*Dr.Fr.Ivo da Conceição Souza
The Church has the mission of opening the way to heaven by giving us a foretaste of the heavenly reality. In fact, today’s world needs a reminder of the afterlife, of heavenly bliss. That Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was assumed into heaven is a tradition of the Catholic Church. It was solemnly defined as a dogma of faith by Pius XII on November 1, 1950 in his Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, where he articulates the grounds in faith of this doctrine and the witnesses of faith to it down through the centuries. Pius XII defined as follows: “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 into heavenly glory” (cf.MD, no.44). The meaning of the formula is that Mary is alive, living the life that our Risen Lord lives and that we hope eventually to live.
Let us examine it synthetically: a)By using the phrase, “…having completed the course of her earthly life…”, Pius XII clearly indicated his intention of leaving open the theological and historical question of whether or not Mary actually experienced death before being taken up into glory. b)”…was assumed…” signifies that Mary, a mere creature redeemed by her Son, was “taken up” into heaven by divine power, and did not “ascend” as Christ did through that power within him. The mystery of her Assumption is quite distinct from that of his Ascension. c)”…body and soul…” means that Mary has been glorified in her total personhood, and does not define a dualistic anthropology as the Church’s official teaching. And finally, d)”…into heavenly glory.” refers to the mysterious mode of existence beyond the limits of space and time in the intimate presence of the triune God and our risen Lord.
The theological opinion is that Mary did undergo death in the Lord, was probably buried near the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem, and, in the likeness of her Son’s Resurrection, Mary’s body did not decompose after her death and burial, but she was gloriously assumed intact. Why? Mary enjoyed intimate relationship with Jesus on this earth and now she accompanies the Risen Lord before us into that everlasting life.
What are the consequences of this dogma for us ? Mary in her assumption was the “first fruits of those who are dead” among humans of the victory over death brought by Jesus (cf.1 Cor 15:20), now our hope is enlivened for our own Resurrection. Secondly, the Resurrection of Jesus with the consequent Assumption of Mary to heaven points up to the significance of our human body. God has given us a body, the gift of his bountiful love. Every violation of of the body of an innocent person is a serious crime against the person. We sin against our own bodies (cf.1 Cor 6:18), the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in us through baptism together with the Father and the Word. We are called to glorify God in our bodies (1 Cor 6:20). The dogma of the Assumption of Mary also teaches us the value of the Tradition, of the sense of faith of the faithful. On May 1, 1946 Pius XII sent a letter to all the Bishops throughout the world, asking whether they wanted it to be defined, to what they answered “yes”. The Tradition that Mary lives now in glory was defined with infallibility by the Supreme Shepherd of the Church. May this truth help us to improve the quality of our lives!