For a Thomist like myself, to be an intellectual being and to be a spiritual being are two sides of the same coin. And it is our peering into the timeless, shadowy world of universals that gives us our first inklings of something eternal and immaterial. But while our rational capabilities may lead us to believe that there is a supernatural order behind our natural one, it does not illuminate the way much further. God, especially, remains a mystery. To quote Aquinas, we do not know what God is.
One of the reasons why, I think, I am rather fond of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary is that it is one of those moments that suggests that this eternal otherworld which we call heaven is something far, far removed from the sort of inert Platonic realm of forms which it can sometimes be pictured as.
The doctrine, and feast, is about how, at the end of Our Lady’s earthly life, she was taken up, both body and soul into heaven, like Elijah and Enoch in the Old Testament (and like her Son, obviously). Although it was only solemnly defined as dogma some sixty-four years ago by Pope Pius XII, the belief and the celebration of it go way back.
So the Virgin Mary is not just ‘alive’ in the sense of the persistence of her soul, but physically alive in a glorified manner that is freed from the pesky constraints of space and time. More real than we are.
This world, with all its wonders, contains even more wonderful things behind the veil, and there are always those uncanny moments in our lives where something seems to shine through the fabric.
But, for all its momentousness, it is also a rather quiet, personal, event, happening at the end of a normal human lifespan long after the most dramatic stuff had happened. It was the end of what must have been a period of longing, the Holy Family reunited in heaven. We rejoice for her sake, but also because it offers a suggestion of our own personal reunion that we hope for. Revelations says that God will “wipe away every tear”. Perhaps someone could find the image to be too sentimental, but in a life as bitter as this one can be, I find the sentiment to be rather poignant.