This image of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is found in St. Joseph Church, Millstone Township. Father Garry Koch offers a reflection on the Assumption, which is celebrated on Aug. 15.
This image of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is found in St. Joseph Church, Millstone Township. Father Garry Koch offers a reflection on the Assumption, which is celebrated on Aug. 15.
Gospel Reflection for Aug. 15, 2021, Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

For many non-Catholic Christians, and even for some Catholics, the Dogma of the Assumption of Mary can be difficult to understand. This is especially true for those who demand biblical evidence for all dogma, therefore discounting and dismissing the ancient teaching of the Church Fathers.

Yet this feast and this dogma have an ancient root in Christian tradition and are also alluded to in the Readings we hear today.

We open with the Second Book of Samuel as David leads the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem to take up residence there. The Israelites knew that the Ark was the immediate experience of the presence of God among them. Shrouded in mystery, the Ark was carefully moved to Jerusalem to become the center point of the Temple that would be built within a generation, serving to unify the Israelite people.

The connection between Mary – the Mother of Jesus – and the Ark of the Covenant is an ancient one. Even St. Luke, in his presentation of the Infancy Narrative, alludes to this understanding of Mary. As a wooden gilded container held the presence of God, so does Mary, through the power of the Holy Spirit, bear the Son of God into the world.

Although the Ark of the Covenant is yet lost to history, and the Temple in its three eventual manifestations remains on the dust heaps of Jerusalem, Mary the Mother of the New Covenant cannot see death and corporeal corruption. Kept safe from the stain of sin through the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, for Mary then to be consigned to a grave would suggest that what she represents as the theotokos or Bearer of God is past and not present or future. Yet, Mary as intercessor and as the Mother of the Church is both a present and future reality. Mary has been saved from this temporal corruption just as she is saved from the soil of sin and its consequences in her life.

Though generally absent from his public ministry, Mary appears only one time, she is occasionally referenced, as we hear in the Gospel today. Here, as in the Infancy Narrative of Luke, Mary is called “Blessed” indicating her favor with God and her role in the life of salvation history. Mary stands before God as he intended for humanity at the creation of Adam and Eve. Even if one considers that Adam and Eve are essentially archetypical the reality remains that through a primordial act of the will, humanity is separated from God. This fractured relationship is not permanent, having been restored through the Paschal Mystery. Through her active and intentional participation in the Paschal Mystery as the instrument of the Incarnation, Mary typifies the new Eve, becoming now the Mother of the Church.

The Jewish community held their mother’s in great reverence, and in particular the mother of the king held a very special role within the court and in the life of the Kingdom. Mary, Mother of the messianic King, not of the worldly state of Israel but of the Kingdom of God, is then held in great esteem, endeared and loved by those whose citizenship is in that heavenly Kingdom.

Mary has been a model of the Church from the very beginning. Having been presented to the beloved disciple at the Crucifixion, she was with the disciples on the day of Pentecost, and seems to have lived a couple of decades with the Church after the Paschal events. This makes her both valued and a valuable resource for the Christian community. Tradition holds that she is a primary source of material for St. Luke as he wrote the Infancy Narrative in his gospel account.

Her death, or more properly her dormition or “falling asleep” prefigures our own hope of the Resurrection and a share in eternal life. Mary is assumed into Heaven because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and he has promised that all of us will someday experience the resurrection. Mary precedes us as the perfect disciple, who continually points us to Jesus and reminds us of that promise.

We honor Mary, as assumed into Heaven, not for who she was, but who she is – the Queen Mother of Heaven, interceding for us with her Son.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.