As we enter the month of November, the Church reminds us of our duty to pray for souls who have departed this life, both those who are related to us and even those we never knew. Our Lady, the Undoer of Knots, is perfectly suited to assist us in dissolving the last and most difficult knot of death.
There are two seemingly irreconcilable traditions surrounding the death of Our Blessed Mother. One ancient tradition believes that she remained in Jerusalem with the Apostles after the Ascension of Jesus and was immediately assumed into Heaven upon her death so that there was no possible decay of her corporal integrity. The Benedictine Abbey of the Dormition stands on the very spot on Mount Zion where it is believed Our Lady passed from this life into Heaven.
A second equally ancient tradition holds that the Virgin Mary, having been entrusted by Jesus on the Cross to the Apostle John (Jn 19:26-27), accompanied John on his apostolic mission to Asia Minor where she lived a contemplative existence until she was taken up body and soul into Heaven. The little church called Miryam Ana, the House of Mary, stands on a hill overlooking the ruins of the ancient city of Efesus as a testimony to this tradition.
In either case, whether Our Lady physically died or was assumed before she died is more of a technical matter than a question of substance. Jesus raised His friend Lazarus from the dead and Elijah was taken to Heaven fully alive in a fiery chariot; the Lord is certainly capable of repeating His miracles on behalf of His own Mother!
We will not know until the afterlife which of the two traditions is more historically accurate, but we are certain that each contains a seed of truth about Our Lady’s role in bringing souls through the travails of this life into the glories of Heaven.
The Victory over Sin and Death through the Resurrection
The doctrine of Our Lady’s Assumption is based upon the understanding that the Virgin Mary was exempted from the mortal curse of Eve – that is, death and bodily decay for the human race. Because of Her Son’s Resurrection, Our Lady won a complete victory over sin and death and became a living witness to the future victory of all other believers who await the Resurrection. She is thus a symbol of our Christian hope for salvation.
What is of paramount importance to the believer is not our earthly legacy or our mortal remains but our hope in the victory of the Resurrection that is to take place in each of us. Apart from Jesus, Our Lady is the only human being ever to have been free of all knots, or entanglements of sin. She is therefore the first to have experienced that total victory of Christ and is well able to draw us into that victory even now for all who seek her assistance.
The Faithful Departed
On All Souls Day we may imagine Our Lady literally standing at the threshold of Purgatory gesturing toward the suffering souls and beckoning us to pray for those who have gone before us. But that should be a prayer for every day. As the holy souls are being purified in Purgatory (Catechism, 1030-1032) we unite ourselves with our Immaculate Mother and offer prayers for them in order to undo the knots of their sinful human nature and to lead them to Life.
We believe that “the dead shall be raised” (1 Cor 15:52) and that Our Lady has gone before us in purity and grace. With her, we participate in raising our departed brethren to the Throne of Grace and undoing that final and most difficult knot of death.
Holy Mother Mary, Undoer of the many knots of sin in our lives, hear us as we ask the final gift of dissolving all the ravages of death and decay which bind us in this vale of tears. You who are our life, our sweetness, and our hope, accept the loving trust of your children as we intercede for our dearly departed loved ones. Bring us and our entire family to be with you in the blessedness of the saints. We ask this in the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Peter Darcy, November 2, 2018