Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Assumption Ramblings

Someone asked this question in the comments box.

Question: I was wondering if you could answer something that has troubled me for a while, regarding the Assumption and the Ascension. In the 'old days' when the world was thought of a three tiered, ie. heaven above, hell below, the images of ascension and assumption, where bodies are physically lifted up to heaven, make sense, as they are geographically heading towards heaven. Our understanding of heaven emphasises the living in joy with God rather than it's physical location. In fact we would say heaven is not physically a place above earth. In light of this could I ask, where did the bodies go?

It is a mystery, which is the obvious answer, but our faith calls us to penetrate mysteries.

I am not sure that we actually ever believed hell was below our feet, or heaven above our heads. For the Jews, God was always totally other, beyond our understanding, beyond time and space, this was why the first commandment prohibits the making of images and why, even, the name of God was utter only once a year by only one of the priests and only in the secrecy of the Holy of Holies. For the Jews God is totally other, even beyond human senses, hence the idea of Incarnation, Suffering, Death and Resurrection are a “stumbling block” to the Jews. In the same way to the Greeks the idea of God was totally other, for Platonists, at best he was the Form of Forms, totally other therefore Christ is “Folly”.

The uniqueness of Christianity is its understanding of God’s involvement in the world and the possibility of man’s involvement in God, the Church for the last 2,000 years has battled to maintain the physicality of Gods presence, in the Incarnation, the Person of Christ, as God-Man, without co-mixture; within the Eucharist, within the Church and with the concept of the Resurrection. The Blessed Virgin Mary above all has been the means of affirming that physicality, first of all in the proclamation of her being the Theotokos, (the Mother of God), the last the declaration of the Assumption of Mary Body and Soul. Practically all serious heresies want to deny the physicality that we find expressed in the Prologue of John’s Gospel, it has always been my problem with Protestantism and the Reformation.

The question to ponder is perhaps: what do we mean by Resurrection of the Body, the risen body of Christ is obviously different from his unrisen body, we also use the term body for the Holy Eucharist and for the Church too, we believe he entered heaven in his body, and sits at the right hand of the Father in his body and will come in his body to judge the living and the dead, and at his voice we will rise in our flesh (our bodies). The Assumption is the last of the doctrines that press home the resurrection of the body, yet it also reminds us that even the saints haven’t yet received their risen bodies ( we have their relics) though they have obviously entered heaven, in some way but they too await the Resurrection.


Anonymous said...

What is the Church's teaching on Moses and Elijah? Weren't they also assumed into heaven? Moses' tomb was never found, and Elijah went up in a chariot of fire. They were both present at the Transfiguration. And yet doesn't the Church teach that Mary's Assumption was unique? Or does that mean unique in the sense of her sinlessness?

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

More Assumption Ramblings ..

I have been fascinated by the bodily Assumption of Our Lady since I was a schoolboy. Long suffering teachers would be pestered with questions such as :
How was Our Lady assumed ?
Where was she taken ?
Where is she now ?
Their patient answers merely begged further questions :
Where is heaven ?
How did Christ ascend there ?
Where is He now ?
I must have been a precocious child.

As a middle-aged man, I smile at these memories.
But I love the great feast day.

In the West, we have , especially through sacred art, the imagery of the Assumption.
In the East, they have the imagery of the Dormition.

But the two traditions are an expression of the same truth :
The Mother of God did not suffer the corruption of the grave.

A mystery.
But it's true.
It really happened.
We can see why.
But we can't understand how.
And the Church, East and West, has celebrated this great mystery down all these centuries.

Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiae,
Vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra,
Salve !

John said...

Following on what "Anonymous" has just written, there is also that other person who simply went from Earth, i.e. Enoch, who simply was not seen on earth any more(Genesis 5:24)
I have heard it said that Enoch and Elijah are the two witnesses who will come back to earth as in Revelation 11: 3-12
I suppose that one day we will know.


John said...

I should have added that Moses is recorded as having died because Deuteronomy 34:6 gives "And he buried him in the valley of the land of Moab over against Phogor: and no man hath known of his sepulchre untill this present day"
Whereas both Enoch and Elijah are not recorded as having died. Hence, these are the two "candlesticks" who will return to earth in Revelations.


Philip Devon said...

We just haven't the faintest idea, have we? It is as impossible for us to understand in an intellectual sense the working of God as it would be for an earth worm to understand, not just the gardener but the garden designer behind the garden. We dont know where Heaven is and we dont know where the bodies are and we never will. And that's quite OK because what we do actually know is enough.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Yes Philip ...and to filled with wonder and amazement at what we do know and comprehend.

Anonymous said...

Gretel Kung

The dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption can only be properly understood as theological statements pointing to Christ as the son of God. They are pavilions to an understanding of the Incarnation. Taken literally they are nonsense.

P. Berry said...

What do you mean by,"Taken literally they are nonsense."?
Do you mean we should take them figuratively or typologically?

Gretel Kung said...


Gretel Kung said...

I am not remotely annoyed by the insolent inclusion of my name among Anonymous's list of strong women. My friends Joan, Margaret and Lavinia are used to it. We have no fear of men and their pathetic dependence on a patriarchal society. The rest who continue to appease it can stew in their own juice. But I am sorry that Gladys Heenan, Hermione Hollis, Marcella Lefebvre, Tara Murphy-O'Connor and Catwoman were excluded. As for Anon, I shall be motoring to Valle Adurni soon to exercise my alsatians and shall let them off the leash if I spot her. That great Catholic, Radclyffe Hall, was one of my godmothers.