“On your right stands the queen, in garments of gold.”
(Responsorial Psalm, 44, Assumption Mass, Day)
Summary: The following text intends to show a deeper aspect of the Assumption of Our Lady into heaven: it explains how, with this final act in the process of Revelation, God intended to complete and offer us the true “Ladder” (Gn 28:10-17; John 1:50) that connects earth with heaven or better said the narrow path that leads directly and easily to Jesus-God: Mary’s Path.
According to the Greek philosophers’ usage, “Dogma” meant a proverb or a sentence, i.e. a coined expression of a spiritual exercise (see Pierre Hadot). A Greek philosopher would give his disciple a “dogma” to put into practice, for example: “don’t worry about what you can’t change”.
This insight of Piere Hadot, is a subtle invitation to go back to the origins of our understanding of our faith and its truths, its dogmas! What are Christian dogmas? In fact, they were seen by the Fathers of the Church as being all practical, in the sense that they all were supposed to be “practised”. This is how the Fathers of the Church offered them to us, this is why they were keen on defending them, because by putting them into practice they allowed God to communicate his Divine Life to us. Hence the necessity of an orthodox dogma, a dogma that would really “connect” us with God’s reality and therefore become like a channel for his Grace.
In this light then, let us consider the dogma of the Assumption and therefore its practical aspect in order to benefit from it.
The Necessity to Dwell in Jesus
During our life on earth we are invited to dwell in Christ. In order to do so we need to know where Jesus is at this moment in time, namely: He is risen and is seated at the right hand of the Father. St. Paul clearly invites us to be where Jesus is, i.e. sitting at the right hand of the Father when he writes: “since you have been raised with Christ, strive for the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3)
It is because of Baptism that Jesus dwells in us but He wants more from us to choose to “dwell in Him”. Incredibly, He who is seated at the right hand of the Father is inviting us to do so: “dwell in me as I dwell in you” (John 15:4). Indeed, a reminder of this essential recommendation is given by the Priest during Mass when, at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we are invited to enter deeper into prayer with the words: “Lift up your hearts”.
Entering and Remaining in Mary
The question now becomes: where is our place beside Jesus? He has said, “I will go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:3). The answer is that this “place” Jesus will prepare for us is Mary, the New Jerusalem, our Eternal Dwelling Place. Indeed, the Catholic and Orthodox Tradition saw in Mary the New Jerusalem.
Entering her spiritually is essential: she is the womb who nurtures us. Nicodemus was unaware that he was stating something very deep when he said: “How can someone be born when they are old? and when he asked “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:4). In truth they can! When the Lord says to John who was at the foot of the Cross: “here is your mother”, He was inviting John to enter under her shadow and adopt her as his spiritual mother who would bear him up or support him and be the place where the Holy Spirit would form him for Divine Life.
Here is what St. Grignon de Montfort says of the great mystery of our indwelling in Mary: “When we have obtained this remarkable grace by our fidelity, we should be delighted to remain in Mary. We should rest there peacefully, rely on her confidently, hide ourselves there with safety, and abandon ourselves unconditionally to her, so that within her virginal bosom: 1) We may be nourished with the milk of her grace and her motherly compassion. 2) We may be delivered from all anxiety, fear and scruples. 3) We may be safeguarded from all our enemies, the devil, the world and sin which have never gained admittance there. That is why our Lady says that those who work in her will not sin, that is, those who dwell spiritually in our Lady will never commit serious sin. 4) We may be formed in our Lord and our Lord formed in us, because her womb is, as the early Fathers call it, the house of the divine secrets where Jesus and all the elect have been conceived. “This one and that one were born in her.”” (True Devotion 264)
He says also: “We can attribute more truly to her what Saint Paul said of himself, “I am in labor again with all the children of God until Jesus Christ, my Son, is formed in them to the fullness of his age.” Saint Augustine, surpassing himself as well as all that I have said so far, affirms that in order to be conformed to the image of the Son of God all the predestinate, while in the world, are hidden in the womb of the Blessed Virgin where they are protected, nourished, cared for and developed by this good Mother, until the day she brings them forth to a life of glory after death, which the Church calls the birthday of the just. This is indeed a mystery of grace unknown to the reprobate and little known even to the predestinate!” (True Devotion 33)
The Quality of this Dwelling Place
Now this womb, Mary, through the effects of the event of her Assumption, is in its most potent state regarding fruitfulness and glory. Mary is now totally united to her Son, not only in her spirit and in her soul, but also in her body. We have here, in her union with the Risen Lord, and in her being this immense dwelling place that He has prepared for us, something that belongs to the New World, the World where there is no dawn. The eighth Day… the Eternal Final Day.
