Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Assumption: A second death is superfluous

How much of a mother dies when she sees her own son executed? Enough that a second death is superfluous. This is one narrative aspect of the feast celebrated by the whole Church since at least the fourth century every August 15th and called variously the Assumption or the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The tradition maintains that Mary did not die as the rest of us do. Her son loved her so much that he took her directly into union with Him, granting her instantly the bodily resurrection for which the rest of us must wait until the end of time.
The Church of England never rejected the Feast of the Assumption, but retained it officially as the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And indeed, Mary's importance in the narrative of Christian salvation should not be underestimated. It was she who was chosen to bear the Son of God and raise Him in the faith, and more fundamentally it was by her 'fiat' - her saying 'yes, let it be' to God at the Annunciation - that He could even be born in this world.
Various Protestants have denigrated Mary because of their doctrinal resistance to the idea that human will might play any part in our salvation. In the most extreme case, this led Calvin to deny that we have any free will at all, and so to the perverse doctrine that God has predestined every one of us either for heaven or for hell even before we are born, and there is nothing we can do about it. But the Bible tells a different story. God does not impregnate Mary against her will - there is a word for that, which is not fitting of God - and we are not merely His puppets. It took her human cooperation for the Saviour to be brought into the world.
At the Assumption, we give thanks for the one who willingly took the burden of bringing God into the world and who watched and wept as He, her son, died before her eyes; and we acknowledge her as the one whom God loved as only a son can love his mother, and so brought her soonest of all the saints to his side. 

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