Assumption

 

Parish Priest: Fr Martin Kelly

Email: martin.kelly@dioceseofleeds.org.uk

St Mary's RC Church,
Gibbet Street,
Halifax,
West Yorkshire,
HX1 5DH

Tel: 01422 352141

St Alban's RC Church,
Huddersfield Road,
Halifax,
West Yorkshire,
HX3 0AZ

Tel: 01422 352141

The Assumption of Our Blessed Lady into Heaven

 

It was in the Holy Year of 1950 that the Holy Father, Pope Pius XII solemnly defined the dogma of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady, body and soul into heaven, to be a truth which all Catholics must believe.  Over our High Altar in St Mary’s Church, however, is a reminder that this was not some new doctrine which had been thought up in the middle of the twentieth century.  I am speaking about the stained glass window which was placed at the East end of St Mary’s when it was rebuilt in the 1860s.  The central panel of the window depicts Our Blessed Lady rising to heaven in the company of the angels, whilst below she leaves behind an open tomb, empty save for a mass of roses.  In fact the definition of the dogma in 1950 was a formal recognition of a universally, and long-held, belief concerning Our Lady’s final destiny.

 

Why was it that the Pope chose to give this belief formal recognition at that particular moment in the life of the Church?  There may be many reasons, but one seems to me to be particularly providential.  The world had just emerged from the nightmare of the Second World War in 1950.  Many people, considering what depths of human depravity had been revealed at the end of that conflict, could easily have formed the opinion that human beings were in fact animals, or rather less than animals.  The death camps of Europe showed a capacity for evil in human beings that has no parallel in nature.  At the same time the world was in the middle of a new and dangerous phase in its history, when the so-called “Cold War” was dividing the people of the earth into Communist and Capitalist.  Both these systems, in very different ways, tend towards a very earth-bound view of humanity.  The aspirations of the human race are effectively limited to economic prosperity.  We live, even today, with the legacy of the beliefs forged during these traumatic times.

 

In contrast the Holy Father holds up before the human race the vision of the Mother of God, Assumed into Heaven.  She is the proclamation of an unconquered belief that whatever evil sin has wrought in us, we are not essentially monsters.  God made us, not for evil but for good, not for death but for life.  In one human being, at least, if in no other, God’s vision has been realised.  The Virgin Mary, conceived without sin and living without sin, is the model of what humanity can be.  We have all seen the evil that men can do; in her we see in its perfection the good that men are capable of.

 

To the world which seeks its answers in terms of material success, or the struggle for complete dominance in the here and now, Our Lady’s Assumption proclaims an altogether loftier ambition.  The human race is created by God, not to be richer, or stronger, or more powerful, but to be perfect.  In fact, the human race is not created simply for this earth but for heaven.  Heaven was the Garden of Eden from which our sinfulness banished us.  Heaven is the home to which God calls us.  Where one human being, Our Blessed Lady, has already gone, all human beings can one day go.  Indeed it is in heaven, body and soul reunited after the resurrection from the dead, that we will really and truly be human for the first time, as God our Creator intended us to be.