Her glorious Assumption: "To look at Mary is to see God's original plan for humanity"

“Henri Nouwen, I think, felt a profound connection to Mary’s simplicity and humanity. In one of his journals, he describes meeting a priest who summed up Mary’s meaning to the world so beautifully. ‘To look at Mary,’ this priest said, ‘is to see God’s original plan for humanity.’ As Nouwen explained, ‘In her, we see the way God wanted us to be…Mary shows us how to receive the marvelous gift of God’s love, and how to respond to God’s redemptive action in our lives.’

Looked at that way, I think the Assumption takes on an even deeper meaning.

If Mary does indeed show us ‘God’s original plan for humanity,’ so does her glorious Assumption. In the Assumption, preserved forever before the face of God, freed from the corruption of the grave, Mary not only fulfills her great destiny – but also offers us a beautiful glimpse of our own. This is what God wants for us. This is what He dreams for us. This is His desire and design for the world.

The Assumption offers us that promise – and that hope.

Our prayer on the eve of this feast is to be worthy of it, to model ourselves on the Mother of God – in all her holiness, in all her humility. It means saying ‘Yes’ to God and working, as Jesus said, ‘to hear the word of God and observe it.’ That means, very simply, to live it. To embrace it. To desire, like Mary, to bring the Word into the world.

It has nothing to do with biology, or DNA.

It is everything to do with trust. With love. With obedience.

And, as I said before, it is all a matter of faith.

As Henri Nouwen once put it so beautifully: ‘A faith in him who became flesh in her, a faith that makes it possible for him to become flesh in us, too.'”

Homily for the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Assumption, 2010

Image: “Assumption of the Virgin” by Francesco Botticini, c. 1475-76

The National Gallery, London

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5 responses to “Her glorious Assumption: "To look at Mary is to see God's original plan for humanity"”

  1. Couple of interesting side facts about this whole scene:

    –Pope Pius XII’s declaration of the Assumption of Mary was the FIRST such dogmatic declaration done “ex cathedra” following the work of the FIRST Ecumenical Council of the Vatican which stated that the reigning Pope was infallible in matters of faith and morals if he did declare something as infallible “ex cathedra.”

    –Prior to his declaration, however, Pius XI sent a very confidential letter to every bishop alive at that time asking if the time was appropriate for such a declaration. One hundred percent of the bishops replied “placet” — or “It pleases me.” This, as some theologians point out, is an example of the theological concept of “sensum fidei” at work — an absolute consensus of the faithful influencing the decision of a reigning pontiff.

    –This event took place in 1950 — chronologically a “Jubilee Year” which is our Roman Catholic upgrade of a similar concept and tradition kept by the pre-Christian Jewish community and codified by Leviticus about a Jubilee Year being recognized in the year following seven cycles of seven years.

    –While the bishops of the Catholic Church readily agreed that the announcement of this dogma was appropriate, it met a great deal of skepticism from the wider secular community. The language it was framed in was so medieval that it was impossible to literally interpret using the insights of modern science. For instance, the word “up” when used by a Catholic in the Midwest pointed into a different section of the cosmos that the same term to an Australian.

    –It also met a great deal of skepticism from the wider non-Catholic Christian communities. They accused Pius of “inventing dogma.”

    Nouwen may have given us a far better insight into all of this simply because he was not locked into the cosmological mindsets — and language — of medieval European Christianity.

  2. “God’s original plan for humanity”? Is he saying that God’s plans go astray? Wasn’t this God’s plan all along, as far as we can tell?

    Anyway, Happy Assumption Day!

  3. Manny…

    I thought Nouwen’s explanation made sense. This is how we were supposed to be, before The Fall: like Mary, receiving and sharing God’s love with purity and fidelity, dwelling in His divine will.

    Dcn. G.

  4. Thanks Deacon. I suspected it was poor phrasing. I think it would have been better phrased as Mary is the return to or embodiment of our prelapsarian nature.

  5. Its in that light – of Mary being a return to the way we were originally created to be – that we find the heart and soul of the “living devotion” to Mary promoted by St. Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed John Paul II and many others: TOTUS TUUS. To make a conscious and total acceptance of the gift of Mary’s motherhood and to put this into practice daily, benefitting from her intercession and allowing the Holy Spirit to form Jesus in us. Thus, everyday becomes an Annuncuiation Day and at the end of our life, an eternal Assumption Day.

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