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DEVELOPMENT OF ROMAN DOCTRINES ON MARY
ASSUMPTION OF MARY
 


"Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory......" 
(Catechism of Catholic Church 966)

 We have been tracing the developement of Marian Theology through the centuaries and have seen one step leading to another by slight of hand and minor variations of interpretation. A small change in direction and small change in interpretation of terms leads to the next step. This step is the consequence of two assumptions:

1. Mary was without original sin. Mary was like Eve before her fall. Which means that she had the freedom of choice to live in obedience or live in disobedience. The assumption is that she chose to live in obedience and faith. As a result she became the mother of all living with the second birth. Of course Catholic Church does not believe in the second birth as the evangelical churches. To them the original sin of man is removed by the baptism that the Church gives.Second birth is the baptism for infants. So in effect it has nothing to do with faith. It is only a matter whether the baptism was rendered by the proper authority in the church - i.e. an ordained priest and in the proper method and formula.

" By baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins. as well as all punishment for sin" (Council of Florence (1439) DS 1316

"In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam's sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin......" (Catechism 1263)

If this is true all Catholics have this privilege. All Catholics are baptised and are free from original sin. There are many who live a sainty life or are given absolution and pardon so we should not be seeing their saintly bodies. They should have been assumed. Catholic cemeteries should be practically empty graves!!

2. Mary was without personal sin. Let us look up what sin is. "Sin is an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law of God." ( St. Augustine, Faust 22; PI 42,418). With such definition was mary sinless? We know many of her actions from scripture. Several early fathers had questioned her doubts based on Mary's behaviour in public, among them are Origen, [although he ascribed to Mary high spiritual prerogatives, thought that, at the time of Christ's passion, the sword of disbelief pierced Mary's soul; that she was struck by the poniard of doubt; and that for her sins also Christ died]; St. Basil [ fourth century: he sees in the sword, of which Simeon speaks, the doubt which pierced Mary's soul]; and St. Chrysostom [accuses her of ambition, and of putting herself forward unduly when she sought to speak to Jesus at Capharnaum]

 


Most Catholic Theologians are unaware of this aspect as original sin as is seen from the following quote which tries to establish that "All have not sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."
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But w hat about Romans 3:23, "all have sinned"? Fundamentalists, as a rule, think it means more than that everyone is subject to original sin. They think it means everyone commits actual sins. They conclude it means Mary must have sinned during her life, and that certainly would speak against an Immaculate Conception. But is the Fundamentalists' reasoning solid? No.

Think about a child below the age of reason. By definition he can't sin, since sinning requires the ability to reason and the ability to intend to sin. If the child dies before ever committing an actual sin, because he isn't mature enough to know what he is doing, what act of his brings him under their interpretation of Romans 3:23? None, of course.

This is indicated by Paul elsewhere in the epistle to the Romans when he speaks of the time when Jacob and Esau were unborn babies as a time when they "had done nothing either good or bad" (Rom. 9:11). Thus there is a time in people's lives before they ha ve sinned, meaning Paul's statement earlier in Romans must be a general rather than an exceptionless principle. We also know of another very prominent exception to the rule: Jesus (Heb. 4:15). So Paul's statement in Romans 3 must also include an exception for Jesus.

But if it includes an exception for Jesus, the Second Adam, then it also includes an exception for M ary, the Second Eve. Paul's comment to the Christians in Rome thus would seem to have one of two meanings. Despite the phrasing, it might be that it refers not to absolutely everyone, but just to the mass of mankind (which means young children and other special cases, like Jesus and Mary, would be excluded without having to be singled out). If not that, then it would mean that everyone, without exception, is subject to original sin, which is true for a young child, for the unborn, even for Mary--but she, though due to be subject to it, was preserved from it and its stain. It took a positive act of God to keep her from coming under its effects the way we have. We had the stain of Original Sin remov ed through baptism, which brings sanctifying grace to the soul (thus making the soul spiritually alive and capable of enjoying heaven) and makes the recipient a member of the Church. We might say that Mary received a very special kind of "baptism" at her conception, though, because she never contracted Original Sin, she enjoyed certain privileges we never can, such as entire avoidance of sin.


3. There is also another aspect of the sin which is acknowledged but not dealt with sufficiently by Christian theologians. This is the coroporate sin - the sin of mankind as a living organism. This is the heritage of Adam. It is the ongoing aspect of the original sin - the state of mankind. Roman Catechism (1868)restricts this aspect in the following way:

"Moreover we have a responsibility for sins committed by others" But refusing to accept it as part of original sin from which no human can escape, this is made part of personal sin by restricting it to the following aspects.

"- by participating directly and voluntarily in them;
- by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
- by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
- by protecting evil-doers"

While we are familiar with sins committed by active participation or inaction, Christian theologians wilfully avoid the general aspect of this sin. I believe this is a vital aspect which makes the sacrifice of Jesus pertient and effective. We are not living in a society of people who sin. We are also living among a community of fallen people. We can live a sinless life as far as personal sins are concerned. I am sure Jesus did. I am sure most probably Mary did. But there is something both of them could not do. Neither can any human being in this world can do. This is the communal sin. This is embedded in the life of mankind as an organism. We are now looking at the mankind as a unity which is represented in Adam. At the fall of Adam, the system became unstable and rollercoasted. mankind could never be the same again. This is found in the injustice within the society. I am responsible for the injustice to every human being anywhere in the world. I cannot say I am not responsible for the death of the famine ridden Ethiopia or the rebel infested South Sudan. I am part of the human race which is perpectuating this. So when we say Jesus was sinless or when we say Mary was sinless we mean that in a very very restricted sense.

