Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
One of the things that producing a series on the mysteries of the Rosary has done for me, is to help reveal which mysteries I spend more time reflecting upon, and which ones I glide over or don’t ponder as one ought. The Assumption of the Blessed Mother into Heaven would be one of the mysteries I’ve not lingered on, either in personal reflection or within the confines of praying the Rosary. As Catholics, we celebrate the Assumption of Mary on Aug. 15. It’s a holy day of obligation wherein we should be reminded to get to know His mother better, if we would know her son. I had to chuckle. My son’s confirmation was giving me a lesson, a reminder, that we’re always called to go deeper.
To study a mystery is always to start at what we know (the teachings of the Church) and go into why we know it. So I started with reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church (974): “The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Son's Resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of His Body.”
Reading the Catechism in isolation, one doesn’t get the discernment behind this teaching of the Church. A quick Google search lead to multiple articles on the teaching of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven and the history of this belief within the Catholic Church.
In 1950 (quite recent by Church standards), Pope Pius the XII proclaimed this Marian dogma.
The early Church would have known her as a saint and wanted to collect relics. The absence of such relics speaks to the reality of this mystery. (There are no bodily relics to collect.) While there is no account of Mary’s death, we know the beloved disciple Saint John took care of Mary after Christ’s death and resurrection, and wrote the book of Revelations, wherein we read:
And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God… (Revelation 12:1-6).
Early Christians knew that Mary was taken up into Heaven. Given all the other disputes which took place about teachings, if there had been objections or difficulty with this understanding, people would have raised them. As Mary fulfilled God’s plan perfectly (the way we were supposed to love and obey God’s will) all the way through her life, she was taken into Heaven where she continues her mission of being our adopted mother, pointing us toward her son. We know that the Church teaches this as true, and it holds with all the other teachings of the Church, that Jesus would honor His mother. He told Saint Martha, “I am the resurrection” before raising her brother. Who would know this reality better than Mary? If he would raise his friend in this earthly life, how much more His mother for eternity? What did I learn in delving into the history of this mystery? I learned it’s very easy, even if you read Scripture, study the catechism and pray, to forget to delve deeper — to believe one understands and knows to the bone what one has barely begun to comprehend.
Mary’s assumption into Heaven is a reminder to all of us of her proximity to her son, in life and throughout all of eternity since. She’s there hoping to welcome us into her son’s kingdom if we’re but willing to get to know her and her son better.