By Kaelanne Jordan
Fr David Khan concluded the final instalment of his five-part presentation on Marian Devotions with ‘The Assumption’ in the Know Your Faith (KYF) series Monday, May 30.
Last month’s KYF focused on the four different dogmas associated with Mary: Divine Motherhood (May 9), Perpetual Virginity (May 16), Immaculate Conception (May 23) and the Assumption. The series opened with a presentation on Mary in Scripture and Tradition (May 2).
Presenting on the fourth dogma, Fr Khan highlighted that for Catholic Christians, the belief in the Assumption of Mary flows immediately from the belief in her immaculate conception. He recalled that during the previous talk, it was mentioned that these dogmas do not stand on their own; they are all interrelated and interconnected.
“So, Mary was immaculately conceived. Catholic Christians believe that if Mary was preserved from sin by the free gift of God, she would not be bound to experience the consequences of sin-death-in the same way we do.”
On what basis does the Church ask us to believe in this doctrine? Fr Khan referenced internationally known expert on early Christianity, Fr Luigi Gambero, who observed that this belief is based on what we believe about Jesus.
“For us to really understand Mary, we have to understand what we are really saying about Jesus. And it is based on what we are saying about Jesus is what we believe about Mary.”
Fr Khan underscored that the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, Second Vatican Council #9 says, “sacred tradition and sacred scripture, then are bound closely together and communicate one with the other. For both of them flowing out of the same divine wellspring, come together in some fashion to form one thing and move together towards the same goal.”
Dei Verbum goes further to say tradition may be recognised as the universal agreement that a truth has been revealed through the bishops of the world, Church
Fathers, the constant teaching of theologians, liturgy, as well as the belief and devotion of the faithful. Some doctrines are implicitly revealed in other doctrines, as for instance, Mary’s Assumption reflects Jesus’ Resurrection and the truth of the Resurrection of the body.
“That is what we are called to believe. In the rosary prayer, we focus on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Likewise, August 15 every year, the Church celebrates the feast, the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary.”
According to Fr Khan, Revelation 12 speaks about the woman who dressed with the sun, and will bring about the one who will destroy sin and death. Her seed will bring about this and they will cry out, holy, holy, holy is the Lord.
“…that woman in Revelation 12 is actually the Blessed Virgin Mary, the same woman mentioned in Genesis 3:15 in the Old Testament, “I will put enmity between you the serpent, Satan and the woman (Mary) and between your offspring (the minions of Satan)/ and hers (Christ); he will strike at your head while you strike at his heel.”
Since sin and death are the fruits of Satan, the freedom of Mary from the original sin of Adam also frees her from the consequences of sin. “Then Mary best fulfils the scripture of Genesis,” Fr Khan said.
The constant faith (paradosis) of the Church, Fr Khan highlighted, affirms the belief in the assumption of Mary.
He pinpointed that from the early 5th to 6th century, there was a belief of Mary dying, but then as they were taking her body for burial, her body disappeared.
“It was raised to the glory of God. There’s a beautiful story that they heard an angel reveal Mary was going to die and she went to sleep. All of the apostles from the world came and they were with Mary. And then she went to sleep. And when she went to sleep, she died. As she died, three days later Jesus appeared to the Apostles and Mary was taken up to Heaven….”
From the 5th and 6th century, the apocryphal books were testimony of a certain Christian sense of the abhorrence felt that the body of the mother of God should lie in a sepulchre.
Fr Khan mentioned that in the 4th century, the Feast of the Assumption was celebrated in Jerusalem and perhaps even in Alexandria. From the 7th century,
“clear and explicit testimony was given to the Assumption of Mary in the eastern Church. The same testimony is clear also in the western Church.”
Throughout the centuries, in the 12th century, the Feast of the Assumption was celebrated in the city of Rome and France. In the 13th century to present, there is certain and undisputed faith in the Assumption of Mary in the universal Church.
In a question-and-answer session, Fr Khan explained that the beauty of the Marian dogma is that it relates to us.
“Because it is really our hope that we recognise that if we free ourselves from sin, we will enter into the glory of God….in this life we face many obstacles, challenges but it does not mean we need to give in to temptation and fall into sin”.
He continued, “yes, Mary was immaculately conceived but God freed her from original sin. She would have been faced with very difficult circumstances in life…but she did not give in to sin….”
Fr Khan was asked to give a few examples on how to practise Marian spirituality. He invited Catholics to examine the ways in which they treat people.
“Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth… how she went to look after her cousin…the part I like to highlight is when Mary visited Elizabeth, she brought a blessing because it says the child in her womb leapt for joy. When I visit people, I ask myself, do I bring joy to people or do people say, ‘He again’ or when I leave them, am I filled with the Holy Spirit?”
Fr Khan shared the story of when he was younger, he never thought of becoming a priest. When he did make the decision, he met with Archbishop Anthony Pantin who suggested he ‘go and pray about it’. “And I went to Rosary church because at that time, I was teaching at Rosary Boys’ RC school. The church is not the best smelling church in the world and all sorts of people enter the church and because of it there was a stench in the church I remember distinctly. And then I said, ‘Mary you are mother so place me under your motherly care, help me to say ‘yes, it is the will of God’. And then I got the sweet smell of roses…”
He clarified we do not pray to Mary; we ask her to intercede on our behalf. Mary, Fr Khan stressed enhances our prayer through faith. Faith, he said, is the ingredient needed for one’s prayer to be efficacious.
“Therefore, when we think we do not have faith, we know Mary is a woman of faith. Because of that fiat, saying ‘yes’ to God, she trusted God in her all,” Fr Khan said.