Immaculate and assumption

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Article of Mariology, from Afonso Murad

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Immaculate and assumption

  1. 1. THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION AND THE ASSUMPTION OF OUR LADY Afonso MuradThe last two Marial dogmas, the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Our Ladypresent certain difficulties.Their legitimacy is questioned as they lack any direct biblical basis, they do not answercentral questions of Christian faith, as it is the case with most of the dogmas and they werenot decided at an ecumenical council.Many people question their convenience: what is their use if Christianity managed so wellwithout them for eighteen centuries? Why overload the Church with more dogmas and sorender the ecumenical dialogue more difficult? Besides that, the dogmas of the ImmaculateConception and the Assumption were formulated in the context of a triumphalist Marianmentality.To justify them they used the argument of convenience whose logic is questionablenowadays. Basically it functions like this: God could do something special with Mary, it wasconvenient to do it. Consequently He did it.In fact, the circumstances surrounding the definition of these dogmas were not the idealones: lack of biblical culture and use, absence of dialogue with the modern world, Churchpower centralised in Rome and dogmatism.But in spite of all that these dogmas confirmed what was already accepted by a good partof the catholic population and had been expressed along the centuries mainly throughpopular devotions. Today it is impossible to reverse the decisions made. In actual factChristianity could very well manage for eighteen centuries without them. They are notessential to our faith. Today we are called to reinterpret these two dogmas from theperspectives of our Christian experience and of our contemporary world.I. The dogma of the Immaculate ConceptionThis dogma seems quite easy to be accepted because we feel that Mary is a personthoroughly enlightened by God, the human temple where sin does not enter and gracemakes its dwelling.Before the Immaculate Conception of Mary was declared a dogma, people alreadyrendered homage to “Our Lady of Conception”. In Latin America we find baroque statues ofOur Lady of Conception, most of them brought from Spain and Portugal during thecolonization period.It is interesting to remark that in various places of Brazil, those statues are simply called“images of the saint”. It proves that ordinary people without having studied theology, havethe intuition that Mary is all holy, belonging entirely to God.Nevertheless, this dogma presents some misunderstandings and difficulties. Manybelievers think that Mary was born and lived in a state of holiness and did not have doubts,crises and difficulties found by every human being. She was complete from her birth anddid not need to grow as person. Confronted with that belief certain Catholics raise somequestions: - If she was born sinless, does her life have any merit? - Was it not easier for her to serve God than for us, sinners, confronted with evil forces? - Why was she invested with that privilege? - Would it not have been better for her being a normal human being and consequently an inspiring model, closer to the people as an unattainable model is utterly inefficient?For the traditional Christian Churches issued from the Reformation this dogma runscounter the basis Christian tenet that “we are all sinners and need the saving Grace of God 1
  2. 2. through Jesus Christ”. Besides that it is a dogma defined by a Pope alone and not by anEcumenical Council. Which authority did the Pope have to compel the Christians to believein something inexistent in the Bible?Some evangelicals, basing themselves on Rom 3, 23 “all sinned”, declare that this dogma iscontrary to the Bible.Conscious that the question is not an easy one, we wonder what is the positive message ofthe dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary?1. A long historya) Biblical horizonThere is not a single biblical text stating clearly the Immaculate Conception of Mary.In Lk 1,28, the greeting of the Angel, it is only asserted that Mary is especially graced byGod (Keharitomene, in Greek), full of grace.In Genesis 3,15 it is promised that the woman’s heritage will crash the snake’s head. As wehave already seen this is not a Marial text but the expression of a hope addressed to allmankind. We can find in the bible a “horizon of comprehension”: some texts that could helpus find a place for the dogma, for example:*“He chose us in Him before the creation of the world, to be holy and immaculate” (Eph.1,4).* “Before you were born I knew you and I consecrated you” (Jer 1,5).* “The Lord called me from my mother’s womb” (Is 49,1: The Canticle of the Servant).