end of her earthly existence, the Blessed Virgin Mary was taken up (assumed), body and soul, into heaven. That means, therefore, that there are two human bodies we know to be in heaven with God at this time: the body of Jesus and the body of Mary. In this teaching we see the collaboration of man and woman in the work of our salvation, all the way from the Fall to the Redemption to the sharing of the fruit of Redemption in heaven. Without the Assumption to balance the Ascension, the man Jesus alone, without the woman Mary, would be enjoying the fullness of life with God, and we would be telling only a part of the story. We might say the Assumption is the ultimate proof of the equality of man and woman before God. It also shows the sacredness and eternal destiny of the human body, too often desecrated in our day. The Assumption enables us to tell the whole story, the full Gospel that salvation is for all human beings, male and female, and for the whole human person, body and soul.
Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord!
Fr. Christopher, O.P.
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