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Why Catholics Believe in the Assumption of Mary
Catholic ^ | 08-15-05 | Heidi Hess Saxton

Posted on 08/15/2005 9:01:28 AM PDT by Salvation

by Heidi Hess Saxton

Other Articles by Heidi Hess Saxton
Why Catholics Believe in the Assumption of Mary

My friend Margie, who teaches two- to three-year-olds in our parish religious education program, says that the secret to teaching this age group is a healthy prayer life. The week she taught her class about the Assumption of Mary, Margie spent a long time on her knees.

She was stumped. “How is it possible to explain this to a two-year-old?”

Fortunately, our Lord always answers the prayers of those who want to honor His Mother. “As I prayed, the idea came to me — a helium balloon! I tied a string on the balloon and taped a picture of Jesus to the front. I let one of the children release the string in class to illustrate how Jesus was taken into heaven. Then I tied a picture of Mary to the end of the string and released the balloon a second time to show how Jesus ‘pulled’ His Mother up to heaven to be with Him. It was a simple thing — but it worked!”

This simple truth, that Mary was taken body and soul into heaven, is difficult for some Christians to grasp. Why is this dogma an important part of the Catholic faith?

The Assumption of Mary is one of four dogmas to be infallibly defined by the Magisterium. In 1950, Pope Pius XII promulgated this dogma in a letter entitled Munificentissimus Deus:

Immaculate in her conception, a spotless virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble companion of the divine Redeemer Who won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, she finally obtained as the crowning glory of her privileges to be preserved from the corruption of the tomb and like her Son before her, to conquer death and to be raised body and soul to the glory of heaven, to shine refulgent as Queen at the right hand of the Son, the immortal King of ages [cf. 1 Tm 1:17].
Although this was the first time the doctrine was formally defined, it should be noted that belief in the Assumption of Mary has long been a part of our faith tradition. There are three strong arguments for this tradition: Scripture, the devotional practices of the early Church, and the writings of the Church Fathers.

The concept of the Assumption is not unprecedented in Scripture. The Bible gives three examples of people who did not experience death the normal way: Enoch (Gn 5:25), Elijah (2 Kgs 2:9-11), and Moses (Dt 34:5-7, Jude 1:9). Both Moses and Elijah are visible at Christ’s Transfiguration (see Mk 9:4-5; Mt 17:3).

Even so, the Assumption of Mary has a unique place in the redemption story: Her purity and dignity as the Mother of God has accorded her a unique place in heaven, in anticipation of the heavenly glory that we will one day receive ourselves: “In teaching her doctrine about the human person’s destination after death, the Church excludes any explanation that would deprive the assumption of the Virgin Mary of its unique meaning, namely the fact that the bodily glorification of the virgin is an anticipation of the glorification that is the destiny of all the other elect.”

It is from this heavenly place of glory that she intercedes for us, as the “woman clothed with the sun” whose descendents are “all those who obey God’s commandments and are faithful to the truth revealed by Jesus” (Rv 12:17).

Why would Mary receive such special graces from God? In the Revelation of John, we find one clue. In Revelation 11:19, John reports seeing “the ark of his covenant within his temple,” just before he sees “a woman clothed with the sun” (Rv 12:1). The proximity of these two images suggested to some Church Fathers that the two are actually one — that is, that Mary is herself the Ark of the New Covenant.

As you may recall, the Ark of the Covenant was a sacred box that contained three reminders of God’s presence among His people Israel: a jar of the manna God fed His people in the desert; the flowering rod of Aaron, a sign of his priestly office; and the tablets of stone containing the Law, which Moses received from God. The Ark was kept in the Holy of Holies, where the high priest entered once a year to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people.

As the Ark of the New Covenant, Mary held within her the Bread of Life, the great High Priest, and the one who came “not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it” (Mt 5:17). And so, just as the first Ark remained within the Holy of Holies, where the priest offered God sacrifices on behalf of the people, so the Ark of the New Covenant has a cherished place in heaven, near the one Who offers up the perfect offering (Heb 12:22-24).

There is no explicit statement in Scripture about Mary’s death, any more than it gives us details about the end of Joseph’s life or the deaths of most of the Apostles. These things have been preserved for us through Church Tradition, and particularly through her liturgical and devotional practices.

For example, the Church has always preserved and revered the relics of her saints — that is, the bodies and personal effects of those who have gone before us to heaven. However, no relics of Jesus’s mother exist, or are even mentioned in the writings of the early Church. Had Mary’s body remained in the tomb, her relics would certainly have been given the highest place of honor — like the bits of the Apostles’ relics that are cherished in altars of Catholic churches all over the world.

We need not be alarmed at Scripture’s silence. Much of the New Testament was likely written within Mary’s lifetime. It is also likely that the full implications of Mary’s unique role in the salvation story took some time to develop. This is true in many areas of Catholic teaching.

How can this be? While the full revelation of the Gospel was completely transmitted by the Apostles, the implications of this revelation have fully developed over the course of centuries. This is why the Holy Spirit was sent, to guide us “to all truth” (Jn 16:13). And this is why we draw from Tradition, the Magisterium, and the Scriptures for our storehouse of spiritual truth.

