Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Reflections on the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

[ From the first draft of my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (1994) ]

"P" = Protestant


Immaculate Conception
1. Mary - Ark of the Covenant

A. Patrick Madrid

"The . . . most compelling type of Mary's Immaculate Conception is the ark of the covenant. In Exodus 20 Moses is given the Ten Commandments. In chapters 25 through 30 the Lord gives Moses a detailed plan for the construction of the ark, the special container which would carry the Commandments . . . Five chapters later . . . [35 to 40], Moses repeats word for word each of the details of the ark's construction.

"Why? It was a way of emphasizing how crucial it was for the Lord's exact specifications to be met (Ex 25:9, 39:42-3). God wanted the ark to be as perfect and unblemished as humanly possible so it would be worthy of the honor of bearing the written Word of God. How much more so would God want Mary, the ark of the new covenant, to be perfect and unblemished since she would carry within her womb the Word of God in flesh.

"When the ark was completed, `the cloud covered the meeting tent and the glory of the Lord filled the dwelling. Moses could not enter the meeting tent, because the cloud settled down upon it and the glory of the Lord filled the dwelling' (Ex 40:34-8). Compare this with the words of Gabriel to Mary in Luke 1:35.

[Almost exactly the same language is used in 1 Kings 8:4-11 - especially verses 10-11 - when the ark of the covenant is brought to the temple and the glory of the Lord fills it at its dedication].

"There's another striking foreshadowing . . . in 2 Samuel 6. The Israelites had lost the ark in a battle with their enemies, the Philistines, and had recently recaptured it. King David sees the ark being brought to him and, in his joy and awe, says `Who am I that the ark of the Lord should come to me?' (2 Sam 6:9).

"Compare this with Elizabeth's nearly identical words in Luke 1:43 ["And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"]. Just as David leapt for joy before the ark when it was brought into Jerusalem (2 Sam 6:14-16 [cf. 1 Chron 15:29]), so John the Baptist leapt for joy in Elizabeth's womb when Mary, the ark of the new covenant, came into her presence (Luke 1:44). John's leap was for precisely the same reason as David's - not primarily because of the ark itself, but because of what the ark contained, the Word of God.

"Another parallel may be found in 2 Samuel 6:10-12 where we read that David ordered the ark diverted up into the hill country of Judea to remain with the household of Obededom for three months. This parallels the three-month visit Mary made at Elizabeth's home in the hill country of Judea (Luke 1:39-45,56)." (19)

B. Max Thurian (P)

"One can equally note in the two accounts the cry of the people and the cry of Elizabeth ["She spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou . . ."]: . . . (2 Sam 6:15; Lk 1:42). The verb `anaphonein' - `to make a sound, reverberate' is not used in the New Testament except in the account of the Visitation, and in the Old Testament the Septuagint only uses it five times, and always in order to describe a liturgical acclamation, and particularly in the presence of the Ark (1 Chron 15:28, 16:4,5,42; 2 Chron 5:13): `Moreover David appointed certain of the Levites as ministers before the Ark of the Lord, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the Lord God of Israel' (1 Chron 16:4). (20)

2. God's Special Presence in Scripture as Related to Mary

Perhaps a bit more reflection on the nature of the ark, the tabernacle, and the temple is helpful at this point, in order to grasp the profundity of the parallelism between these "holy places," where God is "specially" present (after all, He is omnipresent), and the Blessed Virgin, in whom God in the flesh chose to take up His abode. By analyzing the similarities, one can see how Mary's Immaculate Conception is altogether in keeping with the typology of Scripture in this regard, and quite appropriate and fitting for one who was granted the unfathomable honor of being chosen as the Mother of God.

++++ All quoted material below is from Protestant Bible Dictionaries ++++:

"Holiness characterized the temple site (1 Chron 29:3; Is 11:9, 56:7, 64:10) as well as its chambers (Ezek 42:13, 46:19) and courts (Is 62:9), and the city of Jerusalem (Neh 11:1,18; Is 48:2). Other places of theophanic vision and divine presence likewise were holy, including the holy ground of Sinai (Ex 3:5) . . . God's presence in the camp of the Israelites rendered it holy (Deut 23:14). All Objects related to cultic service were holy . . .