Righteousness in the scritpture is always referred to in terms of the law.Ez.18:5 "Suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just and right.6 He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of the house of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor's wife or lie with a woman during her period.7 He does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took in pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked.8 He does not lend at usury or take excessive interest. He withholds his hand from doing wrong and judges fairly between man and man.
9 He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws. That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign LORD.

At the time of Jesus slavery was prevalent. But we do not see Jesus even preaching against it. There were famine all over the world. We do not see him speak about it. Roman persecution was a daily life expereince of the Jewish people. War was waging, dictators were all around, people were persecuted. Jesus as a part of the human race carried these sins with him. This is part of the original sin for which he was also personaly responsible. In fact no human can live without being sinful. No living human can continue living without being part of this evil. Was Jesus the Man exempt? Even Gandhi realised this and he did what he could. He relinquished his costly dress and lavish foods. Did that reduce his responsibility? As long as you are living in this fallen world, we cannot live without committing this sin. No one can escape this. As the sins committed by any one member of mankind is sin committed by all, so also the good that is committed by any one person is merit for everyone. It is here we find the meaning of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross of Calvary. So when we say Jesus lived a sinless life we mean that only in the sense of the law that is laid down for the fallen society. The ten commandments were just that. Jesus understood that and he pushed it a little further in the Sermon on the mount.

Mat 5:20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.


Phariseed lived a righteous life. The rich young ruler obeyed all the laws. Paul was without blemish as to the law. But that did not break them away from the sin that was holding whole mankind. Lot and Job were mentioned as righteous. Were they sinless in the standards of the holiness of God?

But in terms of the holiness of God, there is none righteous and all should face the penalty of this sin - death. That is what Jesus took on the cross. He was blameless. But he carried the sins of the world. Jesus died because he was part of the mankind. He laid down his life willingly. But he was also God so that he could take his life back.

.Is 53:10 Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied ; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
Act.224 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

Jn 10 :17 I lay down my life--only to take it up again.
18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."
 

Mary died because she was a part of this fallen human race. Even if she was righteous according to the law (many living people at the time of Jesus were as also many who lived before him) If she was redeemed, it was through her faith in Jesus Christ. So we see no special reason for Mary's assumption. Like all believers who put their trust in Jesus, she also awaits the coming of our Lord Jesus for the redemption of her body.Rom 3:20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.
21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference,
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished--
26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith.

A difference in the assumption of Mary is to be noticed. We know that Enoch and Elijah were translated. They received their immortal bodies in exchange of their mortal bodies because God was pleased with them. They did not see death. But Mary was not like them. She died a natural death and was burried. John must haver burried her. Mary was not God. She could not take her life back. The gospel of John, the epistles of John even remotly hint to the assumption or resurrection of Mary. Nor did Mary appear to any of the Apostles or believers of the Apostolic period covered by the Acts of the Apostles.

But could not Mary have been assumed by God? Of course yes. If Jesus could call Lazarus out of the grave, he could call anyone from among the dead. Is there any reason for it? The argument that she did not have original sin and she did not commit personal acts of sin are not sufficient reason for such an assumption. My conclusion is that there is no special reason for it unless God is a respector of persons. Jesus' relation with Mary in his life time and his defintion of "who is my mother?" does not justify such possibility.

All traditional sources agree that Mary died and was buried. Even the city nor the exact location of the grave is not known to anyone. The Act of the Apsotles which described the activities and the growth of the church is totally silent over the death and burial of the "Mothe of Church". . In other words, Mary was not translated into heaven, but was buried. The Bible says, "But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming." 1 Corinthians 15:23. Those who obey God's Word will be raised to life at His Second Coming. At least Paul knew nothing of the assumption when he wrote to the Corintian Church. Pope Paul himself in his Catechis admits this fact thus:" However, in the absence of further New Testament evidence and reliable historical sources , we know nothing of Mary's life after the Pentecost event, nor of the date and circumstances of her death. We can only suppose that she continued to live with the Apostle John and that she was very closely involved in the development of the first Christian community."

Catholic Encyclopaedia honestly treats this and after considering several alternatives sums it up as follows: "The sermons of St. Jerome and St. Augustine for this feast, however, are spurious. St. John of Damascus (P. G., I, 96) thus formulates the tradition of the Church of Jerusalem: "St. Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon (451), made known to the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven." Today, the belief in the corporeal assumption of Mary is universal in the East and in the West; according to Benedict XIV (De Festis B.V.M., I, viii, 18) it is a probable opinion, which to deny were impious and blasphemous."

There is obviously no real evidence for the Assumption of Mary. The doctrine of the Assumption of Mary did not begin until the sixth century. It was not until November 1, 1950, that Pope Pius XII defined it as a dogma.

Alternately there is one other reason. That is Mary was indeed God. She came for a purpose and she laid down her life and she took it back. Am I willing to accept that on the basis of the infallible declaration Pope of the "Only True Roman Catholic Church"?