Through the Year with Norman Cresswell

The tradition of the Assumption predates the Pope's announcement of this weekend's feast by centuries.

In one sense, Pius XII's announcement in 1950 was redundant. He defined as dogma: "Mary, the immaculate perpetually Virgin Mother of God, after the completion of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into the glory of heaven." After all, what son would have done less for a loving mother?

On the other hand, many of us could be bewildered by today's strange reading from the Apocalypse:

A great sign appeared in heave; a woman clothed with the sun,

the moon beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head.

It's a description that appealed to painters, the shame of it being that, in becoming entranced with the fantastic, they tended to overlook the ordinariness of the reality. Our Lady's strength, for us, lies not in her remote grandeur but in her ever-present availability at the end of a prayer.

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• From Through the Year with the Catholic Faith by Norman Cresswell. Published by Fount.

Our Lady's life – like our own lives – was a kaleidoscope of sunshine and sorrow. She endured much as the mother of Jesus. Who could deny Jesus, the son, the delight of this last favour for his mother, the last gift he could give her in memory of his human incarnation?

The oral tradition of Our Lady's assumption into heaven is almost as old as the Church. In one way, Pius's decision to formalise the belief pre-dated the ethos of the Second Vatican Council that came 15 years later – it was a decision not taken solely by the Pope but as a result of the clamour from the world's bishops.

 

They all felt, as we the people did, that it was inconceivable that Jesus would have permitted his mother's body to decay. It was only common sense to recognise what Christians down the ages had always taken to be fact.

Our Lady's life – like our own lives – was a kaleidoscope of sunshine and sorrow. She endured much as the mother of Jesus. Who could deny Jesus, the Son, the delight of this last favour for his mother, the last gift he could give her in memory of his human incarnation?

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The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp Cathedral.