"Through God's covenant with the people of Israel he created a holy people, communicating to them his holiness by dwelling in their midst (Deut 7:6, 26:19; Jer 2:3) . . . In every instance, whether with things or people, it was the presence of God that imparted holiness. The Israelites expressed this with particular power in their reverence for God's `holy name,' which constituted the actual presence of God with them (Lev 20:3, 22:2, 1 Chron 16:10) . . .When something was holy, it then partook of God's own holiness . . . Hence angels, because of their proximity to God, are called `holy ones'(Job 5:1, Ps 89:6-7)." (6:493-494)

"Tabernacle: A portable structure that the Israelites made as commanded by God at Sinai and in which he dwelled during the wilderness wanderings . . . The Levites who carried the tabernacle furnishings were never to touch them, on pain of death (Num 4:15). When David retrieved the ark from its Philistine captors, it was transported by oxcart. During that journey Uzzah put out his hand to steady the ark on the tottering cart, immediately forfeiting his life (2 Sam 6:2-7)." (6:979-980)

The Temple in Jerusalem (actually, three in succession) was simply the permanent structure based on the plan of the Tabernacle, with outer courts, priest's courts, an altar, and the innermost holy sanctuary, the "holy of holies." The ark of the covenant was placed inside the holy of holies in the first (Solomon's) temple, but was lost after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 B.C.

"The sons of Levi camped around the tabernacle and apparently served as buffers to protect their fellow-tribes from God's wrath, which threatened them if they unwittingly came in contact with the holy tent or its furnishings (Num 1:51,53, 2:17) . . .

"The sons of Kohath . . . were in charge of carrying the furniture after it had been carefully covered by the priests, who alone could touch it (Num 3:29-32, 4:1 ff.). . .

"Apparently the carrying of the ark was entrusted to the priests rather than the Kohathites (cf. Num 4:15) because of the supreme importance of these journeys . . . (1 Sam 6:15; 2 Sam 15:24; 1 Ki 8:4)." (5:1028-1030)

"Israelite priests . . . were to meet stringent demands regarding marriage and cultic purity (Lev 21-22). The high priest was subject to even more demanding regulations (Lev 21:10-15). The impact of the holiness laws was to reinforce the holiness of God before Israel." (6:849)

"The most holy place was not to be entered except by the high priest, himself permitted to enter only on the Day of Atonement and only with the proper precautions [in Lev 16:2,13 the high priest is warned to properly observe instructions "that he die not"]." (6:733)

"The high priest . . . first sanctified himself by taking a ceremonial bath and putting on white garments (Lev 16:4). Then he had to make atonement for himself and other priests by sacrificing a bullock (Num 29:8). God dwelt on the mercy seat [on top of the ark] in the Temple." (7:380)

"The cherubim or angelic figures on the ark of the covenant [above the mercy seat] indicated the presence of the Lord . . . For a long time the ark remained the localized presence of God. He himself was within it. The men of Beth-shemesh look inside and die (1 Sam 6:19; cf. Ex 33:20); Uzzah touches the ark and dies (2 Sam 6:6-7)." (6:84,848)

Just before the Israelites were to receive the Ten Commandments, God made a spectacular appearance at Mt. Sinai (Ex 19-20), accompanied, as usual in Scripture, by fire and a cloud ("smoke" - 19:18). He warned the people not to even touch the mountain, or its "border," under penalty of death (19:12-13). Even animals were included in the restriction.

The point of all this digression is to show how God regards people and also inanimate objects which are to come in close contact with Him. Cruel as it may seem from our vantage point, the severity of death as the consequence of disrespect or disobedience, was necessary to make absolutely clear how awesome and majestic God's holiness is. The strictness of the ceremonial Law was to change, of course, with the arrival of the Messiah and the New Covenant, but the Old Testament principle of "holiness/separate unto the Lord" remained. Mary, because of her ineffable physical and spiritual relationship with God the Son, the Holy Spirit (as "spouse," so to speak), and God the Father ("the Daughter of Zion" typology), necessarily had to be granted the grace of sinlessness from conception, just as all of us must be cleansed utterly in order to be present with God in all His fullness in heaven (see, e.g., 1 Cor 3:13-17; 1 Jn 3:3-9; Rev 21:27). The Immaculate Conception is merely the supreme realization of the notion which leaps out from practically every page of Scripture from beginning to end - that God is holy, and the closer we get to Him, the more we must be holy.

3. Various Reasoned Arguments

A. James Cardinal Gibbons

"Whenever God designs any person for some important work, He bestows on that person the graces and dispositions necessary for faithfully discharging it . . .

"The Prophet Jeremiah was sanctified from his very birth because he was destined to be the herald of God's law to the children of Israel: `Before I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother I knew thee, and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee.' (Jer 1:5) . . .