Our Faith is Bipolar
Before going further, it is important to remember an essential element of the inner structure of our faith: it is “bipolar”. By this expression we mean that it has two poles, or elements: God and the Disciple, Jesus and his Follower. These two poles or pairs manifest themselves throughout the Gospel: The Divine Seed and the Good Soil, the New Wine and the New Skin, Jesus as the main object of our faith and our Faith in Him (the subject of the faith and the believer, the disciple).
Mary, we can now see, is the archetype of Jesus’ Disciple (see below: Catechism 967), for Jesus is God, and Mary is the perfect Disciple. Both are needed: the New Wine, i.e. Jesus, and the New Skin, i.e. Mary. Now, perfect worship of disciple for God is described by Jesus in John 4: “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24) This perfect worship, then, is embedded in Mary, it exists and works in Mary. Mary, and the Holy Spirit in Her, worship Jesus-God perfectly. It is “in Her” also that we find the perfect worship of God, “in Spirit and in Truth” and are able to make use of it. It is freely given to us.
Mary’s Journey is the Archetype of Ours
The journey itself of Mary, from her last moments on earth to heaven, i.e. to be seated with Christ in an eternal embrace of light and love, is our own path. Mary is the “narrow gate” we take (Matthew 7:13); Mary engages us in the “narrow path” (Matthew 7:13). It is Mary, gate and path, who leads us to Life, to her Divine Son, Jesus.
Therefore, one of the meanings of the Assumption is to show the mature Church the real path that helps us reach Jesus. It is to help us understand more clearly this mysterious invisible coming of Jesus: “I will go and I will come back… and the world won’t see me but you will see me” (John 15), this mysterious secret action of his: “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:3).
The main realisation of this promise occurs in Mary assumed into heaven: “I will come and take you” to be beside me.
This journey of Mary, from where she was to where Jesus is, the mystery of Her “assumption”, i.e. being lifted up toward heaven, now becomes the archetype of any “journey” or movement of prayer and union for us. Why? Because Mary is our Mother (“woman, here is your son” (John 19)), it is she who carries us in her womb.
Mary’s Journey is Ours
Once a holy orthodox monk said that “Jesus’ Prayer” (or the Prayer of the Heart, i.e. Contemplative Silent Prayer) is the Backbone of the Church. Why is this so? Because it connects us directly to Jesus; while we are still here on earth, it unites us with Him as we have seen above, when during the Mass the Priest repeats St. Paul’s exhortation: “lift up your hearts”.
The journey that Jesus inaugurated for us during his Ascension, found its first and full realisation in Mary’s Assumption. This new, direct, easy way was opened up for us, belongs to us. Every time we pray, every time we unite ourselves to Jesus, every time we want to put into practice his recommendation: “dwell in me”, we take the path that the Lord built for us by his Ascension and the Assumption of his main disciple and mother: Mary. She is the Chariot of Fire (2 Kings 2:11) that takes us to Jesus at any given moment in time.
Taking Mary as our mother means “entering her” as Nicodemus unknowingly alluded to, it is to understand that the narrow door and the narrow path are her and her path. Jesus is the one who paved the way for Mary during his Ascension and realised it in a final and stable way during her Assumption.
