If there is one question that captures our imagination more than most it is: "What happens to us after we die?" Paul tells us: "Christ has been raised from the dead and we too will be made alive in Christ." So the short answer according to the Christian tradition is that after we die we are raised to a new life.
Actually Paul goes so far as to predict that our bodies will be restored to us transformed and imperishable. Needless to say, that leaves the door open for all sorts of essentially useless speculation. So what is the point of this celebration of the Assumption of Mary? What does it mean?
Well, for starters, it means that for twenty centuries our fathers and mothers in the Christian faith have believed that Mary, shortly after her death and entombment was taken up or assumed into Godís heavenly kingdom where The Holy Family was once more united and this time for all eternity. The point of this celebration is that it is part of our story ...our sacred story to be told and re-told from generation to generation.
For 200 years after apostolic times Jerusalem had become a pagan city. It was the Christian Emperor Constantine who restored it to its status of a holy city and encouraged the restoration of sacred Christian sites. One of these was the tomb of Mary that was close to what was known as the place of "dormition." In other words, the place where Mary had died.
By the 7th Century this feast of the Dormition or the Falling Asleep of the Mother of God, was carried beyond the Jerusalem Church to the rest of the Churches. Later, since there had always been more to the story than her dying, it became the feast of her assumption. This belief went back to the Apostles in whose presence she had died.
What was clear from the beginning was that there were no relics of Mary to be venerated, only an empty tomb. In 1950 Pope Pius X11 affirmed this ancient tradition to be part of our Faith. "The immaculate Mother of God, the ever virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven."
And so it is that today Catholic communities all over the world pray: All-powerful and living God, you raised the sinless Virgin Mary, Mother of your Son, body and soul to the glory of heaven. May we see heaven as our final goal and come to share her glory. AMEN.