"Mary has chosen the best part, and it wiIl not be taken away from her." St. Luke, 10:2.
One of the best known figures in American public life about one hundre years ago was a senator by the name of William Evarts. He was an able lawyer and statesman, and an eloquent orator. In his last years as senator he suffered from an affliction of the eyes which made it increasingly difficult for him to read or to recognize any but the most familiar faces.
On a trip to Europe he consulted an eminent oculist who told him that there was not the slightest hope of saving his eyesight. It was merely a matter of months before night would descend upon him.
It was then Senator Evarts expressed a life-long desire: He had always wanted to see Raphael's famous Virgin at Dresden. Now more than ever he wanted to behold that beautiful creation that he might look at it with his mind, after his eyes went black. To Dresden he traveled there to behold at some length the face of the lovely Virgin. He was happy. And when darkness descended he often recalled with his mind's eye that inspiring picture. It was a source of consolation and spiritual light to him.
Who that ever caught a vision of the beautiful Mother of God could ever forget it? Who that ever really saw her as she is, could ever lose sight of her? Who that ever loved Mary - and everyone who looks at her must love her - could ever lose that love?
On August 15 we keep the feast of the Assumption of our Blessed Mother into heaven. We honor the fact that Mary was taken bodily up into heaven. It is the crowning privilege of her earthly pilgrimage. It is the last earthly token of her Son's love and devotion. Why and how do we believe that Mary was taken up into heaven?
1. Her body was not subject to the corruption of the grave. The rotting of the body in death is a result of sin. She had no sin. Furthermore, there are no physical relics of the Blessed Virgin, never were. No town or country have ever claimed to have her body.
2. With one voice the Church believed in the Assumption for 1500 years. With the religious revolutionaries of the 16th century came denials of it.
3. Already in the 5th century the Church kept the feast of the Assumption.
4. It is historically and scientifically certain that the bodies of many saints were kept from corruption, sometimes for centuries. This would lead us to expect the same and more for the Queen of Saints.
5. From the year 170, probably earlier, Mary was called the Virgin Mother of the Church. The Church, we know, was to be kept from all corruption; so should the body of the Church's Mother.
6. Psalm 15:10, declares: "Thou wilt not give. . . thy holy one to see corruption." These words apply to the flesh of Christ; but the flesh of Christ was taken from the flesh of Mary. How reasonable and fitting that her flesh also should be kept from decay?
7. Her perpetual virginity argues for her Assumption. Early liturgies connect carnal, fleshly desires with corruption of the flesh. Mary was pure, and deserved not carnal corruption.
8. Mary was subject to no sin, not even to original sin. Death and the wasting away of the body which follows, are a result of original sin. How becoming that she who was kept from original sin by her divine Son, should also be kept from the rottening of the grave?
9. The fact that she was the Mother of God, the tabernacle, living tabernacle of Jesus Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit, seems to demand that this tabernacle, this fleshly temple be kept from decay.
10. She who was so closely associated with Christ in the work of Redemption, she who stayed so close to Him in His passion and death, can be expected to share with her Son in His triumph over death.
But we who have been meditating on the virtues practiced by her Son, the virtues which He wants us Christians to have, the virtues which we find personified in the Virgin Mother, we find it so very reasonable that Christ would reward in some special, outstanding way, the outstanding virtues practiced by His Mother.
She was the living picture of the beatitudes; she was purity and humility and obedience in person. She was the perfect example of faith and hope and love. She is our model in prayer, our model in keeping the laws of the Church.
How would Christ reward such a virtuous life except by taking her bodily to Himself in heaven.
O, see the vision of her today, carried by the angels into the heavenly court. O, see our Mother borne bodily into the bosom of the Father. See this picture of her and never forget it.
Like the American senator, William Evarts, we are all blind at times, sometimes through our own fault, sometimes through the special design of the Almighty. Often we are blinded by temptation, by doubts, by our actual sins. Then we must behold in our mind's eye the Mother of us all being assumed, taken up to her heavenly throne. Look up to her and beg of her the grace to follow her life on this earth, that we may one day be privileged to be at home with our heavenly Mother - forever. Amen.
Adapted from Prayers, Precepts and Virtues
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (©1949)