Death couldn’t have the best of Our Lady. Impossible. She is the embodiment of Jesus’ Victory.
The Assumption occurs while Revelation is still unfolding. The Assumption is not only an integral part of God’s Revelation and work of Salvation, but it is also the final accomplishment of his Work and Victory of his Resurrection-Ascension.
Note: Jesus’ Revelation of the New Testament ends with the death of the last Apostol, i.e. John. Maybe the Assumption occurred around the years 67-70, the years of Peter and Paul’s Martyrdom and the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. St. John, the last apostle, the one with whom Jesus’ Revelation is closed dies after the year 96.
We have now seen how the narrow Path that leads to Life is established by this fundamental event: the Assumption. This Path that connects each human being here on earth with our New Jerusalem, Mary our Dwelling Place, has been finally inaugurated and established and can never be touched or removed. In truth, it is the hidden disguised Ladder that connects earth with Heaven, sung by St. John of the Cross (see the Texts below), and is the new way found by St. Therese, short, direct and easy that leads to Jesus (see Texts below).
The Fire of Love in Mary
It is through the action of the Holy Spirit that Mary ascends into heaven, not by her own capacity, but by the capacity of God’s Fiery Love.
Since Mary is the Immaculate Conception, since she is pure, the Holy Spirit not only fills her (Full of Grace) but He is the only one who acts in her and through her (see St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book II, Chapter 2). In sum, it is a greater act of Love that moved Mary from her life on earth to the life beside her Son, in Eternity (see St. John of the Cross describing the death of the saints! Living Flame of Love, Stanza I, v. 6).
The Holy Spirit Working in Mary
When we pray, this same power of Love acting in Mary, makes us reach her as our dwelling place prepared by Jesus. It is the power of the Holy Spirit, which is the best, fullest and the most secure means of being elevated:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe in Me as well. 2 In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1-4)
So too when Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.” 20“This temple took forty-six years to build,” the Jews replied, “and You are going to raise it up in three days?” 21 But Jesus was speaking about the temple of His body.” (John 2:19-21). we can consider that this Temple, the Dwelling place, the New Jerusalem as being Mary. This is also how Tradition understood Mary. In fact, in the Byzantine hymn of the Resurrection Mary is considered as our New Jerusalem – the one that John contemplates in Chapters 21 and 22 of his Revelation.
To put it in a nutshell: the fullest action of the Holy Spirit dwells in Mary. The best worship of Jesus dwells in her.
Our contemplation of the Mystery of the Assumption of Our Lady has led us to discover a foundational fact for our faith. What was started by the Ascension of the Risen Lord into heaven reached its total achievement and completion in the Assumption of Mary. The new road which Jesus’ human nature opened up for us (see Heb. 10:20) as our Head, has been accomplished and sealed for us by the Assumption of Our Lady, as the Archetype of Jesus’ Disciple. She followed Him, and now is totally united to Him, body, soul, spirit, is filled by Him, and stays so united with Him. But she is also our Mother, our dwelling place, the New Jerusalem, and it is in her, as through a ladder, or a Chariot of Fire, that we are elevated and seated beside Jesus and held in his fiery embrace. We take our place in her, our New and final Jerusalem.
Rejoice Mary, Rejoice New Jerusalem in God your Saviour, and in you we also rejoice from your own jubilation!
The Assumption of our Lady is our Festival. It is a fundamental truth of our faith, because a new path for all of us has been opened up, in Jesus, as his disciples, taught and led by our Mother and Teacher, Mary. The author of the letter to the Hebrews speaks about “a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body”. With the Assumption this “new way” reaches its final stage and completion. It is the work of Jesus.
When we say that the Assumption of Our Lady is a dogma, it means that this new narrow path inaugurated by God for us needs to be used by us in order to “lift up our hearts” to Him.
PS It would be good to re-read this text, and meditate on the following texts also in order to see more clearly the meaning of the Assumption and its practical implications in our life.
