By Fr. Roy Cimagala
AUGUST 15 is, of course, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It reminds us that by a special divine privilege, Our Lady was assumed body and soul to heaven at the end of her earthly sojourn. That, I suppose, is due to the most special role she played in the economy of human salvation, being chosen as the mother of our Redeemer. This dogma was defined by Pope Pius XII in 1950.
Many spiritual considerations can be derived from this solemnity, but for now we can focus on the truth of our faith that our body too, and not only our spiritual soul, is meant for heaven where we have our definitive home with God for all eternity.
This solemnity reminds us that we need to take care of our body as a necessary consequence of our care we ought to give to our soul. That’s because as human persons, we are both body and soul, and not just one or the other.
Let’s always remember that our body is an essential part of our humanity. It’s meant to be animated by a spiritual soul whose life is always a participation of the life of God. As our catechism would put it, our body “participates in the dignity of the image of God.” (CCC 364) If we know how, we can and ought to see God in our body!
We have reason to even glorify our body since in it we can glorify God. St. Paul explains it this way:
“Your bodies are the shrines of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in you. And he is God’s gift to you, so that you are no longer your own masters. A great price was paid to ransom you. Glorify God by making your bodies the shrines of his presence.” (1 Cor 6,19-20)
Still in another part of the same epistle, St. Paul teaches: “Your bodies are not meant for debauchery. They are meant for the Lord, and the Lord claims your bodies…Have you never been told that your bodies belong to the body of Christ?” (6,13)
The current and dominant attitude toward the body and the material world in general, I am afraid, has suffered a dangerous mutation, a radical reversal of God’s designs for them. We seem to be falling into two extremes.
One is to consider the body as completely evil, as when the distinction between the body and the soul becomes exaggerated that they by nature become hostile to each other. This mindset is prevalent among those who may be regarded as too spiritual in their life. These are the puritans and the like.
The other extreme, the more common one, is to consider the body alone as completely good, with no more need for spiritual animation and direction. This is the case of a variety of people—the hedonists, the naturalists, etc.
While there is a distinction between the body and the soul, between the material and the spiritual realities of our life, we should not forget that both make up our nature. They cannot and should not be separated.
We should realize that we need to have our body properly animated by the spirit of God. It should not just be left to follow purely biological and other natural laws. It has to be spiritualized and supernaturalized with the grace of God and our effort of loving God all the way! We should learn how to materialize the spirit and spiritualize the material.