We continue with this excerpt from my book MARY, MOTHER OF THE SON (available on Kindle at the link):
Sometimes, when it is asked “Why is the Assumption a dogma?” It will be replied, “Because the Assumption is the logical corollary to the Immaculate Conception.” Some people misunderstand that to mean, “The Church cooked up the fiction of the Immaculate Conception and then she had to cook up the Assumption to back it up.” However, as we have seen, this is to get things exactly backwards, for the historical reality is that the Church was celebrating the Assumption of Mary a thousand years before she had ironed out all the questions about how Mary got to be sinless.
The real link between the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption is that the Assumption is the fruit and reward given for the Blessed Virgin’s life of perfect union with her Son. As he was raised up, so she was raised up as well through faith in him. And as he ascended to heaven, so she was assumed. (Note, by the way, how the distinction between Creator and creature remains. Jesus, being God, ascends under his own steam. Mary is pulled up to heaven by him.) The central idea is that, given Mary’s perfect sinlessness and life “full of grace,” the Assumption is the fitting conclusion to the story of her life. It is her little Easter. That’s why Pope Pius XII writes:
[T]he two dogmas are intimately connected in close bond . . . these two very singular privileges, bestowed upon the Virgin Mother of God, stand out in most splendid light as the beginning and as the end of her earthly journey; for the greatest possible glorification of her virgin body is the complement, at once appropriate and marvelous, of the absolute innocence of her soul, which was free from all stain; and just as she took part in the struggle of her only-begotten Son with the wicked serpent of Hell, so also she shared in His glorious triumph over sin and its sad consequences.
However, that said, another question remains. For although any Catholic or Orthodox believer for the past two thousand years would agree that Mary’s sinless grace-filled life was fittingly crowned by the further grace of her Assumption, the Assumption wasn’t formally proclaimed as dogma until 1950. Yet the connection between the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary was a given, not simply in 1854, but for centuries before that. So what happened in the twentieth century that made the Church decide the Assumption was so particularly necessary to emphasize?
The answer is twofold: first, as with the definition of the Immaculate Conception, the Church expressed her desire to declare this dogma, first and foremost, out of love for God and for Mary:
It is to be hoped that all the faithful will be stirred up to a stronger piety toward their heavenly Mother, and that the souls of all those who glory in the Christian name may be moved by the desire of sharing in the unity of Jesus Christ’s Mystical Body and of increasing their love for her who shows her motherly heart to all the members of this august body. And so we may hope that those who meditate upon the glorious example Mary offers us may be more and more convinced of the value of a human life entirely devoted to carrying out the heavenly Father’s will and to bringing good to others.
In other words, the Church is saying here, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). But the Church is saying more as well. For by the time Pius XII wrote, the ideas of the nineteenth century had become concrete realities. As Pius put it, the twentieth century gave birth to “very severe calamities” that took place “by reason of the fact that many have strayed away from truth and virtue.” For in the twentieth century, the Philosophies of Pride were enacted by the powers of state, science, business, entertainment, education, and the military into programs that bore an abundant harvest of blood—a harvest that continues to the present.