The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been celebrated from time immemorial, the Eastern Catholics call it the Dormition, the falling asleep. It has been defined in our day, in the lifetime of many of us here, on November 1, 1950, that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven.
To understand this, we need but look to the Immaculate Conception. By a singular grace, Mary was conceived without original sin. Death is a consequence of sin, of original sin. In the beginning, there was no death. And so Mary, freed from sin, is freed from its consequences, death.
What it means for us is that we have before our eyes an example of the whole span of redemption, from our baptism, in which we have our first encounter with sanctifying grace and our sins are forgiven; our lifetimes, in which that grace is given to us, and our passing through death to heaven, and finally the resurrection of the body where we will live forever with the Lord in the kingdom he has come to establish.
And so Mary is our example, our exemplar, and an expression of discipleship in its perfection, especially in her “Fiat,” so be it. When the angel of the annunciation came to her to announce that she would be the mother of the savior, though she did not understand, “How can this be,” yet once she was certain this was from God, she gave the whole and complete assent of faith, and Christ became present in her and His plan of salvation was brought forth for her and for us.
Mary is not only an exemplary, but she is our advocate, she intercedes for the Church. In our day, St. Pope John Paul II has given to Mary the title, “Mother of Evangelization,” of the spread of the faith, because Mary always leads us to Christ. This means very much today for us here in Ventura County and Southern California, as the first Mass in our area was celebrated this day, in 1769, somewhere on these shores, by Blessed Junipero Serra. Today is the 245th anniversary of that Mass and of the beginnings of evangelization in our area.
Evangelization takes time. The faith was present in Ireland for 400 years before St. Patrick appeared and firmly implanted the faith in that land. Here we are, but 245 years from our beginnings. Some, in the secular world, would say that we are post-Christian, that Christianity has had its day and is passed now. But when we look at the history of evangelization, we are probably pre-Christian, and this is wonderful for us because it says for all we have the best is yet to come. We are the primitive Church.
When our Lord spoke of the Kingdom of God, he spoke about the farmer who plants the seed. Something mysterious happens. He doesn’t see it anymore, but he knows that something powerful is happening beneath the surface. And he works, he works hard, day after day to cultivate the field. He doesn’t see anything happen for a long time, then all in one day, the growth appears. The farmer is a man of faith. He does his part, knowing that the growth will take place, but by a power not His own. He cannot give the growth, only God can.
And so we pray today that Mary, assumed into heaven, the Mother of Evangelization, will pray for us, and till the soil of our land and of our hearts in which the seed of God’s Word and Sacrament have been planted. And we recall the ancient saying, to Christ through Mary. And to heaven’s glory through Christ, her Son and our Lord.