“In the interim just as the Mother of Jesus, glorified in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected is the world to come, so too does she shine forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come, as a sign of sure hope and solace to the people of God during its sojourn on earth.” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 68)
“The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Son’s Resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of his Body.” (Catechism 974)
“After speaking of the Church, her origin, mission, and destiny, we can find no better way to conclude than by looking to Mary. In her we contemplate what the Church already is in her mystery on her own “pilgrimage of faith,” and what she will be in the homeland at the end of her journey. There, “in the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity,” “in the communion of all the saints,” the Church is awaited by the one she venerates as Mother of her Lord and as her own mother.” (Catechism 972)
“Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.” (Catechism 966)
“In the meantime the Mother of Jesus, in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise she shines forth on earth until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God.” (Catechism 972)
“The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians” (Catechism 966)
“By her complete adherence to the Father’s will, to his Son’s redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church’s model of faith and charity. Thus she is a “preeminent and . . . wholly unique member of the Church”; indeed, she is the “exemplary realization” (typus) of the Church.” (Catechism 967)
St. John of the Cross
In the following text, St. John of the Cross tells us the only means to reach God is by Faith. He describes it as being “the secret ladder”. We can go deeper in a revealed way seeing in this “secret ladder” Mary’s Faith that is given to us.
“In darkness and secure,
By the secret ladder, disguised
— oh, happy chance! —
In darkness and in concealment,
My house being now at rest.
1. In this second stanza the soul sings of the happy chance which it experienced in stripping the spirit of all spiritual imperfections and desires for the possession of spiritual things. This was a much greater happiness too, by reason of the greater difficulty that there is in putting to rest this house of the spiritual part, and of being able to enter this interior darkness, which is spiritual detachment from all things, whether sensual or spiritual, and leaning on pure faith alone and an ascent thereby to God. The soul here calls this a ‘ladder,’ and ‘secret,’ because all the rungs and parts of it are secret and hidden from all sense and understanding. And thus the soul has remained in darkness as to all light of sense and understanding, going forth beyond all limits of nature and reason in order to ascend by this Divine ladder of faith, which attains and penetrates even to the heights of God. The soul says that it was travelling ‘disguised,’ because the garments and vesture which it wears and its natural condition are changed into the Divine, as it ascends by faith. And it was because of this disguise that it was not recognized or impeded, either by time or by reason or by the devil; for none of these things can harm one that journeys in faith. And not only so, but the soul travels in such wise concealed and hidden and is so far from all the deceits of the devil that in truth it journeys (as it also says here) ‘in darkness and in concealment’ — that is to say, hidden from the devil, to whom the light of faith is more than darkness.
2. And thus the soul that journeys through this night, we may say, journeys in concealment and in hiding from the devil, as will be more clearly seen hereafter. Wherefore the soul says that it went forth ‘in darkness and secure’; for one that has such happiness as to be able to journey through the darkness of faith, taking faith for his guide, like to one that is blind, and leaving behind all natural imaginings and spiritual reasonings, journeys very securely, as we have said. And so the soul says furthermore that it went forth through this spiritual night, its ‘house being now at rest’ — that is to say, its spiritual and rational parts. When, therefore, the soul attains to union which is of God, its natural faculties are at rest, as are likewise its impulses and yearnings of the senses, in its spiritual part. For this cause the soul says not here that it went forth with yearnings, as in the first night of sense. For, in order to journey in the night of sense, and to strip itself of that which is of sense, it needed yearnings of sense-love so that it might go forth perfectly; but, in order to put to rest the house of its spirit, it needs no more than denial of all faculties and pleasures and desires of the spirit in pure faith. This attained, the soul is united with the Beloved in a union of simplicity and purity and love and similitude.” (Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book II, Chapter 1)
St. Therese of the Child Jesus
We can re-read St. Therese’s description of the New Way, going deeper and understanding that in fact the New Way is Our Lady:
“You know, Mother, I have always wanted to be a saint. Alas! I have always noticed that when I compared myself to the saints, there is between them and me the same difference that exists between  a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and the obscure grain of sand trampled underfoot by passers-by. Instead of becoming discouraged, I said to myself: God cannot inspire unrealisable desires. I can, then, in spite of my littleness, aspire to holiness. It is impossible for me to grow up, and so I must bear with myself such  as I am with all my imperfections. But I want to seek out a means of going to heaven by a little way, a way that is very straight, very short, and totally new.