"John the Baptist was `filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb.' (Lk 1:15). `He was a burning and a shining light' (Jn 5:35) because he was chosen to prepare the way of the Lord.

"The Apostles received the plenitude of grace; they were endowed with the gift of tongues and other privileges (Acts 2) before they commenced the work of the ministry. Hence St. Paul says: `Our sufficiency is from God, who hath made us fit ministers of the New Testament.' (2 Cor 3:5-6) [other translations have "able," "competent," "qualified,"] . . .

"There is none who filled any position so exalted, so sacred, as is the incommunicable office of Mother of Jesus; and there is no one, consequently, that needed so high a degree of holiness as she did.

"For, if God thus sanctified His Prophets and Apostles as being destined to be the bearers of the Word of life, how much more sanctified must Mary have been, who was to bear the Lord and `Author of life' (Acts 3:5) . . . If God said to His Priests of old: `Be ye clean, you that carry the vessels of the Lord' (Is 3:2); nay, if the vessels themselves used in the divine service and churches are set apart by special consecration, we cannot conceive Mary to have been ever profaned by sin, who was the chosen vessel of election, even the Mother of God." (3:135-137)

B. Patrick Madrid
"The notion that God is the only being without sin is quite false - and even Protestants think so. Adam and Eve, before the fall, were free from sin . . . (One must remember that Mary was not the first immaculate human being, even if she was the first to be conceived immaculately).

"The angels in heaven . . . were created sinless and have remained so ever since. The saints in heaven are . . . now completely sinless (Rev 14:5, 21:27) . . .

"Medieval theologians developed an analogy to explain how and why Mary needed Jesus as her savior. A man (each of us) is walking along a forest path, unaware of a large pit a few paces directly ahead of him. He falls headlong into the pit and is immersed in the mud (original sin) it contains. He cries out for help, and his rescuer (the Lord Jesus) lowers a rope down to him and hauls him back up to safety . . .

"A woman (Mary), approaches the same pit, but as she began to fall into the pit her rescuer reaches out and stops her from falling in. She cries out, `Thank you for saving me' (Lk 1:47). Like this woman, Mary was no less `saved' than any other human being has been saved. She was just saved anticipatorily, before contracting original sin. Each of us is permitted to become dirtied with original sin, but she was not. God hates sin, so this was a far better way . . .

"Mary's Immaculate Conception is foreshadowed in Genesis 1, where God creates the universe in an immaculate state, free from any blemish or stain of sin or imperfection . . . Out of pristine matter the Lord created Adam, the first immaculately created human being, forming him from the `womb' of the Earth. The immaculate elements from which the first Adam received his substance foreshadowed the immaculate mother from whom the second Adam (Rom 5:14) took his human substance.

"The second foreshadowing of Mary is Eve, the physical mother of our race, just as Mary is our spiritual mother through our membership in the Body of Christ (Rev 12:17). What Eve spoiled through disobedience and lack of faith (Gen 3), Mary set aright through faith and obedience (Lk 1:38)." (21)

C. Louis Bouyer

"The case of the Virgin Mary . . . is certainly the one which best reveals the Catholic idea of sanctity, [yet] to Protestants it appears the height of idolatry . . .

"If there is any Catholic belief that shows how much the Church believes in the sovereignty of grace, in its most gratuitous form, it is this one. It is remarkable that the Orthodox controversialists, contrary to the Protestants, reproach Catholics for admitting, in this one case of Our Lady, something analogous to what strict Calvinists admit for all the elect - a grace that saves us absolutely independently of us, not only without any merit of our own, but without any possibility of our cooperation, . . . whereas the Protestant view seems, not merely against reason, but completely absurd. To say that Mary is holy, with a super-eminent holiness, in virtue of a divine intervention previous to the first instant of her existence, is to
affirm in her case as absolutely as possible that salvation is a grace, and purely a grace, of God." (12:247)

"This faith of Mary's, whereby the free act of fallen man effectively reversed Eve's choice of unbelief and revolt, presupposes, on the part of God, his total repossession of his creature. For God to give himself as he intended, for his Word to take flesh of Mary, it was necessary that, in Mary, he should take back his creature wholly to himself . . .

"Though the Immaculate Conception was the most excellent of all the graces given before Christ, it would be mistaken to look on it as a grace perfect in itself, sufficient in itself . . . It is . . . only the pre-condition of Christian grace; for this begins with Mary's `fiat', with the acceptance and the accomplishment of the Incarnation . . .

