Why a dogma of the Assumption?
The Church’s Marian dogmas are always a comment on Christ and/or the nature of the Church. There are lots of facts about Mary that are true, but have not been made dogmas of the Church. So, for instance, Mary almost without doubt had dark hair. If the Church dogmatically declared, pronounced and defined that Mary had dark hair, it would be promulgating a truth that is quite factual–but unimportant. It doesnt *mean* anything to us that Mary had dark hair. So the Church doesn’t direct our attention to it.
However, it *does* mean something to us that Mary was assumed into Heaven. In fact, it means something so critical that the Church directs our attention to it.
Why only in 1950, when the Church had believed in and honored the Assumption or Dormition of Mary for at least 15 centuries before that? For the same reason the Church always defines doctrines: because they are coming under specific attack. So, just as the Church defined the Trinity in response to Arian attacks on a belief that was common, but undefined, so the Church defined the Assumption in response to the century that was witnessing the biggest assault in human history on the dignity and destiny of the human person. Mary is the image of *our* destiny as believers and the beacon who shows what Christ desires for every child born of woman. In a century that has screamed from every speaker and screen that our destiny is Auschwitz, or the Gulag, or to be a cog in a consumerist system of Work Buy Consume Die, or that we are unusually clever pieces of meat bound for oblivion, or the thousand other lies in east and west that assault the dignity and destiny of the human person, Mary is held up as the true picture of what Christ intends for his people.
So we celebrate the Assumption–Mary’s Easter–because she is the image and icon of what God intends to make of all of us who believe in Christ. Jesus can do many things but there is one thing he can’t do: he can’t show us what a good disciple of Jesus looks like. Mary does that. And so, through her, our Lord shows what we are to look like as good disciples and what we shall receive as good disciples.
And that’s what the Feast of the Assumption is all about, Charlie Brown.