Around the rearview mirror of my truck, I’ve hung a wooden rosary that a friend gave me. I usually take it down as I inch along in traffic during my morning commute, silently praying that I’ll have patience, grace and wisdom for the road, and the day, ahead.
Given the gridlock, I’ve usually got plenty of time to meditate on a full set of mysteries, and the practice has definitely kept my hands off the horn (and my mouth firmly shut) on the way into the office.
However, I always seem to hit a roadblock when I reflect on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary — probably because there’s no direct passage of Scripture that recounts the moment when the Mother of God left this earth and stepped into eternity.
Sure, we’ve got plenty of artistic representations of that glorious event. And even though the Assumption wasn’t formally declared church teaching until 1950 by Pope Pius XII, it’s not as if the proclamation was breaking news to the Fathers, saints, theologians, bishops and faithful who’d already discerned this truth over the centuries.
Noting that Jesus himself would certainly fulfill the commandment to honor one’s parents, St. Francis de Sales reasoned, “What son would not bring his mother back to life and would not bring her into paradise after her death if he could?”
Indeed. So why do I stall when I ponder the Assumption?
Maybe my Google-conditioned mind needs more details. What exactly happened to Mary? Did she experience illness or frailty before her body was lifted beyond the clouds? Or did the Lord call her home suddenly, in the twinkling of a divine eye?
With each Hail Mary of that decade, I feel as if I’m squinting at heaven — and perhaps that’s the point. After all, as St. Paul reminds us, “at present we see indistinctly” (1 Cor 13:12).
But even in the glare of glory, it’s possible to make out where the road leads.
In proclaiming the doctrine of the Assumption, Pope Pius XII expressed the hope that “all the faithful will be stirred up to a stronger piety toward their heavenly Mother” and that we would “(share) in the unity of Jesus Christ’s Mystical Body” (Munificentissimus Deus, 42).
Moreover, Mary’s example inspires us to become “more and more convinced of the value of a human life entirely devoted to carrying out the heavenly Father’s will and to bringing good to others” (Munificentissimus Deus, 42).
The Assumption elevates human dignity, drawing us from “the illusory teachings of materialism and the corruption of morals that follows” so that “all may see clearly to what a lofty goal our bodies and souls are destined” (Munificentissimus Deus, 42).
As a result, we aren’t left to despair over the sorrows and shortcomings of this life. Rather, “belief in our own resurrection” becomes “stronger and … more effective” (Munificentissimus Deus, 42).
And that’s a navigation system that can guide us through any traffic jam to our final destination, where a smiling Mother awaits us with open arms.
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