August 12, 2020 (Edward J. Barr) – The feast of the Assumption is a time to ponder Mary’s unique role in salvation history. The significance of her fiat is a theological joy that has intrigued and excited Catholics for millennia. All that Mary does, teaches, and exemplifies is based upon the salvific mission of her son and our lord and savior, Jesus. Tradition teaches us that Mary was assumed into heaven; yet could she have a role in the Ascension? My theological opinion is yes. I believe that faith and reason give us a glimpse of a remarkable connection between Mary’s Assumption and Jesus’ Ascension. Let me explain.
Ancient and modern opponents of Christianity have attempted to create an illogical wedge between faith and reason. Even within Christianity, opponents of Christ’s Church use the unbelievers’ tactics to attack truths such as Mary’s perpetual virginity and Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist. However, faith and reason are never opposed. They cannot be, for all truth come from God. This truth united man to God in the incarnation, a glory expressed by Jesus when he proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
Mary’s role in the Ascension begins with her fiat. Her acceptance to do the will of God and the significance of her mission is evidence at the Annunciation. The special nature of her mission is exemplified in the angel Gabriel’s use of the term “rejoice.” Rather than being a simple welcome, the particular Greek word “chaire” is more properly translated as an instruction for the people of Israel to rejoice. This welcome is followed by verses that focus on Mary yet also point towards Jesus being the Davidic Messiah. That is her mission, to direct all to her son.
The incarnation began Mary’s unique connection to Jesus. Her initial connection is the saving power of Christ that granted her the grace to be free of original sin; Jesus is the reason Mary stated in the Magnificat that “from now on will all ages call me blessed.” That is the beginning of her spiritual connection to Christ. It is the physical connection that began at the Incarnation that leads to her role in the Ascension. For this truth we turn to reason. It is based on scientific research that explains the near mystical psychological and physical bonds between mother and child. The God-man was totally reliant on Mary, who supplied him warmth and nourishment as he grew in her womb.
The psychological connection between mother and child is understandable; it is evident in all but the most dysfunctional relationships. But what about the physical connection? Scientific American and other professional journals have reported on “micro chimerism,” the persistent existence of genetically foreign cells in an organism. The physical exchange of mother and child occurs at the cellular level, definitely through the placenta and potentially from mother to child through nursing. This transfer cements the bond that began at conception; here at the incarnation. The cells of the child stay with the mother forever, and the cells of the mother stay with the child forever.
Jesus’ ascension opened the gates of heaven for all humanity. While he carried all humanity with him, his mother was there in a gloriously beautiful way. Distinct cells from the Virgin Mary accompanied him into heaven. Is it any wonder she is called the “fairest of our race!” Is it any wonder that someone so graced that “all generations” will call her blessed was assumed into heaven? Mary was already “partly” there, with her son who will one day make all things new. At the Assumption, Mary is again united to Jesus with whom she shared an unrivaled physical and spiritual connection. It is fitting that she, like all of us, is only made complete by being reunited with her son. Her glorified body, resplendent in heaven at the Assumption, is a foreshadowing and hope of all disciples of Christ. So, rejoice in the glory of the Assumption! Let us give glory and honor in praise of God’s faithfulness to Mary, as the Assumption completes her “part” in the Ascension!
Edward J Barr is a Catechist, an attorney, an intelligence officer, a Marine, and a university faculty member. He has just completed his studies for a Master’s degree in theology from the Augustine Institute. Mr. Barr is a contributing writer for the Roma Locuta Est blog (www.RomaLocutaEst.com)