* The triumph of Grace in Jesus Christ in comparison to Adam (Rom 5).Finally which were the stages to reach a dogmatic definition? Let us make an historicalsynthesis.b) Steps followed up to the dogmatic definition*The Patristic: In the first centuries of Christian history the parallelism between Eve andMary developed, between the disobedient virgin that leads humankind to sin and theobedient virgin which opens the way to goodness and virtue.Marial devotion appears. The Fathers of the Church, like Ireneus and Origen, speak of theperfect holiness of Mary pointing out at the same time that she was a pilgrim in faith.But the real background to the development of the dogma is the discussion of Pelagiuswith Saint Augustine, in the 6th century.For Pelagius the human being can be saved by his own efforts; in this way Jesus is only anethical model and not a redeemer.Augustine, based on Saint Paul and on his own life experience of fight against evil, says thathumankind is marked by Adam’s original sin and needs to be saved by Christ through HisGrace. Original sin would be transmitted from generation to generation through the sexualunion. Jesus did not have original sin because he was born from a virginal conception.Augustine defends a total absence of actual sins in Mary but not of original sin.*Middle Ages: Most of the writers agree that Mary would have been purified from originalsin in view of the future conception of Jesus but when?The more Marial devotion grows the more grows the idea that Mary would have receivedthis especial grace either at the Annunciation, or immediately before the Annunciation, orduring her gestation as a human being or after her birth.The question leads to many theological discussions polarized in two schools of thought:maculists and immaculists, represented respectively by Dominicans and Franciscans. 2
  3. 3. According to the maculists (Dominicans), Mary would have been purified from the stain oforiginal sin during her gestation as human being.For the immaculists, (Franciscans), this would have occurred at the moment of herconception.For us today this amounts to a useless discussion.An important contribution was made by Saint Anselm of Canterbury (+ 1109). He says thatthe redemptive action of Christ comprises all human beings, in all times and places. That isfollowed by the talk of a pre-redemption of Mary, before Jesus’ birth.In the meantime the devotion to the Immaculate Conception of Mary grows slowly aroundthe dioceses, promoted mainly by religious orders.The Vatican will only tolerate the Office and the mass of the Immaculate Conception in the15th century. From this time come two official documents in favour of the ImmaculateConception: one from the confused Council of Basileia (1431-1449) and the ApostolicConstitution of Sixtus IV in 1477.*Modern Age: LutherHe questions in depth the medieval vision of the remission of sins based on merit andreligious rites and places the emphasis on justification, which only comes through faith inChrist. He takes to the extreme the vision of Saint Paul and Saint Augustine saying that thehuman being is definitely marked by the strength of evil, which makes human conscienceperverse. Only his surrender in God’s hands can bring about liberation. The just man livesout of his faith not out of his good works!The Council of Trent attacks head-on Luther’s thesis in 1547 and states that the humanbeing, due to the original sin, carries within himself an internal division calledconcupiscence that renders him weak and inclines him to have evil attitudes and tocommit sins.The Council does not mention the point of the Immaculate Conception of Mary in order toavoid internal divisions.The following centuries, marked by the Counter-reformation and the reaction to a newlyborn modernity, will see great Marial euphoria in the Catholic Church. Mary’s privilegesare praised more and more.*The dogmatic definition: In the 19th century devotion to Mary, as a Catholic mark ofidentity, takes a new impetus. The miraculous medal shown during the apparition of ourLady to Catherine Laboure in 1830, in France, has this legend: "Oh Mary, free from originalsin, pray for us".In 1848 Pius IX appoints a theological commission to examine the doctrinal point of theImmaculate Conception of Mary. The bishops are consulted and the majority accepts theproposal of the dogmatic definition. The Pope, not fully content with the results of thework in progress nominates another theological commission in 1852, which will define thecriteria for a dogmatic definition. On December 8th 1854 the dogma is proclaimed throughthe Bulla Inefabilis Deus. “... The doctrine stating that the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved immune from all stain of original sin from the first moment of her conception, by a unique grace and privilege of the all powerful God, due to the merits of Christ Jesus, Saviour of humankind, is revealed by God and should be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful...”. 3
