Meet Mary

Proof of God's Plan All Along

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By Marian Friedrichs

God-bearer. Conceived free from the stain of original sin. Pure virgin and perfect mother. Preserved from the corruption of actual sin and death. Assumed body and soul into paradise. Crowned Queen of Heaven and earth.

Surely, such descriptions cannot belong to a real human being. To merit them, surely the Mother of God must have been made of entirely different stuff than the rest of us. Being human, after all, seems utterly inseparable from spiritual and physical decay. How often do we resolve to "sin no more" and then find ourselves back in the confessional, mumbling the same list of failures as last time! "That is human," we say. And it is. Naturally, then, when we hear of a grown woman, with full use of her reason and physical abilities, who never sinned, whose love never came up short, who never failed even unintentionally to do what was right, we are tempted to say, "That is not human."

But the truth is this: Not only is Mary a real human being, but her very privileges and perfections precisely show us what God had in mind when He called humanity into existence. A concrete and radiant example is her Assumption.

"And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen 1:31). The world and everything in it were good: the visible and the invisible, the body and the soul. Man and woman were good, and God was completely satisfied with His creation. He had made the angels, unembodied spirits, and He had made the plants and animals, uninspired matter. In man He wedded the world of spirit and the world of flesh. He fashioned a creature with the beautiful earthly form in which He delighted, and He infused it with a rational soul able to return love for love.

We all know what happened. What God created for unity became fractured. Humanity came into conflict with Divinity, husband with wife, body with soul. Now, just as we struggle to imagine the possibility of a human life lived without sin, so we struggle to imagine one that ends in any other way than in the immortal soul taking leave of the mortal body.

Mary's Assumption, then, is a gift not only to her but to us. It is a living picture of the existence God imagined for us: body and soul equally steeped in grace, passing together from life to life. Because of the fall, our bodies have to wait until the end of this world to be reunited with our souls. Because of Christ's bodily Resurrection and Mary's Assumption, we know the glory and unblemished harmony that await them when they do.

One of the first signs of the new reality of fallen humanity was Adam and Eve's shame of their nakedness. The body God had crafted with so much care had suddenly become an embarrassment and a burden. It now had to be sustained "in toil" and bring forth children "in pain" (Gen 3:17, 16).

The Assumption reminds us of the high dignity of the human body. At first thought, the resurrection of the body may seem superfluous. After all, when our souls reach Heaven, we will be perfectly happy. We will have God, which is all we need. It almost seems like an afterthought for God to restore our bodies to us on the Last Day. Why bother? Because unlike us, God does not see our bodies as shameful. Of course He knows that we use them for sinful purposes, but His creation is still very good. Being a united body and soul is what makes us human, and God wants our whole human selves in Heaven.

In the beginning, God planned for all of us to be immaculately conceived. He planned for us to love and trust Him unwaveringly throughout our time on earth and then to be assumed, body and soul, into Heaven. What we see in Mary is what God wanted for each of His children. She is the human being God designed. If the fall changed much of the human experience, God did not allow it to change everything. We lost the chance to be immaculately conceived. We do not love and trust God as we should. We must suffer and die. Eternal life for our bodies and souls, however, is a gift that God's love could not permit us to lose hopelessly.

Good Mariologists have disagreed as to whether Mary briefly suffered the separation of her soul and body as Christ did or whether she was preserved from death itself as she had been preserved from all sin, meaning that her body and soul were assumed together into Heaven. Either way, we ourselves cannot be assumed into Heaven as Mary was. Our bodies and souls must be separated for a time. But when they unite again in paradise, we will finally understand what God had in mind when He imagined the human person.

In the meantime, we can look to Mary as a hint of god's original, beautiful, wildly generous plan. Like her, we can magnify the lord — with our souls and our bodies — because he has done great things for us.

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