While the actual event of the Assumption of Mary in Heaven is not recorded in the Scriptures, nevertheless there is a biblical basis for the teaching that, considered as a whole, confirms Catholic teaching as both fitting and in keeping with biblical principles.  Let’s ponder this feast in three stages:

1. Explained – To be “assumed” means to be taken up by God bodily into heaven. As far back as the Church can remember we have celebrated the fact that Mary was taken up into heaven. We do not just acknowledge that her soul was taken to heaven, as is the case with all the rest of the faithful who are taken there (likely after purgation). Rather Mary was taken up, soul AND body into heaven after her sojourn on this earth was complete. There is no earthly tomb containing her body, neither are there relics of her body to be found among the Christian faithful. This is our ancient memory and what we celebrate today, Mary was taken up, body and soul into heaven.

2. Exemplified - The actual event of the Assumption is not described in Scripture. However, there are “assumptions” recorded in the Scriptures and the concept is thus biblical.

  1. It happened to Enoch in the Old Testament The Book of Genesis records: Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away (Gen. 5:24). Hebrews 11: 5 elaborates: By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God.
  2. It also happened to Elijah as he walked with Elisha: And as they still went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven….And he was seen no more. (2 Kings 2:11 ).
  3. Some say Moses too was taken up since his grave is not known. As we read in yesterday’s first reading at Mass: He was buried in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is (Dt. 34:6). The text of course does not say his body was taken up and if it was, it occurred after death and burial. Jude 1:9 hints at the fact when is says, But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses….. (Jude 1:9) Some further credibility is lent to the view of him being assumed by the fact that he appears alongside Elijah in the Transfiguration account. Some of the Church Fathers held this view and there is also a Jewish work from the 6th Century AD entitled The Assumption of Moses that represents the tradition of his assumption. But in the end the Assumption of Moses only a view held by some and it not officially held by the Church.
  4. And While it is true that the historical event of the assumption is not recorded in Scripture nor are there historical accounts of the event, there may be one other scriptural account that evidences Mary’s whereabouts, body and soul. The Church presents for our consideration in today’s second reading a passage from the Book of Revelation wherein John records his sighting of the Ark of God:

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm. A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads… The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. (Rev 11:19 – 12:5)

The Woman is clearly Mary since the child is clearly Jesus (though she also likely allegorizes other realities such as Israel, and Mother Zion). And where is Mary seen? In heaven.

Now some may argue the text does not necessarily indicate her body is in heaven but may only be referring to her soul. However the physicality of the description of her is rather strong. Some also argue that Mary is linked to John’s sighting of the Ark of the Convent which is seen by John in Heaven. He mentions the Ark and goes on to describe the woman clothed with the sun (Mary) and there is a possibility that he is still describing the Ark he sees in Heaven. (I have written on this elsewhere. See here: Mary: The Ark of the New Covenant) If she is the Ark described that Ark is clearly described as being in heaven.

So, the Biblical record, while not recording the event of the Assumption, does set forth other assumptions and thus shows that assumption is a biblical concept. Further, Mary’s physical presence in heaven seems hinted at by John and some would argue that the passage actually attests to her physical presence there.

But remember, the Church does not rely solely on Scripture. In this case what we celebrate is most fundamentally taught to us by Sacred Tradition in that the memory of Mary’s assumption goes back as long as we can remember.

3. Extended – The Feast of the Assumption may be of theological interest to some and may provide for interesting biblical reflection but eventually the question is bound to come: “So What?” How does what happened to Mary have impact on my life and what does it mean for me? The answer to this question is bound up in nearly every Marian Doctrine. Simply put, what happened to Mary in an profound and preliminary way will also happen for us in the end. As Mary bore Christ into he world, we too bear him there in the Holy Communion we receive and in the witness of his indwelling presence in our life. As Mary is (and always was) sinless, so too will we one day be sinless (immaculate) with God in heaven. As Mary cared for Christ in his need, so do we care for him in the poor, the suffering, needy and afflicted. And as Mary was assumed, body and soul into heaven so too will we be there one day, body and soul.

For now our souls go to heaven once purified but our body lie in a tomb. But one day when the trumpet shall sound, on that “great gettin’ up morning” our bodies will rise and be joined to our soul:

For we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”…….Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:51-57)

So our bodies shall rise shall be assumed and joined to our soul.

Improved model! Now a older woman once said to me upon hearing that her body would rise: “Father if this old body has to rise, I’m hoping for an improved model!” Yes indeed! Me too! I want my hair back, my slender figure and knees that work! I want to upgrade from a general issue late model version, to a luxury model. And God will in fact do that. Scripture says:

  1. He will take these lowly bodies of ours and transform them to be like his own glorified body. (Phil 3:21)
  2. But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body…..So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; …..And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. (1 Cor 15:35-49)
  3. Yes we shall also be taken up, assumed, and then shall be fulfilled for us the saying of Job: I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another ‘s (Job 19:25-27).

The assumption of our bodies, prefigured by Christ in his own power and also in Mary by the gift of God, will one day be our gift too. For now, it waits till that “great gettin’ up morning.” Until that day, and on that day, fare you well, fare you well!

This song is an African American Spiritual and speaks of that Great Gettin’ up morning when our bodies will rise. And if we have been faithful they will rise to glory!

I’m gonna tell you about the coming of the judgement (Fare you well) There’s a better day a coming….In that great gettin’ up morning fare you well! Oh preacher fold your Bible, For the last soul’s converted….Blow your trumpet Gabriel…..Lord, how loud shall I blow it? Blow it right calm and easy Do not alarm all my people….Tell them to come to the judgement…….In that great gettin’ up morning fare you well. Do you see them coffins bursting? Do you see them folks is rising? Do you see the world on fire? Do you see the stars a falling? Do you see that smoke and lightning? Do you hear the rumbling thunder? Oh Fare you well poor sinner. In that great gettin’ up morning fare you well.