"The whole course of the Old Testament culminates in the Immaculate Virgin. In her the ultimate realities of the New are first foreshadowed . . .

"The New and Eternal Testament starts from her . . . She proclaims, prefigures, and realises, in a wholly unique manner, all the sanctity to be attained ultimately by the Church, when it shall have reached its perfection. The Virgin `without spot or wrinkle' (Eph 5:27), to be presented to Christ at the end of time is the Church; but Mary, at the beginning of the new epoch, is already this Virgin without stain. She is, thus, the promise already fulfilled, the pledge already actualised, of what all of us together are to become . . .

"All this goes to show that there is no ground for the Protestant apprehension that the Church's worship of our Lady is a form of idolatry, for we venerate in her simply the glory promised by God to every creature. In consequence, we are in no danger of ever attributing to her any of that glory which God has said that he will never give to another (Is 42:8, 48:11)." (22)

D. John Henry Cardinal Newman

Newman, while still an Anglican, thirteen years before his conversion, preached a sermon at Oxford University, entitled, "The Reverence Due to the Virgin Mary" (March 25, 1832), which included these words:

"Who can estimate the holiness and perfection of her, who was chosen to be the Mother of Christ? If to him that hath, more is given, and holiness and Divine favour go together (and this we are expressly told), what must have been the transcendent purity of her, whom the Creator Spirit condescended to overshadow with His miraculous presence? What must have been her gifts, who was chosen to be the only near earthly relative of the Son of God, the only one whom He was bound by nature to revere and look up to; the one appointed to train and educate Him, to instruct Him day by day, as He grew in wisdom and stature? This contemplation runs to a higher subject, did we dare follow it; for what, think you, was the sanctified state of that human nature, of which God formed His sinless Son; knowing as we do, `that which is born of the flesh is flesh' (1 Jn 3:6), and that `none can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?' (Job 14:4)." (10:309)

Later, as a Catholic, Newman wrote, with characteristically brilliant, rhetorical prose, a piece intended as a counter-argument to a hypothetical Protestant objector to the Immaculate Conception:

"Does not the objector consider that Eve was created, or born, without original sin? Why does not this shock him? Would he have been inclined to worship Eve in that first estate of hers? Why, then, Mary?

"Does he not believe that St. John the Baptist had the grace of God - i.e., was regenerated, even before his birth? What do we believe of Mary, but that grace was given her at a still earlier period? All we say is, that grace was given her from the first moment of her existence.

"We do not say that she did not owe her salvation to the death of her Son. Just the contrary, we say that she, of all mere children of Adam, is in the truest sense the fruit and purchase of His Passion. He has done for her more than for anyone else. To others He gives grace and regeneration at a point in their earthly existence; to her, from the very beginning.

"We do not make her nature different from others . . . certainly she would have been a frail being, like Eve, without the grace of God . . . It was not her nature which secured her perseverance, but the excess of grace which hindered Nature acting as Nature ever will act. There is no difference in kind between her and us, though an inconceivable difference of degree. She and we are both simply saved by the grace of Christ.

"Thus, sincerely speaking, I really do not see what the difficulty is . . . The above statement is no private statement of my own. I never heard of any Catholic who ever had any other view . . .

"Consider what I have said. Is it, after all, certainly irrational? Is it certainly against Scripture? Is it certainly against the primitive Fathers? Is it certainly idolatrous? I cannot help smiling as I put the questions . . .

"Many, many doctrines are far harder than the Immaculate Conception. The doctrine of Original Sin is indefinitely harder. Mary just has not this difficulty. It is no difficulty to believe that a soul is united to the flesh without original sin; the great mystery is that any, that millions on millions, are born with it. Our teaching about Mary has just one difficulty less than our teaching about the state of mankind generally." (11:151-152,155-156)

E. John McHugh

"The fundamental difference between Catholic and Protestant is to be found in the different interpretations of `justification'. For the Protestant, it means that a veil is drawn over our sins; for the Catholic, it means that God's power transforms our nature in this life. Consequently, the Catholic sees in Mary this power at its fullest. It is seen preserving her, by the merits of her Son, from every being affected by original sin; and once her earthly life is over, bestowing upon her the fullness of heavenly glory. Mary is certainly a creature, but a creature in whom we see manifested the fullness of grace." (23)

F. Bishop William Ullathorne

"It is the divine maternity of Mary which explains both her perfect excellence and her perfect holiness. It is the key to all her gifts and privileges. For the excellence of each creature is to be found in the degree in which it resembles its Creator . . .