  4. 4. 2. The meaning of “Immaculate Conception”We all were created in Christ and were marked by the breath of life of the Creator and byan original grace.As Saint Paul says: “Before the creation of the world, God chose us in Christ, to be beforeHim holy and immaculate (Eph 1,4).Each new human being is born with a blessing of God. God creates us to be happy and tocontribute to the happiness of others.Nobody is born as a formed person. Each one develops and builds up his or her personalityalong his or her own existence. He or she learns to love and to be loved, receives the faithfrom other people and assumes it as a personal belonging. Did you ever consider howfascinating it is to be always, until the hour of our death “learners of the art of living”?From this perspective we understand that we are limited by time and space, that we areconditioned by the culture reigning where we are born and where we die, that during thislong process of learning errors are important. Many of our limits are reassumed in thefuture as chances of excelling and growing.In the mother’s womb the child is receiving from the mother, in different doses, love anddisaffection, welcome and rejection, affection and violence. We are all in solidarity in goodand evil. Nobody starts his or her life from nothing. Through faith we recognize we arepart of a great loving project from God, that we are marked by His grace and by thepositive flow of love, kindness and welcome of so many human beings that existed beforeus. But the world also has violence, lies and evil that infects every person that is born. Atthe start of our life we are under the influence of positive and negative forces, of life anddestruction and we interact with them.There is something in our personal, community and planetary history that damages theLord’s beautiful projects. This does not come from God and it is difficult to trace back itsorigin. We call it “mystery of evil and iniquity”. It is spread among humans and influenceseach one of us as we are not only limited human beings called to evolve with the universebut very often we break this process and refuse to grow.Every human being has inside himself many wishes, tendencies and impulses. They aregood if integrated in a life’s project. For example, each one needs to believe in his ownabilities, and to exercise his freedom in order to be accepted and respected by the others.This is the basic form of power.The weak and powerless person gives only a small contribution to the interpersonalrelationships. On the other hand, power is dangerous. An authoritarian father can causemany wounds in his children. A powerful and corrupt politician damages the nation andincreases social exclusion.Another example: each human being looks for pleasure in relating to others, in eating andhaving fun. One of the most intense forms of pleasure is sexual pleasure. The sexualrelationship between man and woman is beautiful and wanted by God but the unbalancedsex, without affection and respect, brings about individualism and violence.Still another example: We like to dress properly and possess the things we need to makeour life easier but when the wish is disorderly and turns into consumerism, it createspersons attached and dependent on things, that eventually will ruin their life.We have difficulties to integrate our wishes and impulses and to put them at the service ofa life’s project. The impulses towards power, possessions, pleasure and many othersappeal to the lowest instincts of the person and can separate him or her from God.Theology called this internal division “concupiscence”. It has individual, collective andcultural dimensions. We know that our freedom is compromised by sin and needs to beliberated. 4
  5. 5. Saint Paul remembers that internal conflict experienced by people saying that “very oftenour heart wishes to do good but we end up doing the evil that we did not want.” (Rom 7,14-24).We are fragmented human beings but “we believe in the victory of Jesus’ grace which freesus from all prisons”. (Rom 5;8 e 8,1-4). God’s original grace, which creates and saves us ismore important and stronger than original sin and helps us to overcome our sins andweaknesses. “Original sin” is not a sin in the strict sense but in the analogical one. That is to say, it is notan act committed freely against God and His Kingdom, related to the fundamentalorientation and the person’s attitudes. On using this expression we recognize that anabsence of mediation of grace exists in each of us and in our relationships. The original sinis not part of the essence of the human being but of our present human condition, whichsuffers the influence of the mystery of evil and iniquity. To be a limited person in theprocess of learning is part of the essence of any human creature. To be allowed to bedirected by evil and to refuse to grow in goodness constitutes a paradox in his presentcondition.The dogma of the Immaculate Conception asserts that the secret of Mary, the perfectdisciple of Jesus, who answered God’s call in such a radical way, has its roots in grace. Shereceives from God an especial gift. She is born more integrated than we are, with a greatercapacity to be free and to welcome the divine proposal. The fact of her being immaculatedoes not exempt her of growing in faith as that is part and parcel of her human conditionwho needs to learn how to