Hello Rosary Lovers! We love Mary! So in this post we will analyse the dogma/belief of the Assumption of Mother Mary bodily into heaven.
In one sense, this is a uniquely Catholic dogma/belief. In another sense, you will see that this is an eminently reasonable belief, and one that has been believed for a very long time by many Christians.
The Doctrine of the Assumption of Mary
Ok, so the doctrine. What is the Assumption of Mary?
In short, it is the belief that the Virgin Mary, at the end of her earthly life, was taken up into heaven bodily.
Interestingly, this does not entail a necessary belief that Mary died. She may not have died. The Catholic Church isn’t sure about this. But she may have died. It’s an open question.
It is simply the belief that when her earthly life had come to a close, Mary was taken up into heaven bodily to be with her Son and with God the Father forever.
Therefore, Mary sits in heaven with a real human body, her glorified and permanent body. Mary does not await her own personal resurrection physically. She has already had her glorification.
Dogma and Feast Day
The doctrine of Mary’s assumption into heaven was dogmatised by Pope Pius XII in 1950. For that time on, it became an infallible belief of the Catholic Church, and all Catholics had to believe it.
The Feast Day of the Assumption is one of the most important feasts of the Catholic calendar. It falls every year on 15th August, which is a holiday in much of Europe.
This day is always a holy day of Obligation for Catholics. This means that Catholics HAVE to attend Mass and rest from work on this day, unless they have good reason not to (child commitments, work commitments that cannot be altered, or helping the sick, etc.).
Christians are looking forward to the great glorification when we will be raised from the dead and raised to heaven to be with Christ.
We look forward to having new bodies, resurrected bodies. Physical and yet spiritual bodies. Everything made new.
The apostle Paul tells us that we are looking for our adoption, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23). This is the great Christian hope.
It is true that our bodies are most certainly our partners in our salvation. It is also true that God uses the physical world and created things – including our bodies – to effect our salvation through the sacraments.
God uses physical bishops and priests and their bodies to perform the sacraments which save us.
However, it is also true that our bodies drag us down. Paul writes in Romans 7 and Galatians 5 how the flesh battles against the spirit always.
This is why no saint who has ever lived has been absolutely perfect, with the exception of Mary and possibly St Joseph.
All saints are fallible. As St Francis de Sales said: ‘Being a saint doesn’t mean doing everything right all of the time. It means doing everything right most of the time.’
St Mother Theresa said: ‘The difference between a saint and a sinner is that a saint gets back up again after falling.’
Saints fall. They mess up.
St Faustina in her famous Diary of Divine Mercy in her Soul used to add up her faults each month. Some months she noticed she had committed 11 faults, other mother 3 faults. But every month – faults. She was not perfect.
In fact, St Faustina used to disobey Jesus a lot. Jesus would call her to do something in her soul. He would speak to her in clearer ways than any of us hear the voice of Jesus. And yet St Faustina often would not do what he said.
Sometimes she was scared she was being deceived about it really being the voice of Jesus. She was made very aware of her weaknesses.
The reason why no saint has ever been perfect is because of the flesh. Our bodies. For some reason, sin has impacted our entire humanity. We don’t understand this, but it means that human beings have become irrational. We don’t follow reason, we follow the desires of the flesh.
We are emotional. We get carried away with passions, like anger, jealousy, greedy. We lack self-control.
Much of this is the result of having bodies that are fallen. Our bodies, though GOOD, are fallen and need redemption.
The redemption of the body only comes with the great resurrection when Jesus returns. We look for this. We hope for it.
And so we are partially saved now. We are being saved, we are journeying to salvation.
We won’t be SAVED proper until we have new bodies, because we remain for now in our fallen bodies which weigh us down and hinder us so much from seeing God and the divine in all things.
Mary is Different
The difference with Mary is that she has already been glorified. Mary awaits no redemption of the body. Mary is in heaven now with her flesh, just like Jesus.
In fact, as we know, Mary never had the same kind of fallen human body that we all have, because she was conceived immaculately in her mother’s womb.
From the first moment of Mary’s conception, she was purified and saved by God’s grace. This is the dogma of the immaculate conception.
So Mary had a redeemed body all her life and existence. Had she died, it would have been because she chose to submit to it, and chose to participate in our condition as humans, like her Son.