"Mary was made as like to Him [Christ], as being a mere creature, she could be made. For, having no earthly father, Our Lord bore the human likeness of His mother in all His features. Or rather, she bore His likeness. And as, for thirty years of His life, her mind was the law which directed His obedience, and her will the guide, which regulated His actions, her soul was the perfect reflection of His conduct. And as all created holiness is derived from Jesus, and from the degree of our union with Jesus, of which union His sacred and life-giving flesh is the great instrument; we may understand something of the perfect holiness of the Mother of God, from the perfection of her union with her Son. For He was formed by the Holy Ghost of her flesh. And His blood, that saving blood which redeemed the world, was taken from her heart. And whilst the Godhead dwelt bodily in Him, He, for nine months, dwelt bodily in her. And all that time . . . the stream which nourished the growth of life in Jesus flowed from the heart of Mary, and, at each pulsation, flowed back again, and re-entered His Mother's heart, enriching her with His divinest spirit. How pregnant is that blood of His with sanctifying grace, one drop of which might have redeemed the world . . . Next to that union by which Jesus is God and man in one person, there is no union so intimate as that of a mother with her child." (24)

"Certainly, He who preserved the three children from being touched by the fire in the midst of which they walked uninjured, and who preserved the bush unconsumed in the midst of a burning flame, could preserve Mary untouched from the burning fuel of concupiscence. He who took up Elijah in the fiery chariot, so that he tasted not of death, could, in the chariot of His ardent love, set Mary on high above the law of sin . . . And He who held back the waves of that Jordan, that the ark of the Old Testament might pass untouched and honoured through its bed, could hold back the wave of Adam, lest it overflow the ark of the New Testament beneath its defiling floods. For that we are born in the crime of Adam and with original sin, is not the result of absolute necessity, but of the divine will. And if He who ordained this penalty, had already solved it in part, when ere His birth, He sanctified the holy Precursor of His Coming; much more could he solve it altogether when He sanctified His holy Mother.

"For He, who could have limited Adam's sin unto himself, can ward off that sin from Mary. And what He could, that He willed to do. For why should He not have willed it?" (25)

The Assumption

1. Various Reasoned Arguments

A. John Saward (P)

"Seen in its historical context, the Dogmatic Definition is neither tactless nor triumphalistic . . . A close reading of `Munificentissimus Deus' demonstrates, I believe, that the dogmatic status of the Assumption does not place it in competition with the great Christological and Trinitarian dogmas, but rather brings before the mind of the Church its essential links with those dogmas, which are the very foundation of the faith. Those non-Catholics who in the past have protested, `But only the doctrines of God and Christ may be dogmatized', have expressed perhaps unwittingly, a little of the `raison d'etre' of `Munificentissimus Deus', which intended to defend a full doctrine of Christ as much as that of Our Lady." (27)

B. T.L. Frazier

"Investigating my own belief that Mary lay in the grave, I found that the earliest recorded doubt about the Assumption was a comment by Adamnan (625-704) . . . This one doubt influenced the Venerable Bede [673?-735], who then echoed it . . . Ambrosius Autpertus (d.784) . . . advocated pious ignorance on the whole question. In the ninth century the Abbot of Corbie, Paschasius Radbertus (d.865), forged a letter which claimed to be written by Jerome . . . in which the Assumption is called into question (though not explicitly denied and maintaining the incorruptibility of her body) . . . A monk named Usuard (d.875) was even more abusive of the idea of the Assumption, which he seemed to feel was `frivolous.' . . . In the Reformation, . . . the Assumption was outright denied for the first time . . . I simply could not document anyone disbelieving in the Assumption prior to the Reformation." (28)

"Out of 1181 residential bishops consulted by Pope Pius XII as to whether the Assumption should be defined as dogma, only 22 replied negatively. Of the 22, only six doubted that the Assumption was a divinely revealed truth, the rest feeling that the time was not yet appropriate for such a definition [0.5 % in doubt as to its truth]." (29)

C. Alan Schreck
"In the hundred years before Pope Pius' declaration, the popes had received petitions from 113 cardinals, 250 bishops, 32,000 priests and religious brothers, 50,000 religious women, and 8 million lay people, all requesting that the Assumption be recognized officially as a Catholic teaching. Apparently, the pope discerned that the Holy Spirit was speaking through the people of God on this matter." (1:180)

D. Ludwig Ott
"The speculative grounds on which the Fathers of the closing Patristic era, and the theologians of the scholastic movement . . . base the incorruptibility and transfiguration of the body of Mary, are also based upon Revelation: These are:

"A) Freedom from sin. As the dissolution of the body is a punishment consequent of sin, and as Mary, the immaculately conceived and sinless one, was exempt from the general curse of sin, it was fitting that her body should be excepted from the general law of dissolution and immediately assumed into the glory of Heaven, in accordance with God's original plan for mankind.

