On August 15, we celebrate one of our Holy Days of Obligation: the Assumption of Mary. “What is the Assumption of Mary?” you might ask. It is the doctrine that teaches that both Mary’s body and soul were assumed (or taken) into Heaven. In 1950, Pope Pius XII affirmed this dogma in Munificentissimus Deus (“The Most Bountiful God”).

Understanding the Assumption of Mary

Pope Pius XII explains that the Assumption is tied to the Immaculate Conception (Munificentissimus Deus 4). He writes, “She [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, and she did not have to wait until the end of time for the redemption of her body” (Munificentissimus Deus 5).

A result of original sin, our bodies decay after death while our souls (hopefully!) go on to eternal life in Heaven without them until the resurrection of our bodies at the end of time. Because Mary was preserved from sin from the moment of her conception (the Immaculate Conception), she is excluded from the curse of original sin. As a result, her body was not bound to decay. Pius XII does not specify whether or not Mary died before being assumed into Heaven, but he does proclaim that Mary’s body was not subject to earthly corruption due to her lack of original sin and, therefore, its consequences (Munificentissimus Deus 14).

Why the Assumption Matters For Us Today

The Assumption of Mary is rooted in the tradition about the dormition of Mary (the death of Mary or her “falling asleep”). This moment is important because it symbolizes how we will all die as part of our human mortality (Dictionary of Mary 102).

In her death, Mary models for us how to die well: After following God’s call for our lives, we can die in faith knowing that death is not the end. We will rise again with Christ in the bodily resurrection of the dead. Mary’s death brings into focus the resurrection that awaits us all as believers. Because she is united body and soul in Heaven, Mary is the model for how all of us are meant to share in Jesus’s resurrection.

As believers, we long to be reunited to Jesus Christ in Heaven. After Mary’s Assumption, her faithfulness to God was fully honored when her Son crowned her the Queen of Heaven (Munificentissimus Deus 40). Her death was a necessary step towards her role as an intercessor. In Heaven, Mary now prays for us and acts as the Mother of the Church, continuing to guide and care for the Church as a whole and each believer individually (Redemptoris Mater 44-47).

We too will be glorified with Christ, if we die in faith like Mary. The Assumption of Mary is a great opportunity for us to reflect on our own faith and how we can better follow God in our lives.

Emily Martin

Emily Martin is a doctoral student at Oxford University researching the intersection of literature, theology, and aesthetics in the English Renaissance. She grew up in southern California, where she enjoyed reading at the beach, exercising with her family, and cooking spaghetti.

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