Mary cooperated, by her faith, hope, love, and obedience, in the Savior’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls.
According to tradition and confirmed by faith, Our Lady did not die like other human beings at the end of her earthly existence. While she was sleeping, angels came to take her to heaven, where her body is now. Her body was glorified, a pledge of the resurrection of the body that Jesus promises to all. According to other traditions, Our Lady died like all human beings, and her assumption into heaven occurred immediately after her death. In either case, the mother of Jesus is there in that mysterious dimension that we cannot understand but that faith tells us is real: Our Lady is in heaven, body and soul, like Jesus.
The Feast of the Assumption, which dates back in Christian tradition from the seventh century, does not refer merely to a pious belief held for centuries but to a dogma of faith. In 1950 the assumption of Mary into heaven was declared a fundamental truth of the Catholic faith that all must believe in order to fully understand the reality of their lives.
St. Teresa of Calcutta, widely known as Mother Teresa, paid particular attention to this feast. In her meditations she often lingered over it to understand its meaning more fully. She especially liked to reflect on the fact that it contained very concrete truths about eternal life for the body as well as the soul. No human being was excluded. For Mother Teresa, this feast highlighted specifically the ideals that she wanted to realize.
Even the innumerable human skeletons that were swarming around the slums of Calcutta would be resurrected one day. Bodies—decomposing, reeking, covered with sores, skeleton-like, ravaged by leprosy and a thousand other diseases—would enter the kingdom of God glorified and splendid and continue to live in the surpassing joy of well-being and happiness. Meditating on all of this, she said to herself, “It is not a fable. It is a reality won by Christ.”
The Catholic Church teaches that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Through his passion and death, Jesus has redeemed human beings—their souls but also their bodies. Mother Teresa was prepared to serve people whose bodies were often considered revolting, people who had nothing and were worth nothing in the eyes of the world. However, for a believer, these people were still children of God. Jesus was hiding himself inside those ravaged bodies.
Mother Teresa’s mission of helping and loving people rejected by society was a proclamation of the royal dignity of the human being that remains true even if a person’s body is diseased, deformed, or decaying. The body is always the temple of the Holy Spirit, she understood, redeemed by Christ and destined for resurrection. On the Feast of the Assumption, we commemorate what we anticipate, which the Blessed Virgin attained immediately following her earthly life.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
“Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.” The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the Resurrection of other Christians.…
By her complete adherence to the Father’s will, to his Son’s redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church’s model of faith and charity. Thus she is a “preeminent and … wholly unique member of the Church”; indeed, she is the ‘exemplary realization’…of the Church.
Her role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still further. “In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls.”
This is adapted from Conversations with Mother Teresa, by Renzo Allegri. For more information about this and other books, please visit wau.org/bookstore.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (#964-968)