Last week, I went to Mass with my boyfriend on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The officiating priest had lucked out, as the parents whose child was being baptized at the Mass had named their child Mary, providing him with ample material for a homily. Happily, he still returned to the matter at hand, telling the story of the Assumption, talking about the reasons it wasn’t in the readings or the Bible and explaining how the act of taking the event on faith could be transformative.
I was puzzled by the emphasis placed on Mary’s assumption, since it seemed an unnecessary filigree to add to the whole Christian story. As far as I can tell, the Assumption of Mary is not a necessary logical consequence of the theology of the Bible. Sure, if I believed that Mary was immaculately conceived, I might wonder whether the normal rules of death and judgment were applicable, but I wouldn’t really view myself as entitled to a ruling on the minutiae.
The whole business reminds me of the behavior of people deeply immersed in Harry Potter fandom (and by people, I obviously mean me). While reading the series, I had plenty of questions about the logistical underpinnings of Harry’s world. My particular interest was the genetic inheritance of wizardry, and plenty of other fans worked out other details, establishing maps and concordances for the books.Even with meticulous research, many details could not be resolved and our answers were necessarily ambiguous. They were irrelevant to the story that J.K. Rowling was telling about Harry. It was fine (and fun!) to speculate, but the overall story didn’t depend on the structures we were inventing.
I can’t really imagine any way that the Assunption of Mary would impact my life more than the story of Christ if I believed. The whole discussion reminds me of the famous example of theologians quibbling over the number of angels that could dance on the head of a pin. The answer may exist, but I really don’t care what it is. Couldn’t the time and study be more productively spent elsewhere?
Perhaps any Catholic readers could help me out.
Do you think there is strong historical evidence for the Assumption of Mary, or do you take it on faith?
Are some theological questions unanswerable? Irrelevant?
Is believing by faith alone a virtue to be cultivated? Why?