"B) Motherhood of God. As the body of Christ originated from the body of Mary it was fitting that Mary's body should share the lot of the body of Christ . . .

"C) Perpetual virginity. As Mary's body was preserved unimpaired in virginal integrity, it was fitting that it should not be subject to destruction after death.

"D) Participation in the work of Christ. [argument from Gen 3:15 above]." (4:209)

E. Karl Keating
"There is also what might be called the negative historical proof . . . From the first Catholics gave homage to saints . . . Cities vied for the title of the last resting place of the most famous saints. Rome, for example, claims the tombs of Peter and Paul . . . We know the bones of some saints were distributed to several cities . . . With a few exceptions (such as Peter, who was only claimed by Rome, never, for example, by Antioch, where he worked before moving on to Rome), the more famous or important the saint, the more cities wanted his relics . . .

"Why did no city claim the bones of Mary? Apparently because there were no bones to claim and people knew it . . . Here was Mary, certainly the most privileged of all the saints, certainly the most saintly, but we have no record of her bodily remains being venerated anywhere." (2:273-274)

F. John Saward (P)

"The New Testament regards the resurrection of Our Lord not as an isolated event with only isolated repercussions for mankind, but as the beginning of the universal resurrection of the dead [see 1 Cor 15:13,16] . . . Resurrection, we must say again, is communal . . .

"The heart of the doctrine of the resurrection is this sense of the communal, inclusive body of glory. Now I believe that it is precisely this sense of `resurrection-relatedness' that is the foundation of the doctrine of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady . . . while the victory over death that has taken place in Mary may not be general, there is an important sense in which it can be said to be thoroughly `normal', a direct upshot and fruit of Christ's own victory over sin and death . . .

"It is precisely the typological role of the Assumption, its prefiguring of the general resurrection, which we find most consistently stressed in our earliest witnesses . . . The resurrection of Jesus is not simply typological but effective; it has a causal and not simply iconic relation to the general resurrection. It does not simply prefigure the reassembly of all men but actually sets it in motion. Now Our Lady receives resurrection as we all shall through the power of God; the difference in her case being only its anticipation, its role as sign and type . . .

"Pope Pius saw that the Assumption struck a prophetic blow against the institutionalized individualism of the modern world, its competitive and alienated spirit, demonstrated in a global way in the Second World War, which had ended only five years before, and daily seen in men's lives. A dogma that is based on an indestructible relationship of Mother and Son, and of the Son with humanity, has much to offer the world . . .

"What is the source of the Assumption? I believe that the ultimate source of the belief is Mary herself; that we know that she is alive and glorified because of our fellowship with her in Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit. That, it seems to me, is the axiom upon which the Assumption as a dogma rests. It cannot be over-emphasized that it does not depend for its truth on the historical reliability of the various apocryphal accounts of the death, burial and assumption of Our Lady. This is the fear of many non-Catholics, and we can allay it at once; the Fathers themselves are emphatic on this point as well and make guarded and sparing use of the apocryphal material . . .

"What sense can we make of the late appearance of the doctrine? . . . There can be no satisfactory answer to all this except in terms of the Church's Tradition . . . Tradition is an organically growing language, indeed a participation through the Spirit in the language of God himself . . . The Church can only claim to speak and know the truth because of her believing, bodily inherence in Christ, the Word incarnate, and because of the Spirit's indwelling of her. We know the Assumption to be true not on the basis of interior speculation but through the communal experience and wisdom of the Body of Christ, the Catholic Church . . . The `source' of the doctrine of the Assumption is ultimately the interpretation within the Church, precipitated by, but not simply a function of, the growing Christological sense of Mary's role, that Our Lady is risen with Christ, reigns with Him in heaven, and intercedes for us, and that her relics are there, not here. As I hope is now clear, that vision of heavenly reality was fired by the doctrines of Christ, salvation and the Church. It is a vision that Catholic Christendom must never lose or compromise and that the Anglican Church must at all costs regain." (30)

G. Kallistos Ware (Orthodox)

"The Assumption of the Mother of God . . . does not set an impassable gulf between her and the rest of humanity. In the same bodily glory which she enjoys even now, we also hope eventually to participate. She is, along with her risen Son, the first fruits of the eschatological harvest, but . . . by God's grace we shall all be what she is now: wholly `spiritual', wholly transfigured in body and in soul . . .

