The Assumption of Mary’s body and soul into Heaven, celebrated on August 15th, is one of the dogmas of the Church. A dogma is a belief held by all Catholics.
Yet, there is no mention of Mary’s Assumption in Sacred Scripture.
How then, did we come to believe that this event took place? Read on to find out!
4 Things to Know About the Feast of the Assumption of Mary
1. When did the Assumption of Mary become dogma?
On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII in Munificentissimus Deus (The Most Bountiful God) said: “We pronounce, declare and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul to heavenly glory.” Notice that he says “having completed the course of her earthly life.” That leaves it open to interpretation whether Mary died before she was assumed into Heaven or not.
2. Ancient belief in the Assumption
From early on, it was clear that there were no relics of Mary. There was an empty tomb in Jerusalem which quickly became a place of pilgrimage. There are also stories from early Apostolic Tradition and quotes from early Christian letters and sermons that point us toward the Assumption of Mary. The feast of the “Memory of Mary” is one of the earliest Marian feasts and was celebrated as early as the 300s.
“If therefore it might come to pass by the power of your grace, it has appeared right to us your servants that, as you, having overcome death, do reign in glory, so you should raise up the body of your Mother and take her with you, rejoicing, into heaven. Then said the Savior [Jesus]: “Be it done according to your will” (The Passing of the Virgin 16:2-17 [A.D. 300]). -Timothy of Jerusalem
3. Differences in the Eastern and Western Churches
The Eastern Churches celebrate the feast as the “Dormition of the Mother of God”. “Dormition” means “falling asleep” and refers to Mary’s death. Art in the Western Church usually depicts the Assumption with Mary going up to Heaven while still alive, although there are a few pieces which also show her funeral. Ultimately, whether or not she was alive at the time is unimportant. We only need to know that she was assumed body and soul into Heaven.
4. How is Mary’s Assumption different from Jesus’ Ascension?
Jesus, because He is God, ascended into Heaven by His own power. Only God can do that. Mary was assumed into Heaven by God. She was not able to do it on her own.
For more information about the feast of the Assumption, check out the video above, which in the description box has links to a number of articles for more in-depth reading.