Last night our family attended the Vigil Mass for the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. Our scholarly parochial vicar was the celebrant. He is truly a brilliant man and a wonderful priest. As is his style, he reached into Church history to explain the relevance of our feast today.
Pope Pius XII declared infallibly in 1950 the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul, to Heaven. This was 96 years after Pope Pius IX declared infallibly the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. In the intervening century the world had seen great revolutions, both economic and political. Empires had risen and fallen. The Cold War was evolving as the Soviet Empire grew. Instability was the norm.
As with most Church declarations, the dogma of the Assumption of Mary was not invented in 1950. It had been part of the Church Tradition since the early centuries. (The Catholic Encyclopedia cites evidence that the feast itself has been celebrated since the fifth century) Pope Pius XII felt it was important to declare infallibly the dogma of the Assumption because it is a source of hope that was so badly needed during those uncertain times. Christ promised us that like Mary, we too will join him in Heaven. His Passion, Death, and Resurrection opened the gates of Heaven to us. He is the Way and if we but follow him we will share in his Heavenly glory.
Today we also live in uncertain times. The Assumption of Mary is a reminder that we should look beyond our earthly travails. We need to set our sights toward Heaven.