"The mystery of the blessed Virgin's final glorification is not to be regarded as a further truth added to the truths already found in Scripture. Rather, it is the fruit of the assimilation of those Scriptural truths under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; and as such it is accessible only to `those who are within'. (31)

H. John Henry Cardinal Newman
"What dignity can be too great to attribute to her who is as closely bound up, as intimately one, with the Eternal Word, as a mother is with a son? . . . Is it surprising then that on the one hand she should be immaculate in her Conception? or on the other that she should be honoured with an Assumption, and exalted as a queen . . .? Men sometimes wonder that we call her Mother of life, of mercy, of salvation; what are all these titles compared to that one name, Mother of God?" (32)

"Not till the end of the fourth century did the Church declare the divinity of the Holy Ghost . . . Of course it was held by implication, since the Holy Trinity was believed from the first - but I mean the bare absolute proposition `the Holy Ghost is God -' . . . The Assumption of our Lady is more pointedly and in express words held by all Catholics, and has been for a thousand years, than the proposition `The Holy Ghost is God' was held by the Catholic world in St. Basil's time. There has been a gradual evolution of Apostolic doctrine or dogma, as delivered from our Lord to the Church. If the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady were now defined at the Vatican Council [1870], I should say that plainly it, as the Immaculate Conception, is contained in the dogma `Mary the Second Eve' . . . If Mary is like Eve but greater, then, as Eve would not have seen death or corruption, so while Mary underwent death because she was a child of fallen Adam, she did not see corruption because she had more than the prerogatives of Eve." (33)

"Who can conceive, my brethren, that God should so repay the debt, which He condescended to owe to His Mother, for the elements of His human body, as to allow the flesh and blood from which it was taken to moulder in the grave? . . . Or who can conceive that that virginal frame, which never sinned, was to undergo the death of a sinner? Why should she share the curse of Adam, who had no share in his fall? . . . She died, then, as we hold, because even our Lord and Saviour died . . . She died . . . not . . . because of sin, but to submit herself to her condition, to glorify God, to do what her Son did . . .

"She, the Lily of Eden, who had always dwelt out of the sight of man, fittingly did she die in the garden's shade, and amid the sweet flowers in which she had lived. Her departure made no noise in the world . . . They sought for her relics, but they found them not . . . Her tomb could not be pointed out, or if it was found it was open." (34)

I. Archbishop Fulton Sheen
"The dogma of the Immaculate Conception wilted and killed the false optimism of the inevitable and necessary progress of man without God . . . As in the definition of the Immaculate Conception, the Church had to remind the world that perfection is not biologically inevitable, so now in the definition of the Assumption, it has to give hope to the creature of despair. Modern despair is the effect of a disappointed hedonism and centers principally around Sex and Death. To these two ideas, which preoccupy the modern mind, the Assumption is indirectly related . . .

"Death is a shadow which is cast over sex. Sex seeks pleasure, but since it assumes that this life is all, every pleasure is seasoned not only with a diminishing return, but also with the thought that death will end pleasure forever. Eros is Thanatos. Sex is Death.

"From a philosophical point of view, the Doctrine of the Assumption meets the Eros-Thanatos philosophy head on, by lifting humanity from the darkness of Sex and Death to the light of Love and Life. These are the two philosophical pillars on which rests the belief in the Assumption . . .

"If God exerts a gravitational pull on all souls, given the intense love of Our Lord for His Blessed Mother which descended, and the intense love of Mary for Her Lord which ascended, there is created a suspicion that love at this stage would be so great as `to pull the body with it.' Given further an immunity from original sin, there would not be in the Body of Our Lady the dichotomy, tension, and opposition that exists in us between body and soul. If the distant moon moves all the surging tides of earth, then the love of Mary for Jesus and the love of Jesus for Mary should result in such an ecstasy as `to lift her out of this world.'

"Love in its nature is an Ascension in Christ and an Assumption in Mary . . .

"To a world that worships the body, the Church now says: `There are two bodies in heaven, one the glorified human nature of Jesus, the other the assumed human nature of Mary. Love is the secret of the Ascension of one and of the Assumption of the other, for Love craves unity with its Beloved. The Son returns to the Father in the unity of Divine Nature; and Mary returns to Jesus in the unity of human nature . . .

