Home FAQ Where does the belief in Mary’s assumption come from?

Where does the belief in Mary’s assumption come from?

by Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg

Each year on August 15 we celebrate the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

This ancient belief that Mary, “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” is part of the saving deposit of faith revealed to us by the Holy Spirit and was solemnly defined as dogma by Pope Pius XII in 1950 in Munificentissimus Deus

The doctrine of the Assumption is part of our veneration of the Blessed Mother and her singular role in the economy of salvation. She is the exemplary disciple (Luke 1:38, 8:21, 11:28), the first missionary (Luke 1:39-56), the primary intercessor (John 2:1-10) and the spiritual mother of all disciples (John 19:25-27). 

It is also helpful to remember that there are biblical precedents for Mary’s assumption in the accounts of Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11-12). 

The early Church fathers articulated our belief in the Assumption. St. Epiphanius of Salamis (d. 403) wrote, “Follow the indication of Scripture, in which is found no mention of Mary’s death.” 

St. Gregory of Tours (d. 594) relates an early Christian document which teaches, “Finally, when blessed Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was about to be called from this world, all the apostles, coming from their different regions, gathered together in her house. When they heard that she was about to be taken up out of the world, they kept watch together with her. And behold, the Lord Jesus came with his angels and, taking her soul, handed it over to the archangel Michael and withdrew. At dawn, the apostles lifted up her body on a pallet, laid it in a tomb, and kept watch over it, awaiting the coming of the Lord. And behold, again the Lord presented himself to them and ordered that her holy body be taken and carried up to heaven. There she is now, joined once more to her soul; she exults with the elect, rejoicing in the eternal blessings that will have no end.”

Although there is no explicit biblical reference to the Assumption, Pope Pius XII referenced some of the biblical texts cited by the Church fathers as the implicit basis of our ancient belief: 

  • Psalm 132:8 (the Ark of the New Covenant)
  • Song of Songs 3:6 (the spouse of God who rises like frankincense)
  • Revelation 12 (the woman clothed with the sun)
  • Luke 1:28 (Mary as “full of grace” as compared with Eve who suffered death and bodily corruption because of sin)
  • 1 Corinthians 15:51–56 (death is swallowed up in victory)
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:14–17 (God brings to himself those who have fallen asleep in Jesus)

I have always been moved by Pope Pius’ reference to Exodus 20:12 — “Honor your father and your mother.” It captures the devotion Jesus demonstrated for his mother during his earthly life and his continuing care for her in eternity. As fully human, Jesus understands on an experiential level the debt of love we owe our parents. 

Who cared more for Jesus than Mary, who embraced him as the babe in Bethlehem and held his lifeless body when it was taken down from the cross? Would not a grateful son be there for his mother as she had been there for him? 

In celebrating Mary’s assumption, we should remember that she is the first member of the Church to experience this grace. Her bodily assumption confirms our hope in our own future bodily resurrection when we will share eternal glory with her and with her son, our brother and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Source: Northwest Catholic

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