Thursday, August 15, 2013

Hope for Holiness

Robert Reno on Learning from the Virgin Mary:

Once again, this dogmatic affirmation works against our native pessimism about our own humanity. We may have a faith that our souls can somehow be purified, eventually. But we tend to think that the usual war of the flesh against holiness is inevitable and unwinnable. But the doctrine of the Assumption insists otherwise. The Blessed Virgin did not suffer corruption. Her body was in no way at war with her spiritual destiny.

Since the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church has insisted on the real possibility of sanctification for all of us. That’s what’s at stake in the doctrine of purgatory, and in the Marian doctrines as well. It’s what John Paul II was saying when he reminded us that the call of Christ is a universal call to holiness. Yes, we live in a fallen world that makes any progress in holiness difficult. But it’s possible, because being human—being conceived by flesh, having a body with all sorts of instinctual desires and a trajectory toward decay and death—is not incompatible with participating the perfection of God.

As the Blessed Virgin Mary sings, God lifts up the lowly and fills the hungry with good things. Born under the shadow of Adam’s fault, we are indeed lowly. With bodies that age and fail, we are starved for eternity. But God is gracious. He lifts and fills us. And as the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption make clear, we should never turn away from that grace with excuses about how sin is inevitable, and our bodies somehow alien to our spiritual aspirations.