Dr. Kathie Amidei
St. Anthony on the Lake Parish
When invited to discuss the Assumption of Mary, my response was, “Oh, I think you should get a theologian for that.”
My hesitation didn’t indicate my lack of belief but my confidence to explain it. I wondered if other Catholics might be apprehensive to articulate the meaning of this belief and why it is so precious to us?
Aug. 15 is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a holy day of obligation. The Assumption of Mary is a teaching, a dogma, that Mary’s body and soul were taken into Heaven. The Assumption is one of the oldest Marian feast days but the origins of it are complicated. The writings of the early Church do not provide clarity about Mary’s life after Pentecost. Tradition has accounts of a sacred site in Jerusalem of the “The Tomb of Mary” located near the early Christian community called the “Place of Dormition” or the site of Mary’s “falling asleep.”
Around the sixth century, the feast honoring Mary gradually grew into a feast honoring her death. The practice spread to the West, emphasizing the mystery of her body and soul taken into Heaven and became known as the feast of The Assumption. The word “assumption” comes from a Latin word that means “to take up.”
Pope Pius XII’s Apostolic Constitution, Munifi centissimus Deus (Most Bountiful God, defined the Assumption of Mary an official dogma of the Roman Catholic Church in 1950.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of Heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Son’s resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of his Body.” (#974)
Catholics can reflect on this feast as a sign of hope of Heaven. It reveals in some sense we can grasp, on this side of death, that Heaven is where believers are with God. When I think of my loved ones who have died, this is reassuring. This teaching helps me formulate a vision of Heaven. The Assumption of Mary affirms that she experiences the Christian hope in the resurrection of the body.
It confirms a sense of God’s love of humanity, for God drew Mary in her human form to be with him. It is good to remember this when we strive to honor the dignity of any human being. Jesus wanted his beloved mother “there” with him bodily.
It also conveys the unique human relationship of mother and child, bound by the early, deep, pre-language memories of love, like a mother’s touch and scent, and the sound of her voice. I know this is what I treasured most and miss most about my own mother. Jesus knew such a relationship. I fully understand why he would want his mother with him in every sense of the word.
The gift to us is the arc of the relationship between God and Mary and how it reveals love. The Immaculate Conception, the Annunciation, the Incarnation, the Assumption, all exemplify God’s generous extravagant love for humanity and Mary’s love of God in radical trust of the Holy Spirit. Their relationship embodies the potential of life here on Earth and strengthens hope of our home in Heaven.
Dr. Kathie Amidei is Pastoral Associate at St. Anthony on the Lake Parish and leads the Faith Formation ministry. She is a regular contributor to the Milwaukee Catholic Herald. She was formerly the Associate Director for Catechesis and Child Ministry in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. She has served in a number of parishes as a Catholic schoolteacher and a director of religious education.