“The perfection of all virtues and gifts of God is beatitude. In other words, the more perfect virtue and use of the gifts of God are, the more perfect is one’s happiness. And there is no greater happiness than to see God. That is why it is called the beatific vision and is the final grace that God gives those who are pure of heart: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matt 5:8).
The Solemnity of the Assumption is both a declaration of victory and an invitation to hope! It is a declaration of victory because the Mother of Our Lord was the first to receive the full reward of the saints: salvation and the gift of her glorified body. What the souls of the just will receive at the final judgment, the Mother of the Savior has already received. Why?
As Pope Pius XII pointed out in his Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, in which he proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, Mary’s Assumption into heaven was the most fitting gift to Mary that corresponded to her unique privileges, most especially her Immaculate Conception by which Mary was created with the fullness of grace. Having never succumbed to temptation and sin, Mary lived what truly was a perfect life.
How did she do it? Mary being full of grace does not mean that Mary possessed some superhuman nature. She shared the same humanity we possess. Her physical senses were no different than ours. We read of her Divine Son:
For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 4:15-16)
Since Mary is the perfect disciple of the Redeemer as much as she is His Immaculate Mother, we can say that Mary, as the Mother and model of the Church, “in every respect” was “tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hence, she is no ethereal model. Mary, like her Divine Son, went to battle against the same temptations that every Christian born of her must engage.
Purity of Heart
How did Mary triumph over these temptations? “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” The Church both in its teaching and through the lives of its saints, especially Our Blessed Mother, has affirmed that for one who sees the face of God, it is impossible to sin, for we behold our greatest Good. And while we cannot behold the face of God in the fullness of its glory, Jesus in this Beatitude tells us that we can begin to experience this beholding of God’s face even now through grace. And the specific way we do it is by having a pure heart.
It is no wonder then that the Feast of the Assumption is tied directly to the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the feast that celebrates Mary’s perfect purity: She is the Immaculate one – or as St. Maximiliam Kolbe called her, the Immaculata.
The Feast of the Assumption celebrates, therefore, the great triumph of Mary over sin through her purity of heart! Victory is also ours and so is the glory that God wishes to give such souls who persevere in living a pure life. Hence, this Feast is an invitation to hope! It can be done by asking for and fostering the grace of purity in our hearts. Otherwise, Jesus would not have made this one of the Beatitudes, which represent the heart of the Good News.
So, wherever we are in our walk with Christ, let us never forget that what will always keep us on the path to seeing the full glory of God, is purity of heart. And this is impossible without purity of the senses. To that end, let us guard what we allow into our souls by guarding our senses and seeing to it that, if we have fallen off the narrow path of purity, we run to the wellsprings of Divine Mercy that await us in the Sacrament of Confession. How much clearer can we see God after this incredibly awesome sacrament! How much it helps us with clarity in all aspects of our life!
As we reflect on this great mystery of Mary’s Assumption, let us joyfully thank God for the gifts He has given our Mother and for her triumph. She is “one of our own.” And as our Mother who has walked the walk, she now wishes to lavishly pour the same graces of purity upon us. May we beg for them every day because, like Mary, we want to be at the peak of the mountain where we see the full light of the sun while the storms rage beneath us. And when dark times come upon us and the light of the sun seems obscured, let us remember the encouraging and hopeful words of Venerable Fulton Sheen:
“God, Who made the sun, also made the moon. The moon does not take away from the brilliance of the sun. The moon would be only a burnt-out cinder floating in the immensity of space were it not for the sun. All its light is reflected from the sun. The Blessed Mother reflects her Divine Son; without Him, she is nothing. With Him, she is the Mother of Men. On dark nights we are grateful for the moon; when we see it shining, we know there must be a sun. So in this dark night of the world when men turn their backs on Him Who is the Light of the World, we look to Mary to guide their feet while we await the sunrise.” -Fulton J. Sheen, The World’s First Love, Chapter 5
Dr. Peter Howard presently lives in Aspen, Colorado, with his wife, Chantal, and four children. Dr. Howard is a professor of Theology at the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation. In 2015, Peter and his wife, Chantal, founded HeroicFamilies.com. He is also a Catholic videographer (MEDIAtrix.tv), author and national Catholic speaker who has spoken at the 2012 Midwest Catholic Family Conference in Wichita, Kansas; the United States Air Force Academy; parish retreats and on Catholic radio programs. He also taught me my “Saints: from Anthony to Bernard of Clairvaux” class at the Avila Institute.