The Feast of the Assumption is tomorrow; and some of us might be wondering: “What is the importance of this feast? Is it still relevant to a world that focuses solely on the body to the denial of immortality, thinks love is only about sex, and is afraid of death because this life is all there is?”
With Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, we can answer:
[I]n the definition of the Assumption [the Church] give[s] hope to the creature of despair. Modern despair is the effect of a disappointed hedonism and centers principally on sex and death. To these two ideas, which preoccupy the modern mind, the Assumption is indirectly related. … [T]he doctrine of the Assumption meets the Eros-Thanatos [Sex-death] philosophy head-on, by lifting humanity from the darkness of sex and death to the light of Love and Life. (Fulton J. Sheen, The World’s First Love, 133. All subsequent quotations are from this book.)
Modernity’s denial of the soul, its teaching that man is only a body, leads to despair. If man is only a body, then there is no life after death. This denial of immortality often leads to despair, because this life is all there is. Modernity’s over-emphasis on the body also leads to over-emphasis on sex, often without love and just seen as a momentary “fling.”
The Assumption is the answer to modernity’s teaching that man is only a body. To all those who say that Catholics denigrate the body, the Feast of the Assumption proves that the Church, on the contrary, glorifies the body: Mary’s Assumption means that our human nature has been taken up into eternal life with God. Sheen explains this glorification of the body:
Our Age of Carnality, which loves the Body Beautiful, is lifted out of its despair, born of the Electra and Oedipus incests, to a body that is beautiful because it is a temple of God, a gate through which the Word of Heaven passed to earth, a tower of ivory up which climbed Divine Love to kiss upon the lips of His Mother a Mystic Rose. With one stroke of an infallible dogmatic pen, the Church lifts the sacredness of love out of sex without denying the role of the body in love. Here is one body that reflects in its uncounted hues the creative love of God. To a world that worships the body, the Church now says: “There are two bodies in Heaven, one the glorified human nature of Jesus, the other the assumed human nature of Mary.” Love is the secret of the Ascension of one and of the Assumption of the other, for love craves unity with its beloved. The Son returns to the Father in the unity of Divine Nature, and Mary returns to Jesus in the unity of human nature. Her nuptial flight is the event to which our whole generation moves. (Sheen, 135)
The Assumption is the answer to the modern world’s over-emphasis on the body:
As Communism teaches that man has only a body, but not a soul, so the Church answers: “Then let us begin with a body.” As the mystical body of the anti-Christ gathers around the tabernacle doors of the cadaver of Lenin, periodically filled with wax to give the illusion of immortality to those who deny immorality, the Mystical Body of Christ bids the despairing to gaze on the two most serious wounds earth ever received: the empty tomb of Christ and the empty tomb of Mary. In 1854 the Church spoke of the Soul in the Immaculate Conception. In 1950 her language was about the Body: the Mystical body, the Eucharist, and the Assumption. With deft dogmatic strokes the Church is repeating Paul’s truth to another pagan age: “Your bodies are meant for the Lord.” There is nothing in a body to beget despair. (Sheen, 138-9)
The Assumption is the answer to modernity’s view on sex as the only expression of love. Instead of focusing on sex, the Assumption focuses on true love, which wants to be possessed by the beloved, in contrast to sex in which one wants to possess the beloved. Sheen writes:
The Assumption affirms not sex but love. St. Thomas in his inquiry into the effects of love mentions ecstasy as one of them. In ecstasy one is “lifted out of his body”, an experience that poets and authors and orators have felt in a mild form when, in common parlance, “they were carried away by their subject.”…
If God exerts a gravitational pull on all souls, given the intense love of Our Lord for His Blessed Mother that descended and the intense love of Mary for her Lord that ascended, there is created a suspicion that love at this stage would be so great as “to pull the body with it.” Given further an immunity from Original Sin, there would not be in the body of Our Lady the dichotomy, tension, and opposition that exist in us between body and soul. If the distant moon moves all the surging tides of earth, then the love of Mary for Jesus and the love of Jesus for Mary should result in such an ecstasy as “to lift her out of this world”.
Love in its nature is an ascension in Christ and an assumption in Mary. (Sheen, 133, 134)
The Assumption is about love. The Assumption is about what happens when a sinless human creature loves God so completely and totally, and is so empty of herself, that His Love can lift her–body and soul–to be with Him for eternity.
Let us ask her, the sinless Virgin Mary, to ask her Son to fill us with love for Him and for her.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.