Since Mary was kept from the stain of original sin, and remained holy throughout her life (CCC 966), Mary may not have experienced physical death. For this reason, the Eastern Church Fathers speak of the “dormition” or “falling asleep” of Mary. As St. John of Damascus observed: “The earth could not bear her divine body and dissolve it, as with other mortals. Nay, though necessary that it be delivered to death, three days thereafter, her relics were delivered incorruptible into angelic hands. She becomes incorruptible, rises, and is translated to heaven. There she stands before her Son and God in a living body.”

The Roman Catholic Church affirms only that Mary was taken into heavenly glory “when the course of her earthly life was finished...” (CCC 966). Some sources suggest that all Apostles except Thomas (even those who had already died) were present at Mary’s bedside, and carried her to her tomb where three days later her body disappeared, leaving only a few grave clothes and the strong aroma of roses in her wake.

In his apostolic letter Redemptoris Mater, Pope John Paul II reminds us of the most important aspect of Mary’s Assumption — she is our roadmap to that blessed state of grace, the string that guides us ever heavenward: “It can be said that ‘in the Most Holy Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle.’ Hence, as Christians raise their eyes with faith to Mary in the course of their earthly pilgrimage, they "strive to increase in holiness." Mary, the exalted Daughter of Sion, helps all her children, wherever they may be and whatever their condition, to find in Christ the path to the Father's house.

Raised in the Evangelical Protestant tradition, Heidi Saxton was confirmed Catholic in 1993. She is the author of
With Mary in Prayer (Loyola) and is a graduate student (theology) at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan. You may contact Heidi at

TOPICS: Activism; Apologetics; Catholic; Charismatic Christian; Current Events; Eastern Religions; Ecumenism; Evangelical Christian; General Discusssion; History; Islam; Judaism; Mainline Protestant; Ministry/Outreach; Moral Issues; Orthodox Christian; Other Christian; Other non-Christian; Prayer; Religion & Culture; Religion & Politics; Religion & Science; Skeptics/Seekers; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: assumption; blessed; mary; virginmarry
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Hail Mary, full of grace!
1 posted on 08/15/2005 9:01:29 AM PDT by Salvation
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To: nickcarraway; sandyeggo; Siobhan; Lady In Blue; NYer; american colleen; Pyro7480; livius; ...
Catholic Discussion Ping!

Please notify me via FReepmail if you would like to be added to or taken off the Catholic Discussion Ping List.

2 posted on 08/15/2005 9:02:57 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All
Why Catholics Believe in the Assumption of Mary

St. Gregory Palamas: On the Dormition of Our Supremely Pure Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary

Maronite Catholic: Qolo (Hymn) of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary


The Fourth Glorious Mystery

Archbishop Sheen Today! -- The glorious assumption

The Assumption Of The Blessed Virgin Mary Reflections For The Feast 2003

The Assumption Of Mary

3 posted on 08/15/2005 9:05:25 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation

I guess this isn't any harder to believe than the what the LDS belief that Jesus came to the Americas and taught the indigenous people that the only way to heaven was through him.

4 posted on 08/15/2005 9:09:25 AM PDT by DaiHuy (Oderint dum metuant)
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To: FireWhen
As one wag put it, "If her body was not taken to Paradise or to Heaven, where's the corpse?" There is no chapel in Turkey or in Israel where the bones of the Theotokos are to be found. Soooooo, if her body was not taken from the earth, where are the relics???

Where is John the Baptist's and can you prove it's him? This is the dumbest reason to make up a doctrine about Mary that I've ever seen.

6 posted on 08/15/2005 9:22:12 AM PDT by biblewonk (A house of cards built on Matt 16:18)
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To: FireWhen

Wasn't a chapel recently found in Judea that was supposed to be the tomb of Mary? I seem to remember something in FR about it.

7 posted on 08/15/2005 9:23:11 AM PDT by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: FireWhen; Salvation


8 posted on 08/15/2005 9:23:29 AM PDT by Convert from ECUSA (tired of all the shucking and jiving)
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To: DaiHuy
I have a hard time believing anything not supported by Holy Scripture. That's why I disagree with the Catholics on about anything they say about Mary. Jesus, as our example, prayed directly to God and never called upon any saints.
9 posted on 08/15/2005 9:25:01 AM PDT by BipolarBob (Yes I backed over the vampire, but I swear I didn't see it in my rearview mirror.)
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To: BipolarBob


10 posted on 08/15/2005 9:27:42 AM PDT by DaiHuy (Oderint dum metuant)
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To: BipolarBob


11 posted on 08/15/2005 9:27:48 AM PDT by DaiHuy (Oderint dum metuant)
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To: Salvation
Thanks for ping.

Jesus is God. God is perfect. Mary is God's mother. Mary is perfect. God was with Mary's body here. Mary's body is with God in Heaven. Could be nowhere else. Perfect. [However if you don't believe Mary is the mother of God like I do, you could have a problem with this, sorry for you.]

12 posted on 08/15/2005 9:30:47 AM PDT by ex-snook (Protectionism is Patriotism in both war and trade.)
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Comment #15 Removed by Moderator

To: ex-snook

In all due respect, where does one go for Scriptural support regarding this matter?

