Read ~ Chapter 18: The Assumption of Mary Body and Soul into Heaven
Father Anthony Nachef, STD (Doctorate in Sacred Theology)
The teachings contained in this chapter are based on Holy Scriptures, the Tradition of the Catholic Church [especially the First and the Second Vatican Councils, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), the Fathers of the Church (especially St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine)], the Magisterium of the Catholic Church (especially Saint Pope Paul VI, Saint Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis). All Apostolic Encyclicals and Letters are found on the Vatican Website: Vatican
Death as a Mystery
Death creates ‘discontinuity’ in our existence: Death brings discontinuity in our human existence. When we wake up in the morning we don’t include death as a part of our schedule. Our human nature tends towards existence and continuity in our being alive. Suffering and death raises questions that people of all time asked themselves: Who am I? Where am I going? Why do I suffer? When people die what happens to them? Every single person, no matter how powerful they are, will ponder and seek an answer to this enigma.
Death is the result of sin: The Holy Scriptures, the Magisterium, and the Tradition of the Catholic Church have always taught that death is the result of sin. Adam and Eve would have never died if they didn’t sin: “Death was not God’s doing, he takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living… Yet God did make man imperishable, he made him in the image of his own nature; it was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world.” (The Book of Wisdom 1:13 and 2:23-25)
Dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary
Dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary: In 1950 Pope Pius XII announced the Church’s belief in the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven body and soul as a dogma of faith. Except for the risen human nature of Christ, the humanity of Mary reached the highest level of glorification that could ever exist. Note that Jesus Christ went up to heaven 40 days after his resurrection. The Church calls it “Ascension” because he went up to heaven by his own divine power. Mary was assumed by God into the glory of heaven. However, her Assumption should not be regarded only as a passive act of God, Mary did triumph over sin and death through the grace of God (Immaculate Conception) and her free will in cooperating with God’s grace.
Dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is a result of the Church’s faith from the beginning: The infallible teaching of Mary’s Assumption became a dogma of faith as a result of the concordant teaching of the Church’s ordinary doctrinal authority and the concordant faith of the Christian people. Pope Pius XII did not create a dogma out of nothing; it has always been there as a part of the Catholic faith and it is a truth revealed by God himself (See Vatican I, Dei Filius, 4). Pope Pius XII confirmed that “the Virgin Mary’s Assumption into heaven is contained in the deposit of faith entrusted to the Church.” (Pope Pius XII, Defining the Dogma of the Assumption, 4-5)
The Dogma of Mary’s Assumption is intrinsically connected to the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception: Since Mary did not experience any sin under any form, the faithful Catholics have been expecting the Dogma of her Assumption following the proclamation of the dogma of her Immaculate Conception hundred years earlier by Pope Pius IX. It pertains to God’s divine logic not to allow the body of the Virgin Mary to experience corruption, since it does not share the common fate of our sinful humanity. Mary’s Assumption is the ultimate fulfillment of the initial grace of her Immaculate Conception. Many fathers and theologians interpreted Psalm 131:8 in terms of Jesus not allowing his worthy Mother to experience corruption: “Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have have sanctified.”
The Dogma of Mary’s Assumption is taught by Holy Scripture: Many fathers and theologians interpreted Psalm 131:8 in terms of Jesus not allowing his worthy Mother to experience corruption: “Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have have sanctified.” The Arc of the Covenant in the Old Testament (that was kept in God’s temple) is a type of the most pure body of the Virgin Mary that was gloried in heaven, the eternal temple of God.
Psalm 44:10-14 is also an indication of the Assumption of Mary since the she is described as the queen entering the royal halls to sit at the right hand of the Redeemer. So is Song of Songs 3:6 where the Spouse of the Canticles “that goes up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke of aromatic spices, of myrrh and frankincense” to be crowed. We can’t forget Revelation 12:1 where the vision of a woman who was clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet , and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
Mary’s Death was not like ours
The Virgin Mary did not experience corruption: According to the Church Tradition, at the end of her life the Virgin Mary fell in a deep sleep and the Apostles found her tomb empty after 3 days. The deep sleep is called in Greek koimesis. Mary’s death was not like ours because she did not experience the corruption of her body. Pope Pius XII teaches in this regard: “God does not will to grant to the just the full effect of the victory over death until the end of time come. And so it is that the bodies of even the just are corrupted after death, and only on the last day will they be joined, each to its own glorious soul…The Blessed Virgin Mary, by an entirely unique privilege, completely overcame sin by her Immaculate Conception, and as a result she was not subject to the law of remaining in the corruption of the grave.” (Pope Pius XII, Defining the Dogma of the Assumption, 4-5)
Mary reversed the death of Eve: Since the second century, Mary has been called the New Eve (also insinuated at the wedding of Cana where Mary is called ‘woman”) because she must reverse the corruption of death. Eve introduced death, Mary reversed that curse by carrying the New Adam. Both man and woman need to have the curse of death reversed through the New man and the New Woman, Christ and the Virgin Mary. The Assumption of Mary is the logical expression of Christ’s redemption.
