The Assumption: Following in the Footsteps of Christ

The name of today’s feast comes from the Latin assumptionem, meaning to be taken up or received. Mary, as the Ark of the New Covenant, having borne the Word of God, the Lawgiver and the Bread of Life in her womb, is taken up to Heaven by God upon her death (Revelation 11:19).

If the patriarchs Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) were taken up body and soul into Heaven simply for their faith, obedience and zeal, what more the Mother of God herself? As God is outside Time, the saving grace of Christ’s sacrifice could be applied backwards in time to Elijah and Enoch, just as God’s grace applied to Mary’s Immaculate Conception.

This feast reminds us of our mission, to be tabernacles of Christ like Mary. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16) and we bear the image of God (Genesis 1:27). What a glorious identity and dignity we possess as sons and daughters of God. Yet, we often fail to live up to our calling. We still suffer the weaknesses of our fallen human nature, and it is easy to forget our eternal end in the midst of the stresses and distractions of life on earth. How then can we cultivate a mindset befitting our true worth and the worth of those around us?

A rich prayer life helps us be mindful of the presence of God at all times. Traditionally, Catholics prayed “mini-prayers” or aspirations throughout the day, calling God to mind. For example: May the Holy Trinity be blessed; O Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in Thee; my God and my all; as the Lord wills! Some Bible verses are particularly suited for this mode of prayer: “O Lord, increase our faith (Luke 17:5); my Lord and my God (John 20:28); stay with us, O Lord (Luke 24:29).”

Another prayer tool to keep walking closely with God is the Divine Office, or the Liturgy of the Hours. Just as the Jews pray the scriptures several times a day, so do Catholics (Psalms 118:164). Monks used to pray all 150 Psalms in one week. Since Vatican II, the Liturgy of the Hours was reorganised so that the laity can join in this universal prayer of the Church as well, with the psalms distributed across four weeks. Making a habit of stopping throughout the day to pray helps you re-centre yourself in God and reminds you to offer every thought, word and deed to Him for sanctification.

Assumption of the Virgin – Painting by Domenico Capriolo (1520). Photograph: Didier Descouens

About half a century ago, Catholic schools in Singapore used to pause at noon to pray the Angelus, a short prayer with three Hail Marys in honour of the Incarnation. Although this has fallen out of practice, you can always revive the tradition with a group of friends, stopping by the school chapel to honour God’s great love. By remaining close to God, one day we shall be with Him in paradise, just like Jesus and Mary.

“Jesus rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. Then Mary, who received the Word of God and observed it, followed Him: she was assumed body and soul into heaven. Now, that’s God’s hope and plan for each of us: to receive Jesus into our souls, like Mary; to be obedient to Him, like Mary; and to be taken, one day, body and soul into heaven, like Mary.”

~ Archbishop Robert Carlson