evolve. She is not born perfect. She is a learner in the day-to-day living. There are moments in which she does not understand the full meaning of factsand words. (Lk 2,49-50). And during her life Jesus surprises her quite often (Mk 3,31-35).But, in a way different from ours Mary always follows a positive path, without falsedeviations and without getting bogged down. She accomplishes her vocation through thehuman way of faith, in the midst of crises and difficulties. She also has to change directionduring her life and she experiences processes of change and conversion, “not from evil togood but from good to better”. Mary is pre-redeemed by the Word of God. She receives God’s saving Grace with a higherintensity than us enabling her to integrate her tendencies and her impulses.She reaches in this way an admirable wholeness. She exercises better her mission asperfect disciple, educator and mother of the Messiah. With a greater interior freedom shedevelops deeply her human and spiritual qualities, becoming a holy creature, notfragmented, in command of her person, opened to God. Therefore, the fact of beingimmaculate does not render her less human; on the contrary she fulfils the utopia of the“new mankind”, of the human being spiritually developed. But the image of MaryImmaculate should be completed with the one of Mary, pilgrim in faith.For those Christians who experience fragmentation in their lives, the strength of evildominating them, the relapse into sin, an inconstant faith ... it may happen that Maryimmaculate is not a close model of life. In this case, they can evoke the example of othersaints who, treading dangerous paths, made huge efforts towards conversion andexperienced a radical change of life. For them, Mary immaculate is not the point ofdeparture but of arrival as God who creates out of nothing also recreates out of chaos anddarkness.Mary immaculate overturns our idea of “privilege”. A person especially gifted, of stunningbeauty, envious intelligence, a great degree of science, power and fame ... tends to bedistant from others, to underestimate them and to look inwards in a proud way. Theprivileged person becomes a narcissist and says: “Oh mirror, is there anybody better thanme?”Mary, on the contrary, teaches us that all we receive is a gift whose destiny is to widen thenetwork of goodness, to extend God’s Kingdom on earth. The unique privilege of the 5
  6. 6. Immaculate Conception is an especial gift, to which Mary corresponded with the greatestintensity, placing it at the service of Jesus and of mankind. All we are, have and conquer ina especial way aims to build up the “network of life”, in which all human beings areintimately related and interdependent.3. Mary Immaculate in metaphorsOnce upon a time, on December 8th, a missionary working in a tropical country went tocelebrate Mass in a rural community. He wondered: “How can I talk to these people of sucha complicated mystery?” On the way to church he perceived numerous guava trees andstarted his homily as follows:“Dear brothers and sisters, who has got a guava tree at home?” Nearly all of them raisedtheir hand. He carried on: “you know the guavas are tasteful, have a pleasant smell andbeautiful in shape, but they have many worms that spoil them. It would be nice if ourguavas were wormless.In God’s project each one of us was supposed to be a wormless guava tree, giving fruits ofjustice, love and kindness. But we all know it is not like that. We feel that sin is spoiling uslike the worm does with the guava tree.Today’s feast gives us hope as it shows that God created a human creature in the way hehad planned for every creature: a creature not contaminated by egoism, pride, power andcomfort; a tree full of bountiful fruits. It is clear Mary received an especial blessing of Godbut she knew how to develop it and bring it to maturity. A wormless but fruitless guavatree is useless. Mary received God’s love and Grace and turned them into good fruits. We are not immaculate as Mary, we have sins that upset our life but each one of usreceives the grace and blessing of God to become a beautiful tree, with leaves, flowers andfruits. Some trees have branches with mistletoe and fruit with worms but God, who ismerciful, welcomes and loves us in this way. We can look at Mary and ask from her, full ofgrace, help for our journey here on earth. Now we are going to sing:“Immaculate, mother of God, a gentle heart that welcomes JesusImmaculate, born and lived in the midst of people, mother of the afflicted who bear their cross.A heart devoted to life, a heart devoted to God,A heart devoted to humanity, God’s Kingdom renewing the earth. Years later, that missionary was invited to talk to a group of secondary educationstudents in a Catholic school in town. The guava tree image could not be used as theguavas they knew were treated with agro-toxics and were wormless, beautiful andtasteless. Passing through the computers laboratory he had an inspiration and heexplained the dogma to those students as follows:“People, you work with computers and know what a