Tomorrow is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But what does that mean? Here’s a run-down of what the Assumption is and why it matters.
What is the Assumption of Mary?
The Assumption is the “taking up” of Mary, body and soul, into heaven at the end of her earthly life.
Why was Mary assumed into heaven?
On November 1, 1950 Pope Pius XII wrote in the apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus, which defined the dogma of the Assumption:
Hence the revered Mother of God, from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination, immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendor at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages.
Is there a scriptural basis for the Assumption?
Mary’s assumption is not explicitly recorded in Scripture, though there are several scriptural passages that align with the teaching of the Assumption. Pope Pius XII mentions some of these passages in Munificentissimus Deus:
Moreover, the scholastic Doctors have recognized the Assumption of the Virgin Mother of God as something signified, not only in various figures of the Old Testament, but also in that woman clothed with the sun whom John the Apostle contemplated on the Island of Patmos (Rev. 12:1ff).
Similarly they have given special attention to these words of the New Testament: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women”(Luke 1:28), since they saw, in the mystery of the Assumption, the fulfillment of that most perfect grace granted to the Blessed Virgin and the special blessing that countered the curse of Eve.
Do Catholics have to believe in the Assumption of Mary?
Yes. The Assumption of Mary is a defined dogma, and thus Catholics are required to assent to this teaching.
Why is the Assumption important to me in my life?
Monsignor Charles Pope has a great explanation of why the Assumption should matter to us:
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.
The Feast of the Assumption is also a Holy Day of Obligation in many dioceses, which means Catholics must attend Mass. So be sure to get to Mass in honor of our Blessed Mother’s Feast Day!