We are living now in an age of inventions, and we no longer have to take the trouble of climbing [3r°] stairs, for, in the homes of the rich, an elevator has replaced these very successfully. I wanted to find an elevator which would raise me to Jesus, for I am too small to climb the rough stairway of perfection. I searched, then, in the Scriptures for some sign of this  elevator, the object of my desires, and I read these words coming from the mouth of Eternal Wisdom: “Whoever is a LITTLE ONE, let him come to me.” And so I succeeded. I felt I had found what I was looking for. But wanting to know, O my God, what You would do to the very little one who answered Your call, I continued my search and this is what  I discovered: “As one whom a mother caresses, so will I comfort you; you shall be carried at the breasts, and upon the knees they shall caress you.” Ah! never did words more tender and more melodious come to give joy to my soul. The elevator which must raise me to heaven is Your arms, O Jesus! And for this I had no need  to grow up, but rather I had to remain little and become this more and more. O my God, You surpassed all my expectation. I want only to sing to Your mercies. “You have taught me from my youth, O God, and until now I will declare Your wonderful works.” (Manuscript C, 3)
St. Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort
St. Louis Marie explains to us how Mary is the path that leads directly to Jesus:
“When he speaks of devotion to her as a sure means of finding and loving you without fear or illusion, or when he says this devotion is a short road free from danger, or an immaculate way free from imperfection, or a wondrous secret of finding you, they put before him a thousand specious reasons to show him how wrong he is to speak so much of Mary.” (True Devotion 64)
“Mary’s strongest inclination is to unite us to Jesus, her Son, and her Son’s strongest wish is that we come to him through his Blessed Mother. He is pleased and honoured just as a king would be pleased and honoured if a citizen, wanting to become a better subject and slave of the king, made himself the slave of the queen. That is why the Fathers of the Church, and St. Bonaventure after them, assert that the Blessed Virgin is the way which leads to our Lord.” (True Devotion 75)
“152. This devotion is a smooth, short, perfect and sure way of attaining union with our Lord, in which Christian perfection consists.
(a) This devotion is a smooth way. It is the path, which Jesus Christ opened up in coming to us and in which there is no obstruction to prevent us reaching him. It is quite true that we can attain to divine union by other roads, but these involve many more crosses and exceptional setbacks and many difficulties that we cannot easily overcome. We would have to pass through spiritual darkness, engage in struggles for which we are not prepared, endure bitter agonies, scale precipitous mountains, tread upon painful thorns, and cross frightful deserts. But when we take the path of Mary, we walk smoothly and calmly.
It is true that on our way we have hard battles to fight and serious obstacles to overcome, but Mary, our Mother and Teacher, stays close to her faithful servants. She is always at hand to brighten their darkness, clear away their doubt, strengthen them in their fears, and sustain them in their combats and trials. Truly, in comparison with other ways, this virgin road to Jesus is a path of roses and sweet delights. There have been some saints, not very many, such as St. Ephrem, St. John Damascene, St. Bernard, St. Bernadine, St. Bonaventure, and St. Francis de Sales, who have taken this smooth path to Jesus Christ, because the Holy Spirit, the faithful Spouse of Mary, made it known to them by a special grace. The other saints, who are the greater number, while having a devotion to Mary, either did not enter or did not go very far along this path. That is why they had to undergo harder and more dangerous trials.