virus is. Nobody knows its origins butit upsets a lot, it can spoil the programs and the written texts. Each one of us is like apowerful and quick computer, created by God to produce good and creative works as wellas to be amused with videogames, Internet e-chats. But unfortunately, we are born withevil and negative tendencies and if we do not care they invade us as a computer virus.God created Mary, mother of Jesus, as a computer without virus. She was all ready to dogood. It is clear that an empty computer is useless. It needs programs to work and createentertainment.That was the case of Mary. God pressed the “start” key in her life and she was created fullof light and life, spared of any evil virus. And she developed to the utmost all she hadreceived from God. What a fascinating figure she is! She became the virtual image of allhuman beings, whole, mature, happy, able to love and to be loved. 6
  7. 7. These two examples, one happening in a rural area and one in a city help usunderstand that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception has a message about Mary andabout each one of us. This dogma confirms that Mary is an especial creature that nourishesour hope in the victory of God’s grace over evil and sin.PrayerThank you, Lord, for having given us Mary Immaculate.Looking at her we feel the joy of seeing one of us,human and limited as we are, but overflowing with grace.Look over the humankind stained by violence, consumerism,poverty and a meaningless life.Give us the grace to integrate our wishes, impulses, tendencies and affections.Grant us a true freedom.Welcome us, saints and sinners, and make us humble servants of the Gospel like Mary.Amen.II. The dogma of the Assumption of MaryThis dogma, celebrated on August 15th, has different names like Our Lady of the GoodTrip, Our Lady of Glory or Our Lady of the Abbey.For many Catholics this dogma does not bring problems or solutions but nourishes andincreases their devotion to “Mary of Heaven”.Let us see how it came to be declared dogma and its present day meaning.1. Historical backgroundSaint John shows, that at the foot of the cross Mary was adopted by the community asmother (Jn 19,27).Saint Luke says she was part of the group waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit inPentecost (Acts, 1:13-14 and 2:1).Mary was at the service of the Christian community as mother but the bible says nothingabout Mary’s last days on earth, how and when she died and at which age.In the first centuries Christians were very careful to keep the mortal remains of saints,especially those of apostles and martyrs but we know nothing about Mary’s body. In the 4thcentury AD. we already have news of the devotional feast of the “Dormition of Mary” and ofthe empty tomb in a small chapel in Jerusalem.The Church holy fathers and mothers speak of the "glorification or the exaltation of Mary".According to Ephrem (4th and 5th century AD), the virginal body of Mary was not subject tocorruption after death.For Epiphanius (6th century AD), Mary should have in her flesh the Kingdom of Heaven. Herecognizes that the bible does not deal with this matter but Mary’s death could have beenthrough martyrdom (associated to the sword’s image in Lk 2), through natural death orthat “she may have remained alive as for God nothing is impossible. But nobody knowsabout Mary’s last days on earth”.In the 6th century AD the liturgical feast of the transition or dormition of Mary started tospread in the eastern countries, fixed on August 15th by Emperor Mauritius. It reachedRome in the 7th century AD under the Pope Sergius I.In the Coptic Church, the celebration of the death and resurrection of Mary happens onJanuary 16th and August 9th. 7
  8. 8. Little by little, the title of the dormition (koímêsis) is replaced by the title of theassumption (análêpsis) and in this way, in the 7th century AD, in the context of growingMarial devotion, the feast of the Assumption of Mary starts in France and England.In that devotional context are written the “apocrypha” about the "Transit of Mary toheaven". It is difficult to be precise about the date of these writings (probably between the6th and the 8th century AD). Among them "the Transit of Mary” is relevant, written by thePseudo Melitão of Sardis.According to this work, two years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, Mary startscrying in her parents house, situated in the Mountain of Olives. An angel presents her withan olive branch coming from heaven as a sign of her coming death. Mary fears that hersoul, coming out of the body may meet the prince of darkness. Then the olive branch turnsinto a shining light. After that, each of the apostles, who were in different corners of theearth preaching the gospel, is taken in a cloud and left at the door of Mary’s house, andthere, all gathered around Mary spend three days in prayer.Then Jesus arrives with a multitude of saints singing hymns of praise. While Jesus talkswith Mary, she renders her life to God with a prayer of thanksgiving.The apostles see that her soul irradiates “a