By Denise Bossert
"Assumption of the Virgin" by Michel Sittow
Mary was assumed into heaven.
It’s one of the more difficult teachings for converts to grasp. But there are ways to approach the Assumption so that non-Catholics may come to believe.
In 1995, I wrote an article for Protestant newspapers called “Trends in Christian Fiction” which considered the possibility that a Christian fiction book might hit the New York Times best-seller list. I traveled to key Protestant publishers — Tyndale, Crossway, Moody, Victor and Bethany House — to interview editors. The publishers handed me galleys, and they all believed their books had that crossover appeal. Only one actually did. “Left Behind” was on the publishing turnpike back then, and it was among the galleys I brought home with me after that Chicago-Minneapolis trip. Tyndale released the book within six months of my visit, and the book (and subsequent series) was a huge success.
Nicholas Cage and Lea Thompson star in a screen adaptation of that book. The movie opens Oct. 3. So the “Left Behind” craze continues.
I have one question.
And it isn’t about whether or not the idea of Rapture is biblical. My question has nothing to do with Christians disappearing when Christ returns. I’m not going to take the time to explain why Catholic teaching on eschatological things is solid and “Left Behind” theology is Hollywood science fiction.
No. I’m pondering something else.
Why is it so easy for people to believe that Jesus Christ will return and “rapture” those who love him, leaving behind the rest of the world, but those same people find it impossible to believe that Jesus Christ came for his mother and assumed her, body and soul, into heaven?
Why is that harder to believe?
When I ponder the glorious assumption of Mary into heaven, I have to smile. It fits. It makes sense. A perfect and loving son would do that if he could. A divine Son did do it because he could.
Jesus Christ looked upon his mother, and love broke through the veil.
Jesus, the perfect Son of God, would not let his mother’s body know corruption. Not this mother who was so carefully created — so immaculately formed.
In May, I traveled to the Holy Land. We visited many places, but one place that stands out in my mind is Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion.
Let me take you there for just a moment. Step with me into the tomb of King David. Let’s pray there, together. Let’s think of David’s descendant, the Christ, who was given an eternal throne.
Now, let me lead you just a few steps from the place where David is buried. There, you will find the doors to Dormition Abbey. According to tradition, Mary fell asleep and was assumed into heaven here.
There is a place in Ephesus that also makes this claim, but many Catholic sources say Mount Zion is more likely. And I agree.
The one who is Daughter Zion and mother of David’s eternal heir should end her earthly life — and be visited by the Lord who lovingly laid claim to his mother — right here.
Come to me, my beloved mother. Come and see the place I have prepared.
With angelic shouts and trumpet blast, she was raised and crowned queen. Earth was silent. But heaven erupted with great jubilation.
Why a silly story?
Why is it so easy to imagine a silly story about Jesus coming to earth and Christians across the world disappearing? Airplanes crashing as pilots disappear into thin air. Cars crashing as drivers disappear. Students leaving behind open books and laptops? Why is that easier to imagine, but Mary’s assumption seems far-fetched?
I stood in the crypt of Dormition Abbey. I thought of King David’s bones which were just a few steps away. And yet, in this crypt, there are no bones. Mary is not here. And nobody has claimed to have Mary’s remains. Why? Because there are no remains.
In fact, the disagreement about a possible site for the Assumption exists because there are no bones to settle the matter. The dueling claim underscores the reality of the Assumption. She is not here — or there!
Yes, Jesus Christ will return again. And he will raise the living and the dead. It won’t follow the plotline of a Hollywood thriller. But there is precedent for our rising to meet the Lord.
Although Mary’s assumption is unique, the one who assumed his own mother will return — for us. The dead in Christ will be raised to new life. But the unfaithful won’t be “Left Behind” — although they probably will wish they had been left. Earth is preferable to eternal separation from God. The Bible tells us we will be divided — the faithful going one way, the unfaithful another.
Leave the “Left Behind” hoopla in Hollywood.
Turn your eyes to the Holy Land, or Ephesus, or even toward heaven, and celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. What Jesus did for Mary — in a unique and special way — gives us hope that one day Christ will return. So let’s model our lives after the Blessed Mother — remaining faithful until the end.
Posted Aug. 7 2014