The Assumption Lifts Our Gaze to Christ

I once heard a homily in which a priest conjectured that heaven would be something like working on a computer all day. (This homily was given in pre-Internet days, I might add.) At the time, I couldn’t understand what he was getting at. Heaven like a computer? Heaven was meant as a place to do thinking, and asking questions? It sounded terribly dull.

While perhaps needing to be fleshed out, there is some truth to the analogy, and we see this truth in the life of Mary, whose Assumption we celebrate every August.

The doctrine of the Assumption states that Mary was assumed, body and soul, into heaven. The end of her time on Earth is unique, in that she is the first one (other than Christ) to possess a glorified body. Yet, her fate is not unique. We have the hope that one day, our bodies will be resurrected and glorified, too.

If the life we are destined for is the same as that of Mary, then there is value in contemplating the way in which she lived her life. In order to be prepared for life in heaven, we need to live life on Earth in the way that she did.

Mary’s words in the Gospels are few, but they are coupled beautifully with her actions. In more than one place, we are told that Mary, “treasured these things in her heart.” This phrase indicates a contemplation, a pondering of what has occurred. However, the word “treasured” is significant, too. For Mary to “treasure these things” signifies more than a mere thinking about them, but rather a love. For Mary, contemplation is the work of love.

How does contemplation (even contemplation in love) relate to the Assumption? Simply put, contemplation is what joins together our actions and the work that we do, with our minds and hearts. Contemplation enables us to respond in love, and to unite all that we do to Christ’s love on the cross.

It is no great feat to perform the actions of any given day. It is a step to sainthood to perform these actions in love. However, it isn’t possible to perform those actions in love without prayer and contemplation. It is through prayer and contemplation that we come to know the heart of God, and the plan that He has for our lives.

Here is where computers come in. It has now been about twenty years since I heard the aforementioned homily, and computers and technology have improved exponentially in that time. The idea of asking questions and doing research on a computer for eternity doesn’t seem so boring anymore. We all know the pull of computers, smart phones, tablets, etc. We know what it’s like to spend hours reading articles, Facebook posts, and comment threads. We know the draw of Wikipedia and the like, and the incredible amount of information we can acquire from these sources. We also know how addictive acquiring that information can be.

I’ve heard many people wax and wane on the dangers of too much screen time. I’ve heard many people exhort us to spend less time in front of screens. What I have yet to hear is an acknowledgement that our desire to spend time in front of screens is actually a grasping at something that is very good. Granted, it is grasping at an inferior good, but it is (when used properly and chastely) a grasping at the good to want to acquire information and to learn about new ideas via the internet.

Likewise, our society’s modern desire to be busy is also a grasping at the good. Work is a very good thing. Wanting to be productive is also a good thing. However, our desire for productivity must fit into the overall scheme of our lives. Work, like time on a computer, has its proper place.

This is where a poor woman from the first century has much to teach us. Mary was a woman who knew hard work (living in a time with far fewer conveniences than our own), but she was also a person who knew the place of rest and prayer. Mary knew the significance of doing God’s will, but she also knew the importance of contemplation.

But Mary is more than a mere example for us. She is an icon of the Church. The Church is meant to work, to seek knowledge and understanding, but only within the context of love. Time scrolling through screens and working endless hours can be good – but it is only a grasping at the ultimate good. Mary intuits that, and reminds us to do the same. She shows us the value of longing for knowledge and understanding, but she shows us that that desire can only find true satisfaction in God.

By Mary’s Assumption into heaven, we see that there is something wonderfully good and worth saving about our humanness. Our humanity matters – soul and body. Our physicality, and what we do with our bodies (especially our brains!) matters. When we give ourselves over to regular prayer and contemplation we see, as Mary did, the true purpose of the union of our body and soul. We see the wisdom and understanding we are truly longing for, and we see how our desires find their ultimate fulfillment in Christ.

By

Michele Chronister is a wife, and mother to two little girls. She is received her BA and MA in theology from the University of Notre Dame (’09 and ’11). She is the author of Handbook for Adaptive Catechesis, the co-author of Faith Beginnings – Family Nurturing from Birth Through Preschool, and editor of the book Rosaries Aren't Just for Teething. She has contributed articles to Catholic Digest, Catechetical Leader, and is a regular columnist for Ignitum Today. She is also the co-chair of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability’s Council on Intellectual and Development Disabilities. When her oldest was a baby, she realized that their family life had taken on a sort of monastic rhythm – eat, pray, play, sleep. Prompted by this, she started the blog My Domestic Monastery (www.mydomesticmonastery.com), where she shares inspiration for families wanting to grow in holiness.

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  • Sherada Marie Collins

    Beautifully stated.

  • Maria 3

    Good article except for the interjection of the words of ‘ poor woman ‘ – unsure if Mary’s words about the ‘lowliness of the handmaid ‘ have made many think that she was also very poor in material wealth ; not so , Bl.Emmerich tells us ; her parents Ann and Joachim were at least middle class by our standards and other than at the time when the Holy Family too under went hardships , in their sojourn in Egypt , in oneness with many a displaced and for steps in liberation from the ‘slavery of Egypt ‘ from greed , that was also prevailing in many hearts and continue to do so , unsure if they ever had the abject poverty that we think of ; that is good and right too , that The Father who is Provider , thus shows His care in their life too ; choice of Bethlehem and the cave was
    for reasons beyond just showing oneness with the poor as well ;
    thus, the lowliness that our Mother mentions is likely from her recognition of the lowliness of the human person, in contrast to who God IS and also may be in compassion for the ‘lowliness ‘ of Israel as well , which each of us too thus become part of , in our spiritual situations .
    Purity in body , mind and soul , wealth beyond what eyes have seen , ears have heard – may the prayers, presence , blessings and protection with love incomparable , of our Mother, be with us all, keeping us all , in hope and praise !

  • Jeremy

    I recently read that knowledge is an endless good as opposed to other goods like food, which can become disordered if not moderated. I think The analogy is accurate of a kind which people don’t often consider; especially considering that most people haven’t recognized thier taste for knowledge, but believe it to be a taste for entertainment by way of media.

  • noelfitz

    Brilliant article and image. Thanks and congratulations to Michele Chronister and CE.
    Looking at the image, which I think is the Front of Avia, I am reminded of what the priest said in his homily at mass today, when he mentioned the ten secrets of Pope Francis for happiness. One of them is the appreciation of beauty and art.

  • Michael J. Lichens

    I love the Front of Avia and have used it in an article before, but this one is Jan Wielki’s Assumption from the Warta Cathedral. And, yes, I agree with you and your priest that art and the appreciation of beauty do help for a happier life. I know it often lifts my moods so I try to share that when selecting images for articles.

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