brightness more intense than the one of snow,silver and the rest of all the metals".Jesus gives the soul of Mary to the angels Michael and Gabriel. Three virgins take Mary’ssoul to the funeral. On removing her clothes the body shines with light and beauty and apleasant smell spreads around.A procession of 15 thousand people is organized up to the graveyard, in the Josaphatvalley, where the apostles bury Mary in a new tomb.Jesus appears again, full of splendour and surrounded by angels. Saint Peter requests Him:“Please, resurrect Mary’s body and take it with You to heaven, in the same way as Youdefeated death and now You reign in glory".Jesus orders Gabriel to bring Mary’s soul. Michael turns the door closing the tomb andJesus says, "Come out, my friend! Your body was not corrupted in your lifetime throughany sexual relation and now it will not corrupt in the graveyard ". And He raises Mary fromthe tomb, kisses her and withdraws, handing over Mary’s soul to the angels who take herto paradise.For many centuries Christendom celebrated through popular devotion that Mary was closeto Christ, fully glorified, but there was not consensus on what happened to her at the endof her life on earth.After the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 there was a strongmovement in favour of declaring the Assumption of Mary a dogma as well. This eventhappened in 1950, under Pope Pius XII, thorough the Bulla "Munificentissimus Deus".The Bull neither affirms nor denies the death of Mary and, though related to biblicalarguments, it is based on the argument of convenience. The greatest theological reason isthat Mary, mother of God, is closely united to his Son, and participates in His destiny. It is aphysical and moral union that makes her a close sharer in Christ’s redemptive work (co-redemptrix).As Christ’s resurrection was the epilogue of the salvation carried out by Him, in the sameway it was convenient that Mary’s participation through the glorification of her virginalbody.Here is the essence of the dogmatic definition:“We define to be a revealed dogma that the Immaculate Mother of God, the Virgin Mary,once finished her life on earth, was assumed in body and soul to the heavenly glory”. 8
  9. 9. 2.Understanding the problem in the light of the eschatologyWe believe that the life God gave us to take care of does not end with death. Theresurrected Jesus guarantees that God will offer us something better, a glorified life incommunion with the Trinity and with our brothers and sisters.God gives all humans the possibility to resurrect, to enter eternal life. How that life is goingto be transfigured remains a mystery. We believe that such a life will be good, much betterthan the present one free from the limits of finitude and mortality. The theological subjectcalled Eschatology (from the Greek: escaton: the last one) tries to give possible answers.Christians along the centuries worked out the last things happening after death, called“Novissimus”. To the bible information were added different elements like Plato’s idea ofthe soul immortality and Aristoteles´s hilemorphic theory, interpreted by Saint Thomas ofAquinas and the Medieval Scholastics. It is all about a vision of the human being and hisdestiny that has influenced our way of thinking up to date. Let us try to make a summaryby subjects.*The human being is made of body and soul (matter and spirit). The soul is the principle ofdetermination that qualifies the body and is immortal.*At the end of life the body dies and breaks away temporarily from the soul. The soul,dwelling of the person’s identity, goes to meet God in a private judgement. There itappears all that it did during its life on earth, the good and the bad things. If the person isin peace with God, if he died in state of grace, then the soul will enjoy eternal happiness inheaven. If he needs a period of purification he will pass through purgatory. If he died instate of mortal sin he will undergo the fire of hell. *In the heavenly glory dwell the Holy Trinity, the angels, who are bodiless, and all the holysouls, who intercede for us. Only the resurrected Jesus is in heaven in body and soul.*At the end of time Jesus will return for the second time, in glory and power. That will bethe Parousia. The resurrection of the dead will also happen: the soul will join the bodyagain but each one will receive a transformed body, according to the verdict passed at theprivate judgement. The just who are in heaven will get their body again but totallytransparent, light, enlightened. The sinners, who are in hell, will also get their body butcompletely refractory, heavy and dark, appropriate to their state.