What is the Assumption?
It is what the Church teaches as a dogma or truth of divine revelation that, at the end of her life, Mary was taken body and soul into heaven.
Is the Assumption in the Bible?
No, there is no account of the Assumption in the Bible. But “this common belief of the Church [was] evident from remote times down through the course of the centuries.” (Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, 1950). There have been homilies dating back to the 6th century; liturgies and devotions commemorating the Assumption, including a Glorious Mystery in the Rosary; shrines, sacred images, religious institutes and churches named after it; and writings of theologians, Doctors of the Church and saints like St Anthony of Padua, St Thomas Aquinas, St Bonaventure, St Francis de Sales and St Alphonsus Liguori confirming belief in the Assumption. St Robert Bellarmine wrote: “Who could believe that the ark of holiness, the dwelling-place of the Word of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit… could be given over to be food for worms!”
What is the difference between the Assumption and the Ascension?
Jesus was fully God (who is pure spirit), but He was also fully man (with a physical body). The Ascension refers to Jesus’ rising body and soul into heaven by His own divine power. Mary was fully human and so could not ascend to heaven on her own but had to be taken up by divine power.
What is the difference between Assumption and Resurrection?
Resurrection means being raised from the dead. On Easter Sunday of the Resurrection, Christ rose from the dead, “the first fruits of all who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20) Being fully human yet fully divine, his soul departed from his earthly body on the cross, but when he rose again, his soul was reunited with his glorified body. When we die, our souls will leave our earthly bodies too, but will be reunited again with our glorified bodies only when Christ raises us up on the last day. Our Lady did not have to wait to be resurrected on the last day because of her Immaculate Conception – she was “free from sin by exemption through the anticipated grace that comes from the death of our Lord. It is therefore appropriate to consider her to have shared in Christ’s death and resurrection upon arriving at the end of her life. It is not so for us because we have not fully overcome sin as Mary did. For us, the full effects of our sins are not yet reckoned with until the end of time.” (Archbishop William Goh, Scripture Reflection, Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 2020) Moreover, since she played such an intimate and important role as Christ’s mother in the redemption of man, it was fitting that Mary should be the “second fruit” of all those who have fallen asleep. That is why the Assumption is called the Dormition of Mary (dormire in Latin means “to sleep”) in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Having shared in Christ’s resurrection, Our Lady was raised up and taken, body and soul, into heaven.
Why is the Assumption a Day of Obligation?
By his incarnation, death and resurrection, Jesus Christ “opened” heaven to us (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1026), which was closed to us before then because of original sin. All the holy Days of Obligation in our liturgical calendar – every Sunday, Ascension, Assumption, All Saints and Christmas – remind us that we are destined for heaven. “Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfilment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.” (CCC 1024) Therefore “when we celebrate this feast of the Assumption, we can all find certain hope that where Mary is – in heaven sharing in Christ’s resurrection, taken into the heart and love of God, fullness of life and joy – we too will share in her glory on the last day.” (Archbishop William Goh, Scripture Reflection, Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 2020)
May the Assumption of Our Lady inspire us to walk the Way, speak the Truth and live the Life of humility, obedience and discipleship as she did, and to follow her to heaven one day.