The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Homily for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the BVM
On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII published Munificentissimus Deus. These are the first two words that appear in the proclamation which confirmed as dogmatic teaching of the Church the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, body and soul, into heaven. The English translation of these two words is “a most munificent God.” They remind us that the Assumption of Mary was an act of God. God deigned that the mother of his son should be the second fruit of the resurrection of Jesus. As St. Paul tells us in his First Letter to the Corinthians, Jesus was the first fruits of the resurrection.
The earliest traditions say that Mary's life ended in Jerusalem. Teaching of the Assumption of Mary became widespread across the Christian world, having been celebrated as early as the 5th century and having been established in the East by Emperor Maurice around AD 600. St. John Damascene records the following:
St. Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon (451), made known to the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven.
Jesus was the first and Mary was the second to experience the resurrection of the body. The very fact that we use the terms first and second points to the fact that there will be more who will experience the full effects of the resurrection. While we celebrate Mary’s assumption, our motive to do so is to recall the fact that all of us will one day rise from the grave.
The Gospel text chosen for this solemnity is known as the Visitation of the Blessed Mother Mary in which we recall her song of praise and gratitude, known today as the Magnificat. This text has become so important in the prayer life of the church that it is part of our evening prayer each and every day. By joining ourselves to the Blessed Mother through this song, we are reminded that our lives are also meant to glorify the name of our most munificent God.