*Then the Last Judgement will occur in which God will pronounce his final verdict over thehistory and the peoples on earth.This way of thinking is called “dual” and “space-time”. It considers the human being in twodimensions, body and soul, earthly life and eternal life. It imagines eternity with the samecategories of space and time that we use here on earth. Heaven is a place and purgatoryhappens in a chronological time. The apocryphal work entitled “Book of Transit” is basedin this vision. At the hour of death the angels take the soul of Mary and sometimeafterwards Jesus resurrects her body.In this context was proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of Our Lady. It states thatMary, different from us, did not need to wait until the end of time to receive a glorifiedbody. After her earthly life she is close to God with a transformed body, full of grace andlight. God gave her in advance the eternal present reserved for good people at the end oftime.Nowadays there are other ways in which the resurrection of death can be understood. Themain one is the unitary and pluralist eschatology. Here is the essence:*The human being is a multidimensional, pluralist unity made up of different elements:matter and energy, individual and community, impulse and conscience, body and spirit. 9
  10. 10. *When a person passes away their deadly and decayed body decomposes beingassimilated by micro-organisms. But, by God’s grace, the whole person is resurrected.*At the moment of death the person passes to another stage of transfigured existence,which overcomes our limited schemes of geographical space and chronological time. Inthis merciful encounter with God the persons contemplate all their life and also a savingjudgement, an offered grace, which relates to the person’s growth during its earthlyexistence.*The resurrection of the death is simultaneous to the private judgement, as at the momentof death the person is raised to life by God. It is not necessary to wait for a later time, at theend of history, for the body to be reunited again with the soul.*In the same way, the universal judgement and the Parousia begin to take place for thosewho passed from this life to the eternal life but there will be a final accomplishment for allmankind when God will be “all in every person” “.From this perspective, the dogma of the Assumption of Mary simply announces that Maryhas an especial place in the communion of saints, showing God’s affirmation of her optionof life.It is also understood that the Lord blessed Mary’s human body in an especial way: She, thefirst disciple, becomes “the first resurrected” (not in chronological order) after Jesus.We cannot think of the Assumption of Mary in a literal way: she did not ascend to heavenwith the body she had on earth, with bones, skin, meat and blood.The body of the resurrected Jesus and the body of the assumed Mary are not like Lazarus’sbody (Jo 11,43-44) not like the body of the son of the widow of Naim (Lk 7, 13-15).Those people, sooner of later died again and their bodies got corrupted. Mary’s body, onthe contrary, was transformed and assumed by God even if we do not know the details.Independently of the eschatological vision adopted, what really matters is to believe thatMary is already glorified as a whole person, close to God.She is already experiencing what is promised for each one of us: to share in the banquet oflife, taking with her the gift of love and its fruits, carefully grown during her existence onearth.The assumption of Mary should be understood in relation to Jesus’ resurrection. Saint Paulsays He is the first one who was raised from death to life (Cor 1,18, Rom 15,20-22) andthat we will follow Him.The gospel narratives about the resurrection show that the resurrected Jesus is the sameperson of Jesus, as the disciples were able to eat with Him and touch Him (Jn 20,27). Buthis resurrected body is completely different from ours. People can only recognize Jesus ifthey believe in Him. (Jn 20,14-16). Even the disciples do not identify Him at first sight (Lk 24,13-16). Jesus is not a ghost butHe enters the disciples’ house with the doors closed (Jn 20,19). How can he continue to bethe same and at the same time so different? Here lies one of the novelties of theresurrection. It is a totally new way of life beyond all that we can imagine.We believe that Mary, wholly glorified, is close to Jesus. God assumed and transformed allher personal history, her actions and her body, and so she is in the glory of God and of thesaints. She is close to us, helping us as a loving mother and a faith companion. 10
  11. 11. 3. Lessons of the dogma for usLucia was the catechesis coordinator in the parish. For many years she animated thecatechists, prepared the meetings with them and organized formation courses on renewedcatechesis.Work was going very well and Lucia decided to collaborate in the sector, which gatheredtogether ten parishes.In the meantime a new priest arrived in the quarter and started to undo all that she haddone. He placed another lady coordinator in her place and, jealous of her, destroyed theparish organization in a short time. He also modified the catechesis plan.Lucia remained very sad, underwent a faith crisis and asked God what was the use of somuch effort, of so many lost days and nights.Lady Marlene, an old catechist went to Lucia’s house, gave her a warm embrace and cryingconsoled her with these words: “My daughter, I know that for you all seems to be lost now.None