Although the Assumption of the Virgin Mary has been part of Catholic history, it was not considered a dogma of the Catholic Church until the 20th Century. On May 1, 1946 Pope Pius XII wrote a letter to bishops worldwide asking their opinions in regards to the possibility of the assumption of the Virgin Mary becoming a dogma of the Catholic Church (in 1950 it was republished as an encyclical) . He begins Deiparae Virginis Mariae with “The Christian people have never ceased to invoke and experience the Blessed Virgin Mary’s assistance, and therefore they have, venerated her with ever growing devotion. And so, because love when it is true and deeply felt tends of its own nature to manifest itself through ever renewed demonstrations, the faithful have vied with one another through the centuries in expressing at all times their ardent piety toward the Queen of Heaven. In our opinion, this is the reason why, for a long time past, numerous petitions … have reached the Holy See, all begging that the bodily Assumption into heaven of the Blessed Virgin should be defined and proclaimed as a dogma of the faith. And certainly no one is unaware of the fact that this was fervently requested by almost two hundred fathers in the Vatican Council.” 1
The precedent was clearly set with Pius IX’s dogmatic proclamation in regarding to the Immaculate Conception, which laid the integral foundation for the argument that The Assumption should become dogma. Pope Pius XII’s request for consideration became a dogma of the Catholic Church via the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus on November 1, 1950. He referenced that it was a nearly unanimous decision.
Due to the Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception becoming a dogma of the Church, it was affirmed what others of the past had stated: that when the Mary was assumed into heaven by Jesus, she was incorrupt. As St. John Damascene writes, “It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that her spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrows which she had escaped in the act of giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father. It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.”2
Or one could consider the writings of St. Albert the Great. After extensively compiling scriptural references, commentary and theologically based propositions, in his Mariale he states, “For these proofs and authorities and from many others, it is manifest that the most blessed Mother of God has been assumed above the choirs of angels. And this we believe in every way to be true.”3
While there are no direct bible passages that mention the Assumption of Mary, there are several which could indicate that Mary was indeed assumed into heaven. In particular, there is the book of Revelation.4 There’s no escaping the Marian reference in verse 12:5 that “she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne”. The only male child to rule all nations is Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, who resurrected and is eternally seated at the right hand of God, the Father. Additionally, in verse 11:19 it states, “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple, and there were flashes of lightning, loud noises, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.” The Virgin Mary has always been referred to as the Ark of the Covenant throughout sacred tradition. Therefore, attributing this verse to the assumption of the Virgin Mary isn’t that difficult.
Also part of sacred tradition of the Catholic Church is the teaching that because the faithful receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, that they too will be resurrected and will enjoy eternity in heaven, not unlike the Virgin Mary herself. The only difference between the Blessed Mother and the rest of the faithfully departed is that when a person dies, their soul will be in heaven until it is reunited with their body at the second coming of Christ. The Virgin Mary was assumed into heaven, body and soul like her Son.
“Thus, from the universal agreement of the Church’s ordinary teaching authority we have a certain and firm proof, demonstrating that the Blessed Virgin Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven – which surely no faculty of the mind could know by its own natural powers, as far as the heavenly glorification of the virginal body of the loving Mother of God is concerned – is a truth that has been revealed by God and consequently something that must be firmly and faithfully believed by all children of the Church … Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.”5
And so, the faithful worldwide add the Assumption of the Virgin Mary to a long list of ways that we honor Our Mother. The sweet words of Pope Benedict XVI sum it up quite nicely: “Only openness to the mystery of God, who is Love, can quench the thirst for truth and happiness in our hearts; only the prospect of eternity can give authentic value to historical events and especially to the mystery of human frailty, suffering and death.
By contemplating Mary in heavenly glory, we understand that the earth is not the definitive homeland for us either, and that if we live with our gaze fixed on eternal goods we will one day share in this same glory and the earth will become more beautiful.
Consequently, we must not lose our serenity and peace even amid the thousands of daily difficulties. The luminous sign of Our Lady taken up into Heaven shines out even more brightly when sad shadows of suffering and violence seem to loom on the horizon.”6
Reflection: There’s not doubt that when we are faced with supernatural concepts that are or seem to be impossible to prove, we tend to pause. Some may walk the path of skepticism. Those with true and solid Marian devotion know that they must continue on the path that is led by the Light of Christ. It is then, when we walk this path, out of faith, that we will begin to experience the superabundant graces and blessings that are bestowed upon us.
So, in humble prayer, let us keep our eyes fixed on the true and the good that we find in Our Blessed Mother. May she intercede for us always!
Be assured of my prayers. May God continue to infinitely bless you.
1 Pope Pius XII, Deiparae Virginis Mariae , n. 2
2 St. John Damascene, Encomium in Dormitionem Dei Genetricis Semperque Virginis Mariae, Hom. II, n. 14
3 St. Albert the Great, Mariale, q. 132
4 Revised Standard Version-2nd Catholic Edition Bible Translation
5 Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, n. 12 & n. 45
6 Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience at Castel Gandolfo, August 16, 2006