But Mary didn’t have to die. She never sinned and she was free of our mortal flesh. Just like Jesus.
This is why the Church always puts Mary and Jesus together. In many the Church’s icons, Mary and Jesus very often come together. Why? Because they belong together. They are different to us. They were both entirely pure always.
The Logic of the Assumption of Mary
It is actually very logical and reasonable that Mary was assumed bodily into heaven. Think about it. Mary gave the Saviour of the world his bodily flesh, by which he has saved us.
Jesus died on the cross in his body. Jesus did miracles with his body. But that body came from MARY.
Now, consider this. Jesus is in heaven now with his resurrected body.
Is it reasonable that the very woman who gave him his fleshly body is just a spirit floating around in heaven somewhere?
That’s what someone really should believe if they don’t believe that Mary was assumed bodily into heaven. It doesn’t reallymake much sense.
It makes perfect sense that the fleshly woman who gave God his fleshly existence should also be with her Son now in heaven, and be with him BODILY.
Holy Scripture and the Assumption of Mary
Scripture never explicitly speaks of the assumption of Mary. However, it does imply it.
In Revelation 12, John sees a Woman in heaven. She is very physical. She is clothed with the sun, and the moon is under her feet. She is crowned with stars. She is pregnant.
This woman is said to have brought forth the Saviour of the world.
Obviously, it’s a reference to the Virgin Mary. It may also be a reference to the Church, but then the Church is summed up in Mary the Mother of the Church.
For instance, Paul calls the Church a virgin in 2 Corinthians, and of course Mary is the supreme Virgin.
The Church is patterned on Mary, her mother. As Christ was the image of Mary, the Body of Christ (the Church) is the image of Mary.
So Revelation 12 is about Mary, at least in some sense. And we see a physical woman. So this assumes that she is in heaven bodily.
Also, we might consider the case of Enoch and Elijah. Both of these Old Testament saints were assumed bodily into heaven.
So the idea that Mary was assumed bodily into heaven is not at all against Scripture. In fact, it makes perfect sense that the Mother of God herself should be assumed bodily into heaven like Enoch and Elijah.
Mary walked with God perfectly, as did Enoch of also, and that’s the reason God assumed him into heaven (Genesis 5:24).
This is a Historic Belief of the Catholic Church
Sometimes, the Catholic Church is accused of making up this doctrine. It is claimed that no-one ever believed this doctrine before 1950 when the Catholic Church proclaimed it as a dogma.
This isn’t true, for several compelling reasons.
The first is that Catholics aren’t the only Christians who believe in this doctrine. The Eastern Orthodox also believe in it. It is true that the Eastern Orthodox don’t hold to it as a dogma (an infallible belief), but this is because they don’t feel they need to. Most believe it anyway.
The second is that many Oriental Orthodox Christians also believe in it. For instance, the Coptic Church in Egypt celebrates Mary’s Assumption on a Feast Day.
This is extremely interesting, given that the Coptic Church and the Catholic Church haven’t been in union for 1500 years! We can surmise from this that the Assumption of Mary was believed by many Christians as long as 1500 years ago.
The third reason is that St John of Damascus proclaimed the Assumption of Mary in the 8th century.
This means many Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Christians believed in this doctrine in the 8th century, since St John’s influence was large and he would have learned this from other teachers.
So this doctrine is not a new belief at all. It’s a very old belief.
Another very interesting fact is that the bones/relics of Mary have never been discovered, just like Jesus.
It seems remarkable that Christians don’t have the bones of Mary. She was honoured and loved all over the world by Christians when she was alive.
If she had died and if her body had remained in a tomb, surely Christians would have preserved it. But there is no record of this anywhere, and very striking omission if she is in fact in a tomb somewhere.
No-one will ever find the literal physical bones of Jesus because his body isn’t here anymore. He is risen! He is alive! He reigns in heaven.
And likewise, no-one will ever find the body of Mary because the Catholic Church is right: she has been assumed bodily into heaven, she is with her Son physically like him, and she reigns as Queen of heaven and of earth, interceding for us all to come to her Son.
If you have any questions about this, or want to leave a comment, please do and I shall try to get back to you as soon as I can.
God bless, in Christ, through the blessed Mother.