16 posted on 08/15/2005 9:43:23 AM PDT by Dark Skies (The storm is coming!)
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To: FireWhen

Not sure, I seem to remember it was in the eastern desert somewhere. Seem to remember that it had a Byzantine era chapel around it. I will try to look it up.

17 posted on 08/15/2005 9:43:35 AM PDT by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: FireWhen

Some of those Anglican Catholics have a love for Mary that puts a lot of the AmChurch to shame.

18 posted on 08/15/2005 9:43:53 AM PDT by Convert from ECUSA (tired of all the shucking and jiving)
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To: Salvation; FireWhen

Tomb of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The tomb of the Blessed Virgin is venerated in the Valley of Cedron, near Jerusalem. Modern writers hold, however, that Mary died and was buried at Ephesus. The main points of the question to be taken into consideration are as follows.

Testimony in favor of Jerusalem

The apocryphal works of the second to the fourth century are all favourable to the Jerusalem tradition. According to the "Acts of St. John by Prochurus", written (160-70) by Lencius, the Evangelist went to Ephesus accompanied by Prochurus alone and at a very advanced age, i.e. after Mary's death. The two letters "B. Inatii missa S. Joanni", written about 370, show that the Blessed Virgin passed the remainder of her days at Jerusalem. That of Dionysius the Areopagite to the Bishop Titus (363), the "Joannis liber de Dormitione Mariae" (third to fourth century), and the treatise "De transitu B.M. Virginis" (fourth century) place her tomb at Gethsemane. From an historical standpoint these works, although apocryphal, have a real value, reflecting as they do the tradition of the early centuries. At the beginning of the fifth century a pilgrim from Armenia visited "the tomb of the Virgin in the valley of Josaphat", and about 431 the "Breviarius de Hierusalem" mentions in that valley "the basilica of Holy Mary, which contains her sepulchre". Thenceforth pilgrims of various rites repaired thither to venerate the empty tomb of Mary. St. Gregory of Tours, St. Modestus, St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople, St. Andrew, bishop of Crete, John of Thessalonica, Hippolytus of Thebes, and Venerable Bede teach this same fact and bear witness that this tradition was accepted by all the Churches of East and West. St. John Damascene, preaching on the feast of the Assumption at Gethsemane, recalls that, according to the "Euthymian History", III, xl (written probably by Cyril of Scythopolis in the fifth century), Juvenal, bishop of Jerusalem, sent to Constantinople in 452 at the command of the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, his wife, the Shroud of the Blessed Virgin preserved in the church of Gethsemane (P.G., XCVI, 747-51). The relic has since been venerated in that city at the Church of Our Lady of Blachernae.

Testimony in favor of Ephesus

There was never any tradition connecting Mary's death and burial with the city of Ephesus. Not a single writer or pilgrim speaks of her tomb as being there; and in the thirteenth century Perdicas, prothonotary of Ephesus, visited "the glorious tomb of the Virgin at Gethsemane", and describes it in his poem (P.G., CXXXIII, 969). In a letter sent in 431 by the members of the Council of Ephesus to the clergy of Constantinople we read that Nestorius "reached the city of Ephesus where John the Theologian and the Mother of God, the Holy Virgin, were separated from the assembly of the holy Fathers", etc. Tillemont has completed the elliptical phrase by adding arbitrarily, "have their tombs". He is followed by a few writers. According to the meditations of Sister Catherine Emmerich (d. 1824), compiled and published in 1852, the Blessed Virgin died and was buried not at Ephesus but three or four leagues south of the city. She is followed by those who accept her visions or meditations as Divine revelations. However, St. Brigid relates that at the time of her visit to the church of Gethsemane the Blessed Virgin appeared to her and spoke to her of her stay of three days in that place and of her Assumption into Heaven. The revelations of Ven. Maria d'Agreda do not contradict those of Catherine Emmerich.

The Church of the Sepulchre of Mary

As the soil is considerably raised in the Valley of the Cedron, the ancient Church of the Sepulchre of Mary is completely covered and hidden. A score of steps descend from the road into the court (see Plan: B), at the back of which is a beautiful twelfth century porch (C). It opens on a monumental stairway of forty-eight steps. The twentieth step leads into the Church built in the fifth century, to a great extent cut from the rock. It forms a cross of unequal arms (D). In the centre of the eastern arm, 52 feet long and 20 feet wide is the glorious tomb of the Mother of Christ. It is a little room with a bench hewn from the rocky mass in imitation of the tomb of Christ. This has given it the shape of a cubical edicule, about ten feet in circumference and eight feet high. Until the fourteenth century the little monument was covered with magnificent marble slabs and the walls of the church were covered with frescoes. Since 1187 the tomb has been the property of the Muslim Government which nevertheless authorizes the Christians to officiate in it.

19 posted on 08/15/2005 9:44:17 AM PDT by annalex
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To: FireWhen

Here is part of it.

I can't remember, maybe it was in BAR, but there was an article about how a small chapel in the side of a mountain was found. I will keep looking.

20 posted on 08/15/2005 9:46:45 AM PDT by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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