On 1 November 1950, His Holiness Pope Pius XII solemnly defined the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus. If you haven’t already read it, have a look at the whole document. It’s beautiful. Here’s an excerpt:
“…after we have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”
That’s the reason for our celebration, and God did this because it would not be fitting that the flesh which had given Flesh to God should see corruption. The body and soul of Mary had been prepared by being immaculately conceived in the womb of her mother Anne, thus preparing the Blessed Virgin for Divine Motherhood. Now, as a result of that preparation and the fiat she gave, she has been taken – body and soul – into heaven, where she reigns as Queen.
There is another joy which is attached to this day, for me personally. On this day, twenty-eight years ago, I was ordained as a Catholic priest in the Cathedral of San Fernando, San Antonio, Texas, having served the previous seven years as an Anglican priest.
In addition to that blessed event, other developments happened which form at least a footnote in the historic development we’re witnessing now, with the establishment of the Ordinariates.
Twenty-eight years ago today, at the Mass of my ordination, the parish of Our Lady of the Atonement was established. When that happened, there was – for the very first time – a canonically erected community of Catholics which had as its purpose that of maintaining, nurturing and sharing the Anglican patrimony. It was a small beginning – a small contribution to a greater purpose – but it was historic in a way we could not have imagined a generation ago. And then, seventeen years ago on this Solemnity of the Assumption, when The Atonement Academy opened for its first day of classes, there was – again, for the first time – a Catholic institution dedicated to educating students within the context of our Anglican patrimony, with that patrimony being reflected in the intellectual and spiritual vision of the school, and in the daily liturgical life of the students.
These were small beginnings, but not inconsequential – and that they took place on this Marian solemnity shows the importance to God and to His Blessed Mother of the patrimony which is so much a part of Mary’s Dowry.