Catholics hold that God permitted Mary, the mother of Jesus, to be taken up body and soul to heaven. This belief is commonly called the the Assumption of Mary.
On November 1, 1950, Pius XII declared to the entire Christian Church the following statement:
“…by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that 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” (Munificentissimus Deus)
Hence, the age old Christian tradition of the bodily Assumption of Mary was confirmed infallibly by the successor of St. Peter, head of the apostles.
Now let’s be clear — this date in 1950 did not mark the “invention” of the doctrine. Rather, Pope Pius XII saw a need to make it clear to the faithful what was the constant apostolic teaching and not a doctrine up for a debate. It was a re-affirmation of an antiquity-old doctrine.
But does Pope Pius XII and the rest of the Catholic faithful have reasonable grounds to proclaim such an event as true history? This is what this post is aiming to explore — whether there are any good reasons to believe that Mary was taken up into heaven, body and soul, at the end of her earthly life.
I have listed what I believe to be eight good reasons to believe in the Assumption. This is not to say that there aren’t more. If you wish to add to the list feel free to drop a comment below. If you have disagreements with any of the reasons given, your constructive comments are welcome too!
8 Reasons To Believe The Assumption Is True
1. No Scripture verse explicitly denies the assumption of Mary or the possibility of such an event. A person who subscribes to the “Bible alone” as the rule of faith cannot deny the possibility of Mary’s assumption on merely