Headline: ANTICIPATING OUR ASSUMPTIONPosted on: 2015-08-14
Of faith and reason
Faith and reason are indispensable and distinct realities of human existence. All human beings believe in something. Even an atheist believes in himself. I often say among friends that in matters of faith, there are really three groups of people in the world; those who believe in God, those who do not believe in God and those who themselves are gods. Faith and reason do not cancel out, but rather complement each other. Faith nowadays is under great pressure because of an exaggerated of the power of science and reason. But a sage once said that even the heart always has reasons that reason does not know.
The realm of mystery
The Church puts great value on science and reason, but believes that there will always be an enormous space in reality, beyond man's explanation. That is the realm of mystery. Saint John Paul II, in his 1988 encyclical on faith and reason wrote: "It should nonetheless be kept in mind that Revelation remains charged with mystery. It is true that Jesus, with his entire life, revealed the countenance of the Father, for he came to teach the secret things of God. But our vision of the face of God is always fragmentary and impaired by the limits of our understanding. Faith alone makes it possible to penetrate the mystery in a way that allows us to understand it coherently" (Faith and Reason, 13). In other words, for man to fully comprehend reality, he must find space for both faith and reason. Man will always depend on forces outside of himself to comprehend reality. The position of the psalmist helps this idea. "The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of his hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands on the knowledge to night. No speech, no words, no voice is heard - but the call goes on throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth" (Ps 19: 1-5).
Catholic blind faith
The Catholic Church has all through history demanded that the faithful give assent to definitions of faith even while promoting reflections to explain them. That "faith is evidence of the things we hope for" (Heb. 11:1), makes that a legitimate position to take. At rare times in history, Popes, under inspiration, have made declarations of faith called dogma which Catholics are required to believe. Dogma is a truth of faith, contained in Revelation, proposed in and by the Church, defined by the Pope or by a General Council. It is a formal expression of a teaching already contained in the Faith. For example, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception addresses the prerogative by which the Virgin Mary, because of her special role as mother of the Lord Jesus, was made sinless from the first moment of her existence. That has been the Church's interpretation of the angel's message: "Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you" (Lk.1: 28). How could it be otherwise! The dogma, declared in 1854 by Pope Pius lX, had earlier been verbalized in common church prayer and language as early as the Council of Ephesus of 431 AD. It then developed in practice, scholarship, prayer and inspiration over time. Some people see this kind of faith as blindness. Perhaps the irony is really positive. Submitting our blindness to faith actually brings healing. In curing Bartimaeus, the blind man of Jericho, Jesus said: "Go your way, your faith has made you well", and it happened (Mk 10: 46-52). Curiously, here, blind faith and authentic healing relate well.
The Assumption of Mary
The dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven was defined only in 1950 by Pope Pius Xll after consulting with the Bishops of the world and the people in each diocese. The Church, believes that the mother of Jesus was sanctified to the maximum degree in her body, as the temple of the Holy Spirit and of Jesus himself. There is no explicit mention of such a privilege for Mary in the New Testament but the life of the Church has always been the complement for this exception which the Bible itself admits to (Jn 21: 25). Tradition and sound theological teaching support the definition of Mary's assumption. Sound Christian history and teaching have never contested her identification as the "woman" through whom the promise of redemption would be realized (Gen. 3:15). The New Testament gives good confirmation of this privilege (Lk 1; 1Jn. 3;9). Mary could not be as perfect as God had foretold unless she remained incorruptible (1Cor 15: 54-57). One can easily see why such faith is necessary within the context of the person of Jesus Christ, his life and the promise of his salvation. "What the Catholic Faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ" (CCC 487). Since Catholics hold that Mary is the mother of God, her sinless status cannot but be taken for granted. Her assumption, which excluded her from disintegrating into dust like others, inevitably derives from that fact.
The other side of the assumption
The assumption of Mary speaks volumes about who all Christians one day hope to become. The Church eminently teaches what, according to God's design, the purpose of every life is. It is to love Him, to know Him and to love God and through these means to enjoy eternity with Him. All believers will eventually be transformed in order to be made fitting for the holy presence of God. When we all see God as he really is, we too shall be "full of grace and be overshadowed by His Holy Spirit". Mary, assumed into heaven, is our precursor in that state.
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