153. Why is it then, a servant of Mary might ask, that devoted servants of this good Mother are called upon to suffer much more than those who serve her less generously? They are opposed, persecuted, slandered, and treated with intolerance. They may also have to walk in interior darkness and through spiritual deserts without being given from heaven a single drop of the dew of consolation. If this devotion to the Blessed Virgin makes the path to Jesus smoother, how can we explain why Mary’s loyal servants are so ill-treated?
154. I reply that it is quite true that the most faithful servants of the Blessed Virgin, being her greatest favorites, receive from her the best graces and favours from heaven, which are crosses. But I maintain too that these servants of Mary bear their crosses with greater ease and gain more merit and glory. What could check another’s progress a thousand times over, or possibly bring about his downfall, does not balk them at all, but even helps them on their way. For this good Mother, filled with the grace and unction of the Holy Spirit, dips all the crosses she prepares for them in the honey of her maternal sweetness and the unction of pure love. They then readily swallow them as they would sugared almonds, though the crosses may be very bitter. I believe that anyone who wishes to be devout and live piously in Jesus will suffer persecution and will have a daily cross to carry. But he will never manage to carry a heavy cross, or carry it joyfully and perseveringly, without a trusting devotion to our Lady, who is the very sweetness of the cross. It is obvious that a person could not keep on eating without great effort unripe fruit, which has not been sweetened.
155. (b) This devotion is a short way to discover Jesus, either because it is a road we do not wander from, or because, as we have just said, we walk along this road with greater ease and joy, and consequently with greater speed. We advance more in a brief period of submission to Mary and dependence on her than in whole years of self-will and self-reliance. […]
157. This devotion is a perfect way to reach our Lord and be united to him, for Mary is the most perfect and the most holy of all creatures, and Jesus, who came to us in a perfect manner, chose no other road for his great and wonderful journey. The Most High, the Incomprehensible One, the Inaccessible One, He who is, deigned to come down to us poor earthly creatures who are nothing at all. How was this done?
The Most High God came down to us in a perfect way through the humble Virgin Mary, without losing anything of his divinity or holiness. It is likewise through Mary that we poor creatures must ascend to almighty God in a perfect manner without having anything to fear.
God the Incomprehensible, allowed himself to be perfectly comprehended and contained by the humble Virgin Mary without losing anything of his immensity. So we must let ourselves be perfectly contained and led by the humble Virgin without any reserve on our part.
God, the Inaccessible, drew near to us and united himself closely, perfectly and even personally to our humanity through Mary without losing anything of his majesty. So it is also through Mary that we must draw near to God and unite ourselves to him perfectly, intimately, and without fear of being rejected.
Lastly, He who is deigned to come down to us who are not and turned our nothingness into God, or He who is. He did this perfectly by giving and submitting himself entirely to the young Virgin Mary, without ceasing to be in time He who is from all eternity. Likewise it is through Mary that we, who are nothing, may become like God by grace and glory. We accomplish this by giving ourselves to her so perfectly and so completely as to remain nothing, as far as self is concerned, and to be everything in her, without any fear of illusion.
158. Show me a new road to our Lord, pave it with all the merits of the saints, adorn it with their heroic virtues, illuminate and enhance it with the splendour and beauty of the angels, have all the angels and saints there to guide and protect those who wish to follow it. Give me such a road and truly, truly, I boldly say – and I am telling the truth – that instead of this road, perfect though it be, I would still choose the immaculate way of Mary. It is a way, a road without stain or spot, without original sin or actual sin, without shadow or darkness. When our loving Jesus comes in glory once again to reign upon earth – as he certainly will – he will choose no other way than the Blessed Virgin, by whom he came so surely and so perfectly the first time. The difference between his first and his second coming is that the first was secret and hidden, but the second will be glorious and resplendent. Both are perfect because both are through Mary. Alas, this is a mystery that we cannot understand, “Here let every tongue be silent.”
159. (d) This devotion to our Lady is a sure way to go to Jesus and to acquire holiness through union with him.” (True Devotion to Mary, 152-159)