Body talk

Today – Friday, August 15 — is the Feast of the Assumption. Rather than making a huge assumption (ha ha; couldn’t resist!) that everyone is familiar with this event, here’s an exceedingly brief explanation.

The Assumption is a Church dogma stating 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.” (Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus). In other words, unlike the rest of us, her body did not have to stay on earth after death, left in a tomb or grave or vault. Her physical person, not just her soul, went straight up to join her Son.

Traditionally, I’ve never thought much about the Assumption. It’s always sounded like a nice event, and I’ve never had a problem accepting it, but it’s never been particularly meaningful to me.

Until now. Now, as a mom, I think it’s absolutely beautiful. I love it for what it says about Mary … but, even more, I love it for what it says about Jesus.

Here’s the thing that I’ve learned in the twenty-three months since my son’s birth: mothering is very, very, VERY physical. I take care of Matthew’s body in countless ways. The same, of course, was true of Mary. She carried Jesus in her womb and felt him kick; she nursed him; she wrapped him in those famous swaddling clothes. When he got older, she helped him blow his nose and kissed his owies when he fell. She combed his hair, bathed him, urged him to eat when he’d rather get out and play (“Jesus! Honey! Finish your dinner! You’re skin and bones!”). She mended the clothes that covered his changing body as he shot up into manhood. For years, she administered gentle touches, affectionately rumpled his hair, and constantly monitored and cared for his body (because, in the early years at least, moms know their kids’ bodies as well as they know their own). She did all this for her little guy.

And so, at the end of her life, I can imagine Jesus remembering all those things. I see him looking at her with infinite gratitude and endless affection, and saying, “Okay, Mom, you spent years taking care of my body. Now, I’m going to take care of yours.” And he does this in the best way he can: he spares her from having to lie in a tomb and instead takes that body up to heaven with him. In that way, he makes a special statement of love for the body that carried him and cared for him, the body that was his tangible source of comfort for so many years.

That’s one pretty terrific son.

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