20 Responses

  1. Candida Eittreim says:

    Mary was without blemish or stain. Sinless and pure, she was assumed intact. A perfect rose for Jesus.

  2. Daniel says:

    Arise, O LORD, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy strength.–Ps 132:8

  3. Kenneth D says:

    Ave sanctissima. Ave purissima! Ora pro nobis percatoribus. Amen.
    Foolishness of God is wiser than men’s wisdom. Mother aid us achieve holiness in this valley of tears. Amen, amen!

  4. Kenneth J. Wolfe says:

    Beautiful photo of Murillo’s “Assumption” painting, displayed at the Hermitage in Russia. Here is a personal photo of another version, which is in a sacristy in Mexico: http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2013/08/assumption-painting-in-sacristy.html

  5. Heidi keene says:

    Here’s another good one that gets over looked often. Gen 2:23!
    If Christ in the ascension entered the heavenly eden (since His physical body is somewhere and not simply only in heaven), then the inauguration of the new creation could only be completed by the first ‘woman’ of the new creation joining Him in the flesh! When Adam says, “At last, bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” he was uttering the first biblical prophesy (he was, before the fall a prophet priest and king-and this is his only prelapsarian statement). So when else could Christ have fulfilled this prophecy? Christ’s fulfilled this prophecy at the entrance of Mary in the flesh into the heavenly eden. That’s why he said “at last” . It is additionally interesting that the rabbis spilled tons of ink in debating why Adam said “at last”. They all saw that in this statement there was some tremendous eschatological importance! And today we have the privilege of feasting on the revealed truth of those mysterious Adamic words.

  6. [...] “It’s not in scripture” doesn’t cut it, (as Msgr. Charles Pope demonstrates here) because what did the early Christians reference before the bible as we know it finally came into [...]

  7. Donna L. says:

    I always thought it was so interesting that there weren’t any relics from Mary. After all, we know where Peter’s and Paul’s are buried. But I can’t understand why Eusebius didn’t write about this tradition of the Church. He provides so many details about the apostles’ lives and deaths. I wish he had written more about Mary’s. Anyway – it’s extremely reassuring to see all the scriptural support for this doctrine. Thank you, Monsignor! Hope you’re having a blessed day!

  8. Gerard A. Mikula says:

    Our heavenly bodies will indeed be different, for they will not contain the actual substance of our old earthly bodies, but something NEW and wonderful, composed of an entirerly NEW substance!
    Why do I say this? Consider that from what we understand from physics, our bodies which are buried in the earth decompose eventually into their elemental form of Carbon, oxygen and hydrogen, or at least elemental compounds such as carbon dioxide and water. These elements are then recycled into the world, mingling with the same compounds and elements from countless outher sources. Eventually, they may also become part of the body of another person!! Remember, matter cannot be either created or destroyed (by humans, that is)!!
    So, on judgement day, the elements of our original bodies could also be part of OTHER HUMANS!, as we may have inhereted them from past humans!!
    This is probably why that cremation is now allowed in the church, it is not possible that ALL of our original bodies can be “raised” on judgement day!
    This brings up a point concerning the bodies of the ICORRUPTABLE SAINTS, being perfectly preserved for hundreds of years. What if THESE are the only ones that will truly rise on the last day!!! A scary thought!!
    However, there are many, many others whom were much holier than all the incorruptable saints whose bodies were not incorruptable, so hopefully this is not true!!

  9. Gerard A. Mikula says:

    AS per my previous note, I am in no way disputing what the church says concerning the last judgement!
    I am a practical, devout (humbly speaking) cradle catholic who believes in the church with my whole heart! Do not take anything here to mean ortherwise!!

  10. RichardGTC says:

    Excellent post. I liked the painting a lot too.

    In this life, we recognize body first and then soul. For something is observed far away. We know it is a body of some sort. Then we realize that it is moving toward and so we know it is an animal of some sort. Then we recognize, finally, that he is a man. We recognize soul last.

    When we have spiritualized bodies I think that we will recognize soul first.

  11. Vicky Hernandez says:

    Let us all pray for our Blessed Mother’s intervention for Egypt: the land that provided shelter for her, St. Joseph, and Little Jesus. And especially for the Persecuted Church in all of the Middle East.

  12. Annette Strachan says:

    As a child Mary ascended the steps of the Temple for her Presentation…as depicted in a recent calendar.

  13. [...] Make It To Mass - Tiber Why Don’t We Act Like Mary? - Thomas Colyandro, MA, MDiv, Catholic Ln Biblical Roots of the Teaching on the Assumption - Msgr. Charles Pope The Assumption of Mary: 12 Things to Know and Share - J. Akin, NCR [...]

  14. Gloria Schotten says:

    The following poem from his ecclesiastical sonnets is a tribute to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
    William Wordsworth 1770-1850
    The Virgin.
    Mother! Whose virgin bosom was uncrost.
    With the least shade of thought to sin allied.
    Woman ! Above all women glorified,
    Our tainted nature’s solitary boast.

  15. Robb says:

    I understand that the Basilica of Mary Major in Rome depicts a fresco of Mary assumed bodily into heaven. Done about 350 AD.

    • Carl Sommer says:

      Robb, the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome was built in the 350′s but the fresco of the Assumption was created by Ludovico Cardi in the 16tgh century. So this fresco does not constitute early evidence for a belief in the Assumption. The best early evidence is that laid out in this article, in my humble opinion.

  16. [...] Various and Sundry, 8/15/13 Published Thursday, August 15, 2013 A.D. | By Paul Zummo Biblical Roots of the Teaching of the Assumption [...]

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