Mary and the resurrection of the body

In [Mary’s] glorified body, together with the Risen Christ,
part of creation has reached the fullness of its beauty.
Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, 241

 Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Assumption of Mary into heaven; the Orthodox Church calls this feast the Dormition of the Virgin.

Fresco, Santa Maria Maggiore, Roma

Fresco, Santa Maria Maggiore, Roma

We celebrate the power of Christ’s resurrection and the hope, expressed in the Apostles’ Creed, for “the resurrection of the body” in this feast where Mary shares the heavenly presence of God in both her body and her soul.

It is a feast to celebrate God’s work in bringing creation to fulfillment.

As opposed to a body-denying spirituality, we affirm that God will raise up our mortal bodies and Mary is the first to experience this.

It is therefore a fitting feast for a world that often misuses creation for immediate ends, for a world that often makes the body merely an object of pleasure and thus demeans the body of women, for a world that looks down on and despises the poor.

Mary is a sign of God’s love for the earth, for women, and for the poor.

In his latest encyclical Pope Francis makes this plain:

Mary, the Mother who cared for Jesus, now cares with maternal affection and pain for this wounded world. Just as her pierced heart mourned the death of Jesus, so now she grieves for the sufferings of the crucified poor and for the creatures of this world laid waste by human power.

Pope Francis is not the first to note this. In New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton wrote:

That God should assume Mary into heaven … is the expression of the divine love for humanity, and a very special manifestation of God’s respect for His creatures, His desire to do honor to the beings He has made to His own image, and most particularly His respect for the body which was destined to be the temple of His glory….If human nature is glorified in her, it is because God desired to it to be glorified in us too, and it is for this reason that His Son, taking flesh, came into the world.

God wishes to be glorified in creation and in the human body and, I would add, especially in the body of woman. As theologians Ivonne Gebara and Maria Clara Bingemer have noted:

Mary’s Assumption restores and reintegrates women’s bodiliness into the very mystery of God.

So today we honor Mary as we praise a God who is not afraid of the body, who is not afraid of creation, but was made flesh in the womb of a poor woman and lived among us, enjoying the creation.

So today we honor Mary but we also praise a God who is not afraid of the body, who is not afraid of creation, but was made flesh in the womb of a poor woman and lived among us, enjoying the creation.

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