Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven: Hyperdulia
Today we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. This solemn feast of Mary was defined by Pope Pius XII in 1950, but was celebrated in the Church from its earliest days as the Feast of the Dormition, or falling asleep of Mary.
Today we celebrate Mary’s life on earth as we join the heavenly hosts in celebrating her entrance into heaven. This is a good time for us to reflect on our devotion to Mary, particularly since there are still defamers of our faith who continue the false claim that Catholic’s worship Mary.
We do not worship Mary, but we do venerate her in a manner greater than we venerate the saints. Let’s go back to the theological terminology of the devotion that Catholics are bound to give. First of all, we are called to adore God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The theological term for this is latria. Only God is to be adored and worshiped. We are to have no gods before our one God. We do not worship Mary. We do not worship the saints. We only worship God.
We venerate the saints. By that we mean that we recognize their proximity to God in heaven. We call upon them to intercede for us. The theological term for our veneration of the saints is dulia. So we focus in on a great saint, like yesterday’s saint, St. Maximillian Kolbe, author, scholar, missionary and martyr, and we ask him to use his proximity to God to intercede for us.
The respect we have for all the saints is on this level of veneration. But there is one saint whose level of veneration is far greater than what we offer the other saints. This is the saint who is closest to God, Mary, the Immaculately Conceived One. Because she is the Mother of the human nature of Jesus and the mother of the one Person of God become man, or Mother of God, we offer Mary the highest level of respect and veneration. The theological term for this is hyperdulia. Hyperdulia, the veneration of Mary, is infinitely less than the adoration we offer to God, but it is also greater than what we offer the other saints. Mary is not just the first among the saints, she is far greater than any of the saints, or all of the saints put together for that matter.
We celebrate Mary and call upon her to intercede for us. She was given to us at the foot of the cross to be our mother. History has shown that she is continually active among her people. There are shrines and feasts of Mary in every country. Each of her feasts emphasize a particular aspect of Mary’s relationship to God and a particular facet of her care for her children. On the Solemnity of the Assumption our prayer is that we might be attentive to that which is beyond us, to that which is above, and in so doing might share in her glory and join her in union with God at the end of our lives.
The bottom line of the feast is this: Mary is in heaven. The one who is our mother is with God for all eternity. Our prayers to Mary are the prayers of children asking their mother for help.
We don’t worship Mary, but we do pray to her. We recognize her love and care in our lives. We say the Rosary mediating on the mysteries of her Son and asking Mary to pray for us sinners. We recognize that it is Jesus’ life and power that saves us, but we also recognize that Mary can call upon her son to give us many manifestations of His Love.
So today we take some time off from our busy schedule to celebrate the Blessed Mother, our Mother, who is united for all eternity, body and soul, to Jesus, our Brother.