"Life is the second philosophical pillar . . . Life is unitive; death is divisive. Goodness is the food of life, as evil is the food of death. Errant sex impulses are the symbol of the body's division from God as a result of original sin. Death is the last stroke of that division . . .

"The Immaculate Conception guarantees a highly integrated and unified life. The purity of such a life is threefold: a physical purity which is integrity of body; a mental purity without any desire for a division of love, which love of creatures apart from God would imply; and finally, a psychological purity which is immunity from the uprising of concupiscence, the sign and symbol of our weakness and diversity. This triple purity is the essence of the most highly unified creature whom this world has ever seen . . .

"Shall she, as the garden in which grew the lily of divine sinlessness and the red rose of the passion of redemption, be delivered over to the weeds and be forgotten by the Heavenly Gardener? . . .

"Neither would Omnipotence, Who tabernacled Himself within Mary, consent to see His fleshly home subjected to the dissolution of the tomb . . .

"Eat the food of earth, and one dies; eat the Eucharist, and one lives eternally. She, who is the mother of the Eucharist, escapes the decomposition of death . . .

"Mary always seems to be the Advent of what is in store for man. She anticipates Christ for nine months, as she bears Heaven within her; she anticipates His Passion at Cana, and His Church at Pentecost. Now, in the last great Doctrine of the Assumption, she anticipates heavenly glory, and the definition comes at a time when men think of it least." (9:113-118,121)

1. Alan Schreck, Catholic and Christian, Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 1984.

2. Karl Keating, Karl, Catholicism and Fundamentalism, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1988.

3. James Cardinal Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers, New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, revised edition, 1917.

4. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1974.

5. J.D. Douglas, J.D., editor, The New Bible Dictionary, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1962.

6. Allen C. Myers, editor, Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987 (English revision of Bijbelse Encyclopedie, edited by W.H. Gispen, Kampen, Netherlands: J.H. Kok, revised edition, 1975), translated by Raymond C. Togtman & Ralph W. Vunderink.

7. Herbert Lockyer, Sr., editor, Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Nashville: Nelson, 1986.

8. Robert Jamieson, Andrew R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1961 (orig. 1864).

9. Fulton J. Sheen, The World's First Love, Garden City, NY: Doubleday Image, 1956.

10. John Henry Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987 (orig. 1843).

11. John Henry Newman, Meditations and Devotions, Harrison, NY: Roman Catholic Books, n.d. (orig. 1893).

12. Louis Bouyer, The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, translated by A.V. Littledale, London: Harvill Press, 1956.

19. Patrick Madrid, Patrick, "Ark of the New Covenant", This Rock, Dec. 1991, cover, 9-12; quote from p. 12.

20. Max Thurian, Mary: Mother of all Christians, translated by Neville B. Cryer, New York: Herder & Herder, 1963 (orig. 1962), 50.

21. Madrid, ibid., 10-11.

22. Louis Bouyer, The Seat of Wisdom, translated by A.V. Littledale, Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1965 (orig. 1960), 119-120,126,128-129.

23. Alberic Stacpoole, editor, Mary's Place in Christian Dialogue, Wilton, Conn.: Morehouse-Barlow, 1982, 54.

24. Bishop William Ullathorne, The Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God, Westminster, MD: Christian Classics, 1988 (orig. 1855), 6-7.

25. Ibid., 32-33.

27. Stacpoole, ibid., 119.

28. T.L. Frazier, T.L., "Assumptions About Mary", This Rock, May/June 1992, 12-18; quote from p. 17.

29. Ibid., 18.

30. Stacpoole, ibid., 113-116,120,109,121.

31. Ibid., 179.

32. Ibid., 239 / From "Letter to Pusey", Difficulties of Anglicans, vol. 2, 1875, 62-63.

33. Ibid., 240 / Letter of Sep. 10, 1869.

34. Ibid., 240-241 / Sermon for the Assumption, 1849, in Discourses to Mixed Congregations, 1849, 371-373.

39. Thurian, ibid., 146 / St. Epiphanius: Panarion, III,78, P.G. 42,713-714.

40. "Fr. Mateo", "CRI's Attack on Mary", part I, This Rock, Aug. 1992, cover, pp.9-15; quote from pp.14-15 / St. Augustine: Holy Virginity, 4,4. "CRI" is the Christian Research Institute, an evangelical Protestant apologetic and cult-watching organization. Fr. Mateo is responding to their extensive article: "The Mary of Roman Catholicism" (Christian Research Journal,
Summer and Fall, 1990).

41. Thurian, ibid., 37-39.

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