This year, the Solemnity of the Assumption marks nine years of marriage for my husband and me. When we got engaged, I knew that he had a deep love for Mary, so it didn’t surprise me when he suggested choosing the Assumption as our wedding day. “You know that you will have to do the readings and prayers for the Assumption and won’t be able to choose your own?” my priest asked us. Yes, we knew. In fact, that was exactly the way that we wanted it.
As the years have gone on, I have loved having a wedding anniversary on a holy day of obligation — we always have to go to Mass together and we always get to hear the same Mass readings that we heard on our wedding day. But even more than that, I love having a wedding anniversary on the Assumption because it reminds me of the end goal of our marriage. Mary’s destiny is our destiny, too.
The Theology Behind the Solemnity
The Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary recalls when Mary was taken, body and soul, to heaven. (Unlike the Ascension, Mary could not do this of her own volition, but rather was taken up to heaven by God.) There are two traditions regarding the end of Mary’s life. The Eastern Church tends to believe that Mary “fell asleep” and was then assumed, whereas the Western Church tends to believe that Mary died and then was brought back to life and taken body and soul to heaven. Both traditions, though, hold that Mary was assumed into heaven. Why does this matter?
It was fitting that Mary, as the Theotokos (literally translated “God-bearer,” the Mother of God) should not be left to bodily decay. It makes sense that Jesus would desire to glorify his mother’s earthly body as soon as possible, permitting her to share in his eternal joy. Mary was the very first tabernacle, the first to contain the Body of Christ. Her body was holy, having been set aside to bear the Word Incarnate.
Yet, the Assumption has an even more important meaning for us. Mary’s Assumption is our hope. After Jesus, she is the first to have her body glorified. This glorification of the body is something promised to all the faithful, at the end of time. Mary is the first to experience it, and her glorification helps us to look forward with hope to our own.
Glorification After the Cross
Something that I have spent a lot of time praying with is the fact that Jesus’s wounds weren’t healed after the resurrection. They were glorified. The resurrection does not erase the suffering that Jesus endured. Rather, it turned that weakness into strength. The suffering of Christ was his glory. It was not a failure. It was a victory.
Mary’s wounds were not physical, but the Seven Sorrows of Mary are well known to the faithful. Mary’s own suffering was not forgotten, in light of her Assumption. What does this mean for us?
Suffering in this life is unavoidable. Regardless of your vocation, you will endure suffering of some kind. Of course, there is suffering that is a direct result of our own sinfulness, but often the suffering we endure is due to no fault of our own. Sometimes our suffering is even a direct result of doing the right thing. This was the case for Jesus and Mary. This was the case for all the saints — both canonized and uncanonized. If we are daily “taking up our cross,” then it will be true for us, too.
But Mary’s Assumption reminds us that this kind of suffering is different. Suffering, when united to the cross of Christ, leads to glorification. Suffering, when offered to Christ, because strength.
Mary’s Vocation and Ours
This is why I love having a wedding anniversary on the Solemnity of the Assumption. Regardless of what your vocation is — consecrated celibacy, priesthood, religious life, marriage, etc.- you will suffer for the sake of Christ. In our own marriage, we have known suffering. We’ve experience difficult pregnancies, subfertility, and miscarriage, among other things – and those are common sufferings for married couples to face. We are not alone.
It is easy to feel discouraged when facing the suffering that comes along with faithfully living out your vocation. (Sometimes, the little daily sufferings are the hardest!) But then, we can look to Mary.
Mary’s story, rife with suffering that we can’t comprehend, ended with the glorification of her wounds. The suffering that she endured was, in the end, her strength.
This is the hope that Mary’s Assumption brings to us, in living out our own vocations. Suffering is inevitable, but Mary reminds us that that suffering is not without meaning. Christ calls us to take up our crosses, but he only does so in order that we learn to love as he does. In the end, like Mary, he will turn our sorrow to joy.