This year, if the dispensation for attending Mass has not been lifted in your diocese, today will likely not be counted as a Holy Day of Obligation. However, it is still a very important day in the Church and so if you are able, please attend Mass.
If the dispensation has been lifted in your diocese, there may still be something in the United States saying that since it falls on a Saturday, it doesn’t count as a Holy Day of Obligation. Which is silly. Go to Mass.
Ok, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about this great feast. We’ll start by making a distinction between the Ascension and the Assumption. Ascension is a word that derives from the Latin “ascendere,” meaning ” to go up.” The word assumption, in this case, comes from the Latin “assumptio,” meaning “the action of being taken up.” Ascension is active, assumption is passive. Jesus could go up into heaven under His own power; Mary could not because She is not God. She was taken up by the power of God, not Her own power.
Why is today such a great feast as to require Catholics to attend Mass? You’d go to your earthly mother’s funeral and burial, wouldn’t you? So why shouldn’t we attend the great feast of our Mother in heaven being taken up to the Home that we’re all striving toward? On a deeper level, Mary deserves this action of our devotion because of her perfect purity and devotion to the will of God, which She exercised throughout her life and which merited Her glorious Assumption, preserving Her body from decay. We look to Her because She has anticipated us in this glorious homecoming and we have hope that we too will one day ascend to this Home to be with God our Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and Her. And because of Mary and the graces She brings us from her Son, we can have this hope. And since we, unlike Mary, were born with Original Sin, She is the perfect model to follow and imitate. Her soul was completely unstained, making Her will and Her actions those of a human being originally created by God, before the Fall. In other words, She represents the creature that was intended by God all along, before Adam and Eve disobeyed and ruined the beauty of man’s soul. This is one reason She merited the great honor of having Her body preserved and taken into heaven with Her soul.
Besides Her Immaculate Conception, She was offered the dignity and honor of being the Mother of our Savior. And She accepted wholeheartedly without reservation or hesitation. This was because of Her conformity to the will of God. Someone who is so devoted and is the bearer of One as great as our Savior Jesus Christ has every right to the honors and privileges that aren’t granted every day. The only other ones that were given the privilege of being assumed into heaven were the prophets Enoch and Elijah and, some believe, Moses. Their zeal and “birthing” of the word of God to others merited this. And Mary deserves it even more so because she gave birth literally to THE Word of God, Jesus Christ. And if She deserves this honor from God Himself, why wouldn’t She deserve honor and veneration from God’s creatures here on earth, particularly on this great feast of Her receiving the ultimate honor, bodily preservation because of purity and perfect service of God?
Something that we can take away from the Assumption is the manner of death (Mary did die, Her body was assumed three days later) and the merits that She procured in Her final moments. When we pray the fourth Glorious Mystery of the Rosary, the Assumption, we ask for the grace of a holy death (some translations will say “happy death” but I prefer holy because it’s important to remember that holiness is paramount and if one is holy, true happiness will come naturally). We ask Mary to pray for us and be with us at the hour of death so that we may be united with Her Son at that time, just as She was. In this way, we will be received into Her Son’s Arms at the moment of death and behold the beatific vision. We also ask Her to help us grow in purity and perfect service of Her Son while we are still alive. She will surely come to our aid and assist us in this regard, which will bring about great peace and protection by Her and the choirs of angels at the moment of death.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee!