Monday, August 15, 2005

Heaven Couldn't Wait

At the end of time, at the general resurrection, those who have been faithful to God will rise to heavenly and eternal glory, in both body and soul. But there’s someone who has been more faithful to God than anyone else, but she won’t rise at the end of time for the reunification and glorification of soul and body in heaven. Why not? Because she’s already there. The Mother of God is the first-fruit of the resurrection of mankind, the fulfillment of the promise of Christ to raise to glory all his disciples and friends. Today we celebrate the feast of her integral glorification, that is, her passing from this life and bodily assumption into heaven.

Heaven couldn’t wait for the entrance of Our Lady. It is wholly abhorrent to the Christian mind and spirit that the one who gave flesh to the eternal Son and Word of God would be allowed to corrupt in the grave like a common sinner. Her mission in this world was indisputably unique, and her sinless purity (for how could the absolutely holy God enter this world through a defiled vessel?) caught heaven’s fancy, as it were, so she was snatched up from the grave of corruption to share the glory of her Son and God, as a living icon or sign of the destiny of all the faithful.

Christ Himself rose from the dead, making possible the resurrection of other human beings. But, being God and the Redeemer, we don’t see in his person the resurrection of the redeemed. Mary is the first of the redeemed, the first to experience the full truth of Christ’s promise, and of the words of St Paul: “He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also…” (Romans 8:11).

Even thinking on a human level, what son who loved his mother would allow her to rot in a grave if he had the power to raise her, body and soul, to glory? A fortiori, Jesus Christ, whose love for his mother surpassed that of any other loving son, certainly came swiftly to receive her body and soul into his Kingdom as she departed from this life. Try to imagine, if you can (you can’t), what it must have been like for Mary -- and what it meant for the whole universe -- that God, the Creator and Lord of all things visible and invisible, by whom and for whom all things exist, entered into her body and soul, becoming man in order to save us. The God whom her people had worshiped for centuries, the awesomely magnificent, fiery, thundering God of the mountaintop theophanies, entered her womb, and she carried Him within her as a growing baby. How did she not instantly vaporize as the Almighty God permeated her entire being? The Fathers of the Church use an analogy (one among many): as the bush in which God manifested his presence on Mt Sinai burned without being consumed, so the Virgin Mary received the Fire of the Divinity without being consumed. She was chosen from all eternity to be the Mother of God, that is, the Mother of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity incarnate as man.

(No one says, by the way, that “Mother of God” means mother of the Holy Trinity, or mother of the Father or of the Spirit or of the divine nature as such. But a woman can only be a mother of a person, not a nature, which is an abstraction if it is not realized in a person. She was not therefore merely the mother of Jesus’ human nature, but the mother of a person. Jesus Christ is a Divine Person, i.e., God, who became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, thus uniting human nature to his eternal divine nature. Therefore Mary is the mother of a Divine Person, i.e., God, who took flesh in her womb and was born as the God-Man Jesus. Thus she is rightly called “Mother of God.” As early as the 5th century, the undivided Christian Church declared it heresy to speak otherwise.)

Let us rejoice, then, that the Mother of God and our Mother has been lifted up to the fullness of life and glory with her Son in heaven. Heaven couldn’t wait for her, and I can’t wait to get to heaven! May the Lord’s will be fulfilled to glorious perfection in each of us, as it has already been done in her who said: Let it be done to me according to your word.