Assumption of Mary

With the Feast of the Assumption this week, naturally I’ve been doing some reading. This former Baptist took a long time to even consider that Mary had been taken up into Heaven. There’s no Biblical evidence. The book doesn’t even mention her dying (strange, isn’t it?), let alone any supernatural type of departure from this earth.

But when you think about it… why not? There had been others taken up into Heaven. Elijah was. Enoch was. If these men loved God so much that they bypassed the corruption of death itself, why wouldn’t God do the same for the woman with the world-changing task of bearing the Son?

The seemingly small detail that pushed me closer to believing the Assumption was the lack of relics. The early Church went crazy over them. They’d claim body parts of saints, or a lock of hair, or anything to bless their churches. Curiously, there are no Marian relics the Church recognizes as authentic. And it wasn’t until I stumbled upon this neat little history that I understood why.

Emperor Marcian asked the Patriarch of Jerusalem to bring the relics of Mary to Constantinople to be enshrined in the capitol. The patriarch explained to the emperor that there were no relics of Mary in Jerusalem, that “Mary had died in the presence of the apostles; but her tomb, when opened later… was found empty and so the apostles concluded that the body was taken up into heaven.”

Also, this is really cool. All the artwork of the Assumption has Mary basking in Heavenly light, riding a cloud skyward as her admirers gather beneath her.

It sure is pretty, isn’t it?

Peter Paul Rubens, 1612

But that’s not it at all. Truth is, the Blessed Mother died. There are more than a couple spots that claim to have her tomb. But in the quiet, still way of God—much like the arrival of Jesus Christ himself—Mary went Home, body and all.

Now that’s something I can believe.

And Adam Worked

“So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.” —Genesis 2:19

It’s alarmingly easy to fall into the lethargy of “What’s the point of all this?” We were put on this earth, but for what reason? Yes, to glorify God, but we have to make a life for ourselves somehow. But… why? Are we really here to simply grow up, do well, and get a job?

As a matter of fact… yes.

As I’ve mentioned before, work is often viewed as a separate entity from the rest of our lives. Sometimes we merely tolerate it, waiting for 5:00 so we can get on with what we really want to do. So imagine my surprise when I heard a homily recently about work, of all things. God made man in His image. He created Adam out of the dust of His very creation, in what I imagine was a grandiose occasion. But what did God do right after, even before He created Eve?

He put Adam to work.

Well, first He gave Adam rules. “Don’t eat the fruit of that tree.” God created man, set one seemingly simple ground rule, and then instructed him to name everything in creation. That’s some job you’ve got there, friend.

We don’t know Adam’s opinion in all this. But I can’t imagine him griping over this tremendous task put before him. (After all, he hasn’t eaten the forbidden fruit yet, so everything is peachy-keen.) It’s just him and God, working together to name all the creatures surrounding him. Adam had a honest-to-goodness job. And so do we.

What gain has the worker from his toil? … I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; also that it is God’s gift to man that every one should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil. —Ecclesiastes 3:9, 12,13

Work isn’t merely this grudging thing to tolerate. It can certainly feel grudging. We have difficult days. Or difficult situations. Or personality conflicts. But from the very beginning, we had a purpose. We are not meant to be idle.

In our work, may we glorify God. May we provide services for our fellow people, or care for the land He has created, or further His work in study and outreach. Adam was a single human being in charge of all of creation. But now, God provides each of us with our own skill sets and our own duties. We are to work, and to work together. On days where it seems grudging, and we don’t understand why we have to do it at all, remember: Adam, too, had a job.

Matthew 18:21–22

“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

This morning I stood in my living room, already armed with my winter coat and gloves and car keys, when I was hit with an overwhelming weight of nerves.

This has happened a few times over the past couple weeks—I’m far away from my parish. From my friends. I don’t want to experience Holy Week by myself, or with people I barely know. I need more time. I’m not ready for this part of the journey to be over yet.

I’m not ready.

I’m not ready.

Then the tears come, and I’m squeezing my gloved hands into fists trying to staunch them, which never works. I close my eyes, try to breathe, and ask God, yet again, to stay with me and calm me down.

Stay with me.

And He did.

Because His forgiveness is limitless. I can’t explain everything I’m feeling, but I don’t have to. He understands it better than I do. In that split second He forgives me yet again. “Seventy times seven.” It’s not the first time I’ve freaked out, and it won’t be the last. I can’t burden other people every single time I feel overwhelmed, but I can burden God with everything, at all times, and He listens. He answers. Also, with God, it’s never a burden.

We can learn a thing or two from Him. As human beings, we put a limit on forgiveness. I may be more forgiving than most, but even I will cut people off eventually. You don’t need that negativity in your life. Don’t let people take advantage of you. Which is true, to a degree—but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t forgive. And thank God that He hasn’t cut me off. “You’re still freaking out? Haven’t I showed you enough times that I have it under control?” He could say, “Forget it, you’re on your own. I’ve done all that I can do.”

But He doesn’t.

Remember His forgiveness. Never forget all the times He’s forgiven you. He’s unchanging. He is love.

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.