We know that the Assumption is the oldest and most solemn feast of Mary the mother of Jesus. Even though it is not mentioned in the New Testament it has been celebrated for at least sixteen hundred years in the Church (and probably earlier). The Council of Chalcedon in 451 referred to it. The Eastern Orthodox churches call it the “Falling Asleep (or the Dormition) of the All-Holy Mother of God” and celebrate it with even greater solemnity than we do.
The Assumption shows us that God who planned the very first moment of Mary’s life with such extraordinary care, also planned her very last moment just as carefully. At the first moment of her life, by a very special privilege of God, Mary was preserved free from the stain of sin. This was confirmed to her at the Visitation by the greeting of an angel, and then at the last moment of her earthly life, by another very special privilege, she was preserved free from the corruption of the grave. At the end of her life Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven. (Whether or not she died first, is an open question.)
In the other great Marian feast the Immaculate Conception the emphasis is on the soul. In the Assumption the emphasis is on the body. Both are important. They were made for each other. At death, there is only a temporary separation. Body and soul will be reunited in the Resurrection. The Assumption means that the body that participated in the battle of life will also participate in the victory.
Today we are very aware of the importance and the vulnerability of the body. We diet and we exercise. We watch our levels of cholesterol and blood pressure. We realize that the body is the vehicle of life. We live as long and as well as the body supports the soul. We know well that the body is the instrument of pleasure, pain and procreation.
Accepting all these thing we discover a great lesson of the Assumption, that the whole person, body and soul, participates in the battle of life and the whole person, body and soul, will participate in the victory already won for us. Let us ask Mary, Assumed into heaven, to obtain for us the grace to respect and discipline the body so that one day we may join her, body and soul, in heaven.
Fr John Adams