Rejoice, dear sisters!
Today is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary into heaven. This means that she was taken up to heaven body and soul. Today we will introduce this study on Mary our Mother, but given that it happens to fall on the Feast of the Assumption, it’s only fitting we focus on this treasured doctrine of the Church.
Later on in this study we’ll discuss many aspects of Mary: her virginal birth, her Queenship of heaven and earth, and we’ll touch on a couple of the Vatican-approved apparitions, and more!
Today’s feast is often a tough doctrine to understand: if heaven is for our souls, how is Mary’s corporeal (bodily) self also in heaven? The Church has always taught that Mary’s body was assumed into heaven. While there isn’t a direct scriptural connection to this belief, Saint Paul teaches in his second letter to the Thessalonians to hold fast to oral (not just written) tradition. Apostolic tradition, then, teaches us that Mary was assumed into heaven.
The almost universally accepted teaching is that Mary did not die.
Pope Pius XII in Munificentissimus Deus (1950) defined that Mary, “…after the completion of her Earthly life was assumed body and soul into the Glory of Heaven.” Adam and Eve were punished for their sin by death, but given that Mary was created immaculately, that is, without any stain of sin, it’s possible to draw the conclusion that she wouldn’t have needed to die or have been punished by death.
While there is little historical or scriptural proof that Mary’s body was assumed, there are certain truths which back up this doctrine. It is known that from very early on, the bones and relics of saints were kept by the early Christians. Cities clamored over who would get to be the final resting place for this saint or that one, and often built churches devoted to their particular saint. Relics were heavily guarded and highly prized. No city, however, claims to have the bones or remains of Mary. Why, if relics were so intrinsically valued from early on, would there be no lauded resting place for Mary’s remains?
Mary wasn’t the first to be assumed body and soul into heaven: Enoch and Elijah were both assumed into heaven. Why wouldn’t God do the same for His Blessed Mother, who was free from sin and the ultimate Ark of the New Covenant? The honor that was given to the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the manna from heaven, the tablets of the Ten Commandments, and the staff of Aaron, was unchallenged and unmatched. Due to the great value of the contents, it was made of incorruptible wood. Mary, then, is considered the “incorruptible,” the Ark of the New Covenant: Jesus Christ.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us (966): “Finally, the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into Heavenly Glory and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things…” While there is no basis in Scripture for this tradition, it is still one that we, as Catholics, hold near and dear to our hearts.
In the last book of the New Testament, Revelation, we glean information about Mary’s assumption. In Rev: 6:9, we see only the souls of the martyrs in heaven. In Rev 12:1, we see Mary clothed with the sun, both body and soul.
Mary is so special because of her involvement with salvation history. There are some circumstances and aspects of her birth, life, and death that are hard for our little mortal brains to fully understand. During this study on our Mother Mary, however, we’ll walk through these mysteries and hopefully understand them a little better or at least be able to accept them with faith.
Reflection question 1: What part of our Church’s teachings on Mary is hardest for you to understand? Is it the virginal birth? Or the assumption?
Reflection question 2: When was the last time you prayed to Mary, specifically to Mary, for guidance or help?
Act: Ponder the mysteries surrounding Mary, and make time to say a prayer to her on our journey of learning about her.