Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Catholic Defender: The Assumption of Mary

Recently I have been challenged by Anti-Catholics if there were any proof regarding the Catholic teaching on the Blessed Virgin Mary's Assumption into Heaven.

Their question is not really coming from a true commitment to the truth of the teaching, but rather a stubborn rejection of the doctrine.

Through their doctrine, "Sola Scriptura", they do not believe that you can prove the Assumption of Mary through Scripture.

I will respond here recognizing that the Bible does not always address everything verbatim, like a textbook in a college setting, much of the bible speaks implicitly and at the same time it can speak explicitly.

That is why the Lord left a Church of authority, to be able to explain the tradition of the Church trough authority and scripture. Some things are well grounded, somethings need elaboration and understanding.

Regarding Mary's Assumption into Heaven, there are basically two traditions, one from Ephesus, the other from Jerusalem. We know that John took Mary into his house beginning from the cross.

We also know that St. John took Mary with him to Ephesus which is the foundation for the first tradition of the Assumption.

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774–1824), through a vision of the Lord, Jesus Christ, was able to pinpoint the very place that The Virgin Mary and St. John lived over-looking the large city of Ephesus.

This tradition of Mary's Assumption coming from here in Ephesus is related to their claim of the blessed Virgin Mary.

The most important tradition of the where the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is Jerusalem. That at the end of her life here on earth, St. John brought Mary back to Jerusalem where she would enter into her eternal joy with Jesus and the host of Heaven. This is where the Catholic Church honors this event at the Church of the Domition in Jerusalem.

From the Scripture, I will draw upon the text of Psalms 45, I think we can see some important clues regarding the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We see a glimpse of this heavenly glory with the Messiah (Jesus Christ) in heaven in Psalms 45. In verse 9-10 we see a very important scripture relating to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus. It reads, "daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stand the Queen in gold of Ophir".

Can you argue that Mary assumed this position during the life of Christ? I do not believe there is any indication that Jesus acted as King among the people in this life. It wasn't time yet, even when the people were ready to make Jesus King, he gives them the Bread of Life Discourse when many abandoned him.

Mary would technically be Queen at the very moment of the Incarnation. However, she would not be recognized until after the Lord institutes the Church and the Resurrection.

Psalms 45:1-9 refers to Jesus and verses 9-17 concerns this Queen. Did St. John witness the Assumption of Mary, tradition teaches yes he did, from Scripture he writes:

"And a great portent (sign) appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (Revelation 12:1).

Clearly, St. John recognizes the Blessed Virgin Mary as "Queen" of Heaven as he gives a vision of this Woman much like the Queen found in Psalms 45. That St. John sees the event of the Assumption of Mary with Psalms 45.

Psalms 45 continues to say, "Hear, O daughter, consider, and incline your ear; forget your people and your father's house; and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your Lord, bow to him; the people of Tyre will sue your favor with gifts, the richest of the people with all kinds of wealth. The princess is decked in her chamber with gold-woven robes; in many colored robes she is led to the king, with her virgin companions, her escort, in her train. With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king. Instead of your fathers shall by your sons; you will make them princes in all the earth. I will cause your name to be celebrated in all generations; therefore the peoples will praise you forever and ever" (Psalms 45:9-17).

Notice that the "rich" seeks her favor, just like Adonjah had first sought Bathsheba's intercession. The Queen of Psalms 45 will be remembered and celebrated in all generations, and the people will praise her forever. Is there any other woman in history that can fit this description? Hillary Clinton?

This praise will not be worship that is given to God alone, but it will be honor and petition. Notice what Mother Mary says, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever" (Luke 1:46-55).

Only the True Church of the Living God will echo St. John's vision for all time. The Church that Jesus founded, the Catholic Church, will proclaim the Assumption of Mary until the Lord returns to judge the living and the dead.

As I have already stated, all of the teachings of the Church can be found to substantiate itself through her tradition and scripture. This means that all the teachings of the Church can be found in scripture either explicitly or implicitly.

An Anti-Catholic asks me a series of questions, "Let us test this assertion. Where does the Bible support Mariology, such as in the beliefs that::
(a) Mary is sinless, such as in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, in light of Luke 1:46-47?

You have an Archangel appearing to a lowly handmaid. The Archangel identifies this woman as "full of grace". St. John had two instances where he had angels appear to him, what did he do, he bowed down to them. I think that it takes a special grace of God to distinguish a vision of the Lord, an angel and a devil. Yet , we have an Archangel appearing to Mary announcing the good news.

Jesus is the only other person refereed to as "full of grace" (John 1:14). Jesus is full of grace because He is God, Mary is full of grace because of God's protection. She is the woman of Genesis 3:15.

Mary was chosen to be the Mother of our Lord from the beginning. When Mary was conceived, the Lord preserved her free from original sin. This is called the "Immaculate Conception". Do you believe Satan had his hand on Mary, even as when our Lord was in her womb?

St. Irenaeus referred to Mary as the "Ark of the New Covenant". He made the typology between Eve and Mary "Against Heresies" as St. Paul did with Adam and Jesus (Romans 5:12). This reveals the perspective and role Mary had in the early Church.

(b) Mary is the Theotokos, or the "Mother of God," if the doctrine of the hypo-static union is not found within written Scripture?

Luke 1:43 states, "And how does this happen to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me"? Do you believe Jesus is God or are you one that the Second Council of Constantinople was directed at?

What is the difference in calling Mary "Mother of my Lord" and "Mother of God"? The Catholic Church at the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. taught that this woman is “in virtue of the incarnation, truly theotokos, Mother of God.”

