Something About Mary

The Assumption of MAryOn August 15 we celebrate the solemnity of the Assumption of Mary.  This Holy Day of Obligation gives expression to the dogma that the Blessed Mother was assumed into heaven.  Catholics believe that at the end of her earthly life, Mary’s body was not subjected to the usual process of physical decay rather, she was “assumed”, body and soul, into heaven.  A distinction here is necessary:  Mary did not ascend into heaven.  Only Jesus, by his own power, ascended into heaven.  Mary was assumed or taken up into heaven by God; she did not do it by her own power. Pope Pius XII, in the document, Munificentissimus Deus, defined the Assumption of Mary to be a dogma of faith.  It states, “We pronounce, declare and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul, to heavenly glory.”  What the Pope solemnly declared in 1950 was already a commonly held belief in the Catholic Church. There are homilies on the Assumption dating back to the 6th century and documents reflect that this belief was universally held and celebrated by the 13th century. In his book, Introduction to Mary, Dr. Mark Miravalle writes, “In the New Testament, with the establishment of Jesus Christ as the new and eternal King in the universal Kingdom of God, we also have the establishment of a new Queen Mother and Advocate, who is the Mother of the King. The Virgin of Nazareth becomes the new “Great Lady” of all nations contained within the Kingdom of God, and as well, becomes the new Advocate for all peoples within this universal Kingdom.  It is for this reason that her cousin, Elizabeth, greets Mary with the expression, ‘Mother of my Lord’, (Luke 1:43) which was an ancient expression for referring to the Queen Mother in the language of the ancient semitic courts.” Seeing Mary approach, Elizabeth acknowledges that the Mother of her Lord,  the Messiah, is coming to visit her. Elizabeth is professing that Mary is the Queen Mother of her King. The title Gebirah (Gebira), meaning, “Great Lady” or “Queen Mother” was a royal title and an office which was bestowed upon the mothers of the kings of Israel and limited to those queens who were mothers of kings in the line of King David.  The Gebirah, the Queen Mother of the Kingdom of Judah, was the most important and influential woman in the royal court and the king’s chief counselor.  Recall that the practice of polygamy was not uncommon; Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3).  Instead of choosing a wife to be queen, a king would choose his mother; a king had many wives but only one mother.  A throne would be placed on the right side of her son and a magnificent crown reserved for the Gebirah.  She served in a position of authority and great intercessory power for the people. It is significant that the mother of the Davidic king is listed along with her son in Sacred Scripture.  The name of each Davidic Queen Mother is given in the introduction to each reign of the Davidic Kings of Judah; see, 1 Kings 14:21; 15: 2; 22:42; 2 Kings 12:1; 14:2; 15:2; 15:33; 18:2; 21:1: 21:19; 22:1; 23:31; 23:36; 24:8; 24:18. In tune with their ancestral religious sensibilities the Jews, who were the first to embrace the Christian faith, undeniably acknowledged Mary’s royalty and her prerogatives by the right of her divine motherhood. Thus, the early Christians in apostolic times held the Mother of their Lord in the highest esteem, whose efficacious intercession should not be ignored.  Mary was their Queen Mother who went before their Messiah King to intercede for them. The angel Gabriel asserted Mary’s royal dignity when he greeted her (Luke 1:28).  In the original Greek text, it is written, “chaire kecharitomene”.   In ancient times this form of salutation, “hail/chaire”,  was used when greeting or acclaiming royal figures.  Only on one other occasion is this expression used in the New Testament.  After his arrest and scourging, the Roman soldiers mock Jesus by placing a crown of thorns on his head and clothe him in a purple robe since his alleged crime was that he claimed to be King of the Jews;  jeeringly, they proclaim, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (“chaire basileus ton ioudaion”) (John 19.3). The Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2:1-11) also exemplifies Mary as the Advocating Queen.  As Queen Mother, Mary brings the needs of the couple to her royal Son.  Because of the love Jesus has for his mother, he responds in a majestic way and provides a large amount of wine for the wedding feast. Through Mary’s motherly intercession, Jesus performs his first sign. From the cross, with his dying breath, Jesus said to his beloved disciple, “Behold your mother,” thus giving his mother to all of us to be our mother.  The Gebirah of  the eternal Davidic Kingdom is Mary of Nazareth.  Upon her Assumption into heaven her Son placed her beside him as Queen Mother of the King of Kings. The Assumption at once, completes and anticipates God’s saving work.  It looks to eternity and directs us to consider the conclusion of our earthly life. We believe and hope and resolve that one day we too will be rendered immaculate and be with Jesus forever.  Until then, Mary, our Gebirah,  intercedes for us as our advocating Queen Mother, the holy one who received early, the blessing we all hope to enjoy.

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