Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Revelation 19a.12:1-6a.10ab; I Corinthians 15:20-27; Luke 1:39-56)
In its first few centuries the Church had to distinguish itself from Gnosticism. This is the belief that the human self is primarily his or her mind that lives in a body much like an idea can be said to be contained in a book. Adherents of Gnosticism, called Gnostics, have a love-hate relationship with their bodies. Some consider their bodies as all material reality; i.e., doomed to extinction. They loathe their bodies as the font of sin. Others hold that since their bodies do not matter in the long run, they may take advantage of them in any way they like. They can enjoy the pleasures of wanton eating and sex without worrying how these actions might affect them. What is more, they think that until the mind develops and when it deteriorates beyond awareness, no person is present so that the body may be destroyed.
Christian faith, of course, takes a very different view. Since we believe that God took on human flesh, for us the body is more than the soul’s container. It interacts with the soul to form a dynamic entity. We could not be who we are without our bodies. More than that, since we believe that Christ rose bodily from the dead and that his followers are destined to experience the same resurrection, our bodies have eternal importance. For this reason we take care of our bodies, we know that abortion and euthanasia are wrong, and we realize that it is important to keep marriage as a monogamous relationship between a man and a woman.
Today’s celebration recognizes the importance of the human body. We see in Mary’s being assumed body and soul into glory God’s validation of the human body as good and permanent. Of course, this was first done with Jesus’ resurrection, but now we are even more assured that it is the destiny of all Jesus’ followers. Mary herself recognized the importance of the body as she sings God’s praises when Elizabeth mentions that she bears the Lord in her womb. Likewise – and this is something that all of us should imitate – Mary demonstrates the importance of the body as she goes to personally visit Elizabeth when she hears of her pregnancy.