The Catholic Church will be celebrating the Feast of “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary” on August 15th. Many Christians might say, “The New Testament does not show where Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven. Where did the Catholic Church get this idea?” Well, if someone believes that the revelation of God is only revealed in the Bible, I can understand where they are coming from. But, Catholics do not believe in sola Scriptura (Bible alone)—and for good reason. Nor do they believe in sola ecclesia—the “church alone.” Catholics have a much more comprehensive and historical view of authority. From the very beginning, the Church understood authority as basically residing in three entities: Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium. The source of authority is not the Bible alone.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, he did not leave us a book. In fact, there is no record of him instructing the disciples to ever write down anything. There was no expectation that someday there would be a collection of writings attached to the Hebrew Scripture and considered equally inspired.
Jesus left his authority with Twelve Men—one(Peter) with the Keys of the Kingdom and all Twelve with the authority to bind and loose (Matt 16:18-19; 18:15-18). He promised them that the Holy Spirit would lead and teach them (John 14:25-26; 15:26; 16:7). He gave them the power to forgive and retain sins (John 20:20-23). He also promised them that he would be with them,and their successors in the Church, until the end of time (Matt 28:19-20). The Church Jesus founded is not based on a book alone, though the Bible is essential to our faith. Our Lord did not leave us a book—He left us a Church with a Twelve-man Magisterium. It was the Catholic Church who was led by the Holy Spirit and given the authority to decide which books were inspired and belonged in the New Testament. It is that same very book that every Christian has tucked under their arms today.
Even if we look to the Bible, it never teaches or even implies sola Sciptora. In fact, St. Paul tells us that if we as Christians want to find “truth,” then we must turn to the Church: “Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim. 3:14-15).” If Paul had declared the Bible to be the “pillar and foundation of the truth” you better believe that the whole Christian world would know about it!
What the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches about the Assumption:
“Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.” The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians”…(CCC# 966).
There is no direct scriptural proof of for this dogma. Mary’s Assumption was not explicitly recorded in Scripture. However, on November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII formally defined the dogma of the Assumption in his apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus: “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” (MD 44).
The doctrine of the Assumption says that at the end of her life on earth Mary was assumed, body and soul, into heaven, just as Enoch (Gen 5:24), Elijah (2Kings 2:11), and perhaps others had been before her.
The New Testament shows us that before the Second Coming of Christ, it is possible for the faithful to experience bodily resurrection. We read in Matthew’s Gospel that after Jesus is crucified: “[T]ombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised…”(Matt 27:52-53).
Some people may think Catholics believe Mary “ascended” into heaven, but that’s not correct. Jesus Christ, by his own power, ascended into heaven. Mary on the other hand, was assumed or taken up into heaven by God. She didn’t do it under her own power.
Also, there is no proof of Mary’s remains having been found, which would seem easy to document. Usually, the early Christians gave homage to saints, including many whom we now know little or nothing about. Cities would try and vie for the title of the last resting place of many of the most famous saints. Rome, for example, is where the tombs of Peter and Paul are. The tomb of Peter is under the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The early Christians would also zealously guard any bones and relics of the saints and martyrs.
Until next time, God bless.