The good news of destroying death has already taken place in the book of Genesis where God promised Eve a descendant who will redeem humanity. Mary is associated with Christ in reversing the curse of death since God was addressing Eve promising salvation. Pope Pius XII says in this regard: “Just as the glorious resurrection of Christ was an essential part and the final sign of this victory, so that struggle which was common to the Blessed Virgin and her divine Son should be brought to a close by the glorification of her virginal body…” (Pope Pius XII, Defining the Dogma of the Assumption, 39)
Reason’s behind Mary’s Assumption
The body of the Virgin Mary carried God himself: Logically, God did not allow the body of the one who gave the eternal Son his human nature to experience decay. It is impossible because the human nature of Christ is the instrument of our salvation and that body was given to him by Mary. If Jesus is the medicine that heals humanity from death, Mary is the ‘spoon’ that contains the medicine. Without the spoon one can never receive the medicine. There is only one Savior; his name is Jesus Christ. Mary cooperated in the salvation of human race by giving birth to Christ. This giving birth to Jesus is not an action in the past without any repercussion for the future. The actions of Jesus have eternal value including his birth from the Virgin Mary. His historical birth is perfected in his heavenly birth when he brought his human nature to the dimension of the Divine Nature.
There is a new element in the bosom of the Trinity after the Incarnation, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus: his human nature. It is right now with the Father and the Holy Spirit forever. As Jesus ascended into heaven, he did not leave His human nature behind. Jesus’ glorified humanity gives our human nature the possibility to share the life of the Most Holy Trinity. Since this nature was given to him by Mary, one can never exclude the Marian dimension from salvation. Her body, just like Jesus’ body, is glorified too and share the eternal glory of the Blessed Trinity. How can the body which gave Christ his human nature as an instrument of our salvation, be reduced to dust? Along those lines, Pope Pius XII teaches “that the august tabernacle of the Divine Word had never been reduced to dust and ashes.” (Pope Pius XII, Defining the Dogma of the Assumption, 14)
St Robert Bellarmine, summarizing a long line of Church Fathers, said: “And who, I ask, could believe that the arc of holiness, the dwelling place of the Word of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit, could be reduced to ruin? My soul is filled with horror at the though that this virginal flesh which had begotten God…could have been turned into ashes or given over to be food for worms.” (Conciones Habitae Lovanii, 40)
If Jesus and Mary did not sin, why did they die?: Why did Mary and Jesus die if they didn’t sin? The Fathers of the Church have taught us that the procedure of inversion is the way God chose to save the human race. Adam and Eve sinned and died. In order to reverse their death, Christ and the Virgin Mary went the same way and reversed death to life: Christ died only to rise and Mary slept only to be assumed into heaven. In his infinite love and wisdom, Christ tied up death and life into one mystery with two dimensions. Being one and the same mystery implies that resurrection is the natural and automatic result of death: Christ is the only hope that destroys the mystery of death by binding it to life.
Consequences and spirituality behind Mary’s Assumption
The Assumption of Mary as the icon of the Church: When we die our soul will be immediately with God (hopefully). Our bodies will decay in the ground. At the end of human history when space and time are no more there, all human bodies will rise from the dead. If my soul is with God, my risen body will join my soul and the totality of my person, a unity of body and soul, will be saved. God forbid if my soul is not with God, my body will rise and join my soul in hell at the end of time. That is why Jesus in John 5 taught that some will rise to the resurrection of life others will rise to the resurrection of damnation.
Right now, the new Adam Jesus and the new Eve Mary both are in heaven with their risen body and soul. What does the Church hope to accomplish when Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Dogma of the Assumption? The Church places Mary as her Icon, as her future. What the Church wants to be in the future has already been accomplished in the Virgin Mary, namely the resurrection of all bodies at the end of time.
A spiritual and logical note: Pope Pius XII said:”Since our Redeemer is the Son of Mary, he could not do otherwise, as the perfect observer of God’s law, than to honor, not only his eternal Father, but also his most beloved Mother.” (Defining the Dogma of the Assumption, 38)
You might ask yourself how is the Virgin Mary’s Assumption going to affect me? The Virgin Mary whose will is united to the will of God wants every person to be saved. In her maternal prayers, intercessions, and protection, Mary will do everything to help us as any mother would do for her children. Try to develop a devotion to the Virgin Mary by praying the rosary and asking her to unite you to the mystery of her Son as much as possible. Being with Christ from the womb to the tomb, Mary’s presence in the mystery of her Son becomes the model for every person’s journey of faith.
Whatever we do in this body will affect our eternal salvation because it is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Let us keep our eyes on the best model ever in human history: the Virgin Mary. Let us beg her as our mother to be with us now and at the hour of our death.