(c) Mary was assumed into heaven?

"This dogma is rooted in the biblical depiction of Mary as the New Eve (St. Ireneaus-Against Heresies-189 A.D.). Death is the result of the Fall. If Mary is the New Eve, who shares in the New Adam's victory over sin, then she should also share in His victory over death and physical decay. 

St. Ignatius and PolyCarp, followers through St. John, taught St. Ireneaus.  When it come right down to it, I personally prefer to listen to the stream closest to the source, it is much more pure than listening to these "Street Preachers" who are founded on 20th Century Protestantism.

It was also not fitting that the body which was sanctified to bear God Incarnate should see corruption. So God took His New Ark into heaven. In Revelations 12:1, right after his vision of the ark of the covenant in heaven (11:19), St. John sees a great Woman: the New Eve, the Virgin Mary, Image and Model of the Church. This verse strongly insinuates the Assumption of Mary".

Revelation is known to carry symbolic messages that are hard to understand. The woman of Rev 12 is the Virgin Mary.

It may have implications for the Church, but it is Mary as she "labored to give birth", "She gave birth to a son", "Her child was caught up to God and His throne" (Ascension of Jesus), "The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God..."

Considering that Mary was taken to a "place" prepared by God after the Lord's Ascension, this could not be Egypt. This is some kind of typology of the Exodus. St. John wrote this about 40 years after Mary had Assumed into heaven and it is reasonable to recognize that John witnessed or knew well of it.

If you compare Genesis 3:15 with Revelation 12 you see the "woman", the "offspring", the dragon or serpent, the intensity of childbearing, and this war that rages with "the rest of her offspring"!

After the Early Church Fathers and during the time of some of the Early Councils, the following comes from the Saints:

"If therefore it might come to pass before the power of your grace, it has appeared right to us your servants that, as you, having overcome death does reign in glory, so you should raise up the body of your mother and take her with you, rejoicing into heaven. Then said the Savior [Jesus]: 'Be it done according to your will" (Pseudo-Melito The Passing of the Virgin 16:2-17; 300 AD).

"Therefore the Virgin is immortal to this day, seeing that he who had dwelt in her transported her to the regions of her assumption" (Timothy of Jerusalem Homily on Simeon and Anna; 400 AD).

"And from that time forth all knew that the spotless and precious body had been transferred to paradise" (John the Theologian, The Falling Asleep of Mary; 400 AD)

"The Apostles took up her body on a bier and placed it in a tomb; and they guarded it, expecting the Lord to come. And behold, again the Lord stood by them; and the holy body having been received, He commanded that it be taken in a cloud into paradise: where now, rejoined to the soul, [Mary] rejoices with the Lord's chosen ones..." (Gregory of Tours, Eight Books of Miracles, 1:4; 575-593 A.D.)

"As the most glorious Mother of Christ, our Savior and God and the giver of life and immortality, has been endowed with life by him, she has received an eternal incorruptibility of the body together with him who has raised her up from the tomb and has taken her up to himself in a way known only to him." (Modestus of Jerusalem, Encomium in dormitionnem Sanctissimae Dominae nostrae Deiparae semperque Virginis Mariae (PG 86-II,3306, before A.D. 634)

"It was fitting...that the most holy-body of Mary, God-bearing body, receptacle of God, divinized, incorruptible, illuminated by divine grace and full glory...should be entrusted to the earth for a little while and raised up to heaven in glory, with her soul pleasing to God." (Theoteknos of Livias, Homily on the Assumption; before 650 A.D.)

(d) Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces?

Let’s take a look at the church’s teaching. One of the titles by which Mary is invoked is ‘mediatrix.’ This title, according to Vatican Council II (’62 - ’65), ‘neither takes away from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one mediator.’

What the title ‘mediatrix’ truly conveys is that this woman, through her own free will, chose to become the mother of the promised one. (See Luke 1:26-38.)

Her role in redemption began with her ‘yes’ to God, and so she became the vehicle in which the Son was sent from heaven (John 3:16).

This woman’s obedience and faith allowed the door to be opened for you and me. Mary was chosen for God’s plan, and she followed it as called. She is honored as ‘model of the church,‘daughter of Zion,’the new Eve,’ ‘ark of the new covenant.’ The Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. taught that this woman is “in virtue of the incarnation, truly Theotokos, Mother of God.”

(c) Mary is the "Queen of Heaven," in light of Jeremiah 7:17-19 and Jeremiah 44:15-19?

Mary is not "Queen of heaven" in light of Jeremiah 7:17-19 and Jeremiah 44:15-19! She is Queen of heaven in light of Psalms 45:10, 1 Kings 2:19. Jesus is the rightful King in the line of David, the Queen is not the wife, but the mother is!

Compare the woman of Psalm 45 with the Woman of Luke 1: Psalm 45:18, "I will make your name memorable through all generations; therefore shall nations praise you forever and ever". Luke 1:48 "For He has looked upon His handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed". Psalms 45:6-8 are identified in the book of Hebrews 1:8-9 showing that Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy of the Messianic King, Mary, His Mother through her faithfulness, would become the Mother of the Church (Rev 12:17). She is the "great sign (that) appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (Rev 12:1).

I find it ironic that Anti-Catholics oppose the Virgin Mary because they cannot find "The Assumption" implicitly defined in the scriptures like a history text book.  Yet, the word "Trinity" is not found in Scripture and they mostly do not have problems with the doctrine.  It all goes back to Authority. 

Mary, Purgatory, Saints, Sacraments, all of these teachings are only a sidebar compared to the real issue at hand.  The Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ and that is the real issue that the Street Preachers cannot handle.

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