of us would like this to happen. But I have faith that all good you did is marked like atattoo in the catechists and children’s lives and nothing will erase it not even our failure.And I hold to believe this principle emanating from my faith: all the good that people do inthis world, even the smallest things, cannot be destroyed by anyone as it belongs to God.”The dogma of the Assumption of Our Lady stimulates our faith mainly in moments ofcrises. We know that God assumed and transformed all the goodness that Mary had anddid on earth even her body.Looking at the resurrected and glorified Mary, who followed in the footsteps of Jesus herSon, we feel encouraged to fight for goodness, truth and justice.Even if the incomprehension and failure may seem to have the upper hand we firmlybelieve in God’s strength, in the power of the risen Christ.He inaugurates for us the “new heaven and the new earth”, where Mary stays with thesaints. Then Jesus will remain very close to us and will dry our eyes’ tears. There will beneither death nor suffering. The Lord will make all things anew and will grant us freely thesource of the living water (Apoc 21, 1-7).Jesus already gives us in this life a taste of all that is promised to us after death.Did you ever experience that sensation of being so light, happy, in syntony with God andthe Brothers, feeling like flying towards heaven? We feel God taking our hand and liftingus. This would be a tiny experience of the assumption. The Assumption of Our Lady wasthe result of her pilgrimage in this world. Each time she took some steps to follow Jesus, tosearch God’s will, the Lord took over and transformed her person until the moment of herdeath.Something similar happens with us: in our life of faith, each step we take is accompaniedby God’s gift. He welcomes us, takes us by the hand, assumes and transforms us.PrayerThanks, Mary, because you are close to the resurrected Jesus,looking over us, pilgrims on earth.Thanks for showing us that love is definitiveThat God assumes and transforms all that we are and the good we doand that at the end, his love and his works will remain. Amen 11
  12. 12. Summarizing the dogmasEach dogma shows us that Mary is a human person like us but at the same time veryespecial.It shows something of her mystery that we cannot perceive with a superficial sight. Mary islike a virgin land, blooming with exuberance, ready to be fecundated by God. Onwelcoming the immense gift of God she becomes the mother of the incarnated Son of God.When we look at Mary Immaculate, woman full of God, we discover that her life was likethrowing a kite up. God gave her the Holy Spirit’s wind that blew over her withoutresistance.And she always corresponded with freedom and generosity. She let the string loosegradually, achieving light, daring and beautiful flights.And the end of her pilgrimage on earth could only be a happy one.Mary is the Nazareth woman, mother and educator of Jesus. She becomes Jesus’ perfectdisciple who listens, meditates and puts into practice God’s word.She also acts as community mother. God assumes her person and her mission to suchextent that today she is glorified next to her Son and to the saints, through the Assumption.She is fully devoted to God but remains very human: here is the secret about Mary’sdogmas that helps us to be more authentic followers of Jesus, following her footsteps.Articulating knowledge and life1. Make a synthesis of the core of the dogmatic proclamation of the Immaculate Conceptionof Mary.2. How do you experience the victory of God’s grace in your life?3. In which ways can the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary enlightenour spiritual journey?Basic bibliographyDE FIORES, S., “Maria em la teologia contemporânea”, Salamanca, Sigueme, 1991, p. 467-493, 513-526.DE FIORES, S. et SERRA, A., “Imaculada” em: Dicionário de Mariologia, p. 598-620.MEO, S. et allis, “Assunção” em: Dicionário de Mariologia, Paulus, p. 170-192.(Texto original em português, da primeira versão. Tradução não revista. O conteúdo foiaperfeiçoado e ampliado na nova edição: Maria, toda de Deus e tão humana. Compêndio deMariologia. São Paulo: Paulinas e Santuário, 2012)Afonso Murad, é doutor em Teologia Sistemática pela Pontifícia Universidade Gregoriana de Roma.Professor de Teologia no ISTA (Instituto Santo Tomás de Aquino) e na Faculdade Jesuíta (FAJE), emBelo Horizonte, Brasil. Membro da Equipe de Reflexão Teológica da CRB (Conferência dosReligiosos do Brasil), articula seu pensamento a partir de várias ciências e saberes. Autor de váriosartigos e livros, entre os quais: A casa da Teologia (Paulinas); Introdução a Teologia, com JB.Libanio (Loyola), Quem é esta mulher? Maria na Bíblia (Paulinas); Visões e Aparições. Deus continuafalando? (Vozes), O que Maria tem a dizer às mães de hoje? (Paulus), Gestão e Espiritualidade(Paulinas). Criou o blog acerca de Maria: www.maenossa.blogspot.com e o vídeos didáticos na série“O trem da mariologia”, disponibilizados no Youtube.Email: murad4@hotmail.com 12

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