Chapter One: Grace and Devotion to Mary
Chapter Two: Mary, Holy Objects and God
Chapter Three: Primary Teachings - Mary the Virgin
Chapter Four: Mary and Jesus
Chapter Five: Deeper Teachings -
Chapter Six: Teachings Not Yet Declared Dogmas -
Jesus and Mary
A Mediator with our Mediator
Chapter Seven: Final Thoughts and Reflections
of the Holy Spirit
of Jesus Made Present
and Church Unity
Consecration to Mary Individual and
Litany of Mary's Faith Journey
© Copyright, J. Roy MacIntyre 2009
The Assumption or Resurrection of Mary
Mary was the Temple of God and spouse of the Holy Spirit but when her earthly life was over she went to sleep or as they say in the Eastern Tradition of the Church she experienced the Dormition. Generally, in the Western Church it is believed that Mary, out of humility, accepted bodily death. In either case tradition tells us her body was placed in a tomb. There are two traditions as to where this took place; Jerusalem and Ephesus in Asia Minor. There is a theological tradition that suggests Mary’s death took place in Jerusalem. This seems fitting since Mary’s role is associated with Jerusalem and the place of the death and resurrection of her Son. However, because of the persecution that begun with the martyrdom of St. Stephen it is likely that Mary lived near Ephesus with St. John for the last several years before her earthly life was over. In either case she was placed in a tomb. One tradition suggested that St. Thomas returned and would not believe that Mary had died so he demanded to see her body. Upon opening the tomb in place of Mary’s body were many fragrant flowers.
After the death of Jesus, until her death Mary spent much of her remaining years with St. John. This thought led me to ponder what influence Mary might have had on the Gospel of St. John. The fascinating thing I found was that John, who was given Mary to care for by Jesus, was also the one who believed (Jn 2:11 & 29:8). His Gospel has a positive theme of believing with four times the references about believing than the other three Gospels together. His life and Gospel seem to reflect the believing faith of Mary and he is a model for all who take Mary into the home of their hearts.
What we know about the lives of Mary and John in Ephesus survives in some early writings and in the remains of basilicas dedicated to Mary and St. John. There is also the home where Mary was supposed to have lived, a three hours walk from Ephesus. At the basilica of St. John lie his remains in a tomb over which the basilica was built. It was usually the case for churches of martyrs and saints to have the remains of the patron rest in the Church. It was also the custom of the time that these basilicas could only be dedicated to a person or persons who had some historical connection to the area. The basilica of Mary complied with the historical requirement of Mary's presence in the area. However, the basilica had no tomb or crept wherein Mary's remains might be placed. The reason, of course, was because she had, in fact, been raised from the dead.
When Mary was in the tomb for about three days of her Dormition she was raised from the dead. Both the Orthodox and Western churches see the events unfolding in the same way although the Eastern and Orthodox churches do not speak of Mary dying as is intimated by the Western tradition. Not that Mary needed to die. Actually, by virtue of her being conceived free from original sin she was not subject to natural death as is the rest of the humanity. However, as noted, it seems out of humility she chose to accept bodily death in the example of her divine Son, Jesus Who was killed.
When Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption in 1950, he did not state one way or the other whether Mary died or simply went to sleep since there was no conclusive historical evidence. He simply stated the Assumption took place at the end of Mary’s earthly journey.
In Mt 26, 52-53 we read that when Jesus died the bodies of many holy men rose from the dead and after Jesus' resurrection they appeared to a number of people in the Holy city. I have found practically nothing written on who these holy men were. And for that matter, were there women among them? Perhaps they were people who had recently died. In that case John the Baptist may have been one, as Jesus remarked of him, "of women, none greater than John was born" (Lk 7:28). Surely he qualifies as one to be resurrected. Perhaps, St. Joseph was also raised. Then there is the question of the prophets and patriarchs. Were all or any raised? Of course, we know that Elijah was taken up and does not seem to have died (2Kings 2:11), while Moses did die but may have been assumed into heaven (Jude vs 9). In either case both appeared to Jesus on Mount Tabor and Peter, James and John witnessed this (Mt 17:1-9). Was this an apparition or were they there in body? If in body, were they resurrected bodies? Since Moses did die it is unlikely they were mortal bodies. Some wonder if Elijah will come to be one of the witnesses against the Antichrist but I think those witnesses will be people born of the same time as the man of sin.
I don't know the answer to questions about who was raised from the dead after the resurrection of Jesus or if in fact they were resurrected in the same manner as was Jesus and as is promised for the end of the world. However, it would seem that if anyone was raised from the dead after Jesus, it should be Mary the bearer of God and spouse of the Holy Spirit. This is consistent with what St. Paul says, "all will be raised again, each in his own order" (1Cor 15:23). One final point: Mary made herself last and least of all therefore it seems likely that the Lord made her first among the Church to be raised from the dead after Jesus.
Mary's assumption into heaven, which is proclaimed by the Catholic Church, further serves to give witness to the divine nature of her Son and to the divinity of her Spouse, the Holy Spirit. If her Son were not God and her Spouse not the Holy Spirit she need not have been raised without experiencing corruption. Since she is the mother of the Messiah and the spouse of the Holy Spirit her incorruption and assumption witnesses to the divinity of her Son and her Spouse. Mary's assumption gives glory to Them. Although Mary’s assumption gives witness to God, her incorruption is really related to her Immaculate Conception which we will consider next. Nevertheless, since the Immaculate Conception was also granted as a means of honouring Jesus and the Holy Spirit the argument remains the same.
Psalm 16:10 seems to foretell the Assumption of Mary, "you will not abandon me to Sheol, nor will you let your faithful one know corruption." This psalm certainly deserves pondering in reference to Mary. It is often used in reference to Jesus who knew no corruption, but seems more appropriate to Mary, since, it describes a person who worships God.
Mary, who is fully human, being raised from the dead also confirms our faith in the resurrection of the dead and our own promised resurrection at the end of the world. Other arguments could be made as to why Mary would remain incorrupt but they are too theoretical to be presented in this work. Nevertheless, I hope the above presentation will at least supplement your appreciation of the Church's dogma of the Assumption of Mary as defined, "ex Cathedra" by Pope Pius XII in 1950.