Many people don’t realize the importance of the dogma of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven. This wasn’t merely a fanciful whim on the part of Pope Pius XII when he promulgated it in 1950. Rather, like all of our articles of belief, it has believed since the ancient Church―and prefigured long prior to it.

When Protestants ask as to the “necessity” of mandating belief in Mary’s Assumption even though it’s not mentioned in the Bible, I’m quick to remind them that Mary wasn’t the only holy person thusly treated by God. In fact, two other saints were similarly assumed into Heaven―Enoch and Elijah specifically.

Other than it being a matter of tradition “believed in all places at all times,” we must also recall the Archangel Gabriel’s words to the Blessed Virgin and her subsequent conversation with her cousin St. Elizabeth. Gabriel’s message begins with “Peace be with you! The Lord is with you and has greatly blessed you!’ (Luke 1:28) The angel continues and says, “Don't be afraid, Mary; God has been gracious to you.” (Luke 1:30) and explains the reason for his interruption: “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and God's power will rest upon you. For this reason, the holy Child will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

And at her assent, Mary went to meet Zechariah and Elizabeth.

At their meeting, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and felt her baby, John the Baptist, leap for joy at the sight of Mary (Luke 1:41) to which Elizabeth loudly addresses her young cousin, "You are the most blessed of all women, and blessed is the Child you will bear!” (Luke 1:42)

And, to put a clearer emphasis on her greeting, Elizabeth specifically refers to Mary as the “Mother of God.” (Luke 1:43) She then shares Mary’s joy by pointing out, “How happy you are to believe that the Lord's message to you will come true!”

Mary responds with immortal, Spirit-inspired words―she is, after all, the holiest of women―and says, “My soul magnifies the Lord,” (Luke 1:46) and, most importantly, God “has remembered me, His lowly servant! From now on all people will call me blessed.” (Luke 1:48)

And this, boys and girls, is why we call Mary, “The Blessed Virgin.” It can easily be argued that those who don’t give Mary the honor and sheer awe she deserves as a special creature of God called to a unique task of gestating and giving birth to our Lord and Creator in utero, are refusing to accept a biblical truth―a truth that is responsible for the foundation of our entire faith as Christians.

Now, getting back Enoch and Elijah, the other two who were assumed into Heaven―body and soul. We know what we know about Enoch even though he’s referred to only in six verses of Genesis:

When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. (Genesis 5:18, 20-24)

The Bible doesn’t explain what merited his assumption into Heaven but, it’s there as clear as day. Elijah, a very important Jewish prophet, on the other hand, has a fantastic fiery fanfare at his departure witnessed by his protégé Elisha:

Then suddenly a chariot of fire pulled by horses of fire came between them, and Elijah was taken up to heaven by a whirlwind. (2 Kings 2.11)

Now, if Enoch and Elijah, clearly two highly regarded personages important for both Jews and Christians, were both assumed into Heaven, why wouldn’t the Mother of God, the Theotokos, be similarly treated? She is the most graced woman in all of Creation. From our First Parents to the very last human being brought before God at the Parousia―the Final Judgment―none will ever be as holy as Mary. If such is the case, it’s natural and fitting that God give Mary the same translation into Heaven. She was, and is, after all, His Mother.

However, the difference between Mary’s assumption and those of Enoch and Elijah is fraught with theological confusion.

While Mary definitely went to heaven—body and soul―it’s not clear by the words of the dogma promulgated by Pope Pius as to whether or not she actually died first. Theologians have argued on both sides of this debate over the centuries. (Personally, I come down on the side of her being alive when brought to Heaven.)

As for Enoch and Elijah, they couldn’t have gone to Heaven―that is, the Beatific Vision, the presence of God Himself―as Heaven was closed to all human beings since the Fall. Mary’s Assumption was after Christ’s death. Thus, medieval theologians considered the "Limbo of the Patriarchs." (Latin: limbus patrum) This served as a temporary way station of those who, despite the sins they may have committed, died in God’s friendship but could not enter Heaven until Jesus’ redemption and His Harrowing of Hell made it possible.

Though the Bible doesn’t specifically mention the word “Limbo,” Luke 16:22 describes the "Bosom of Abraham," which serves as a stopping off point prior to Heaven. In fact, the word “limbo” is derived from the Latin, limbus which means “edge” or “border.”

Finally, Mary’s entrance into Heaven was the fulfillment of a promise made by God to the Jews―and subsequently to Christians―of being raised from the dead:

So prophesy to My people Israel and tell them that I, the Sovereign Lord, am going to open their graves. I am going to take them out and bring them back to the land of Israel. When I open the graves where My people are buried and bring them out, they will know that I am the Lord. I will put My breath in them, bring them back to life, and let them live in their own land. Then they will know that I am the Lord. I have promised that I would do this—and I will. I, the Lord, have spoken." (Ezekiel 37:12-14)

One last note — Pope Pius’ promulgation of the dogma of Mary’s Assumption didn’t come to a shock to Christians. We had always believed and had been taught the truth of this belief for several millennia. The “shock” came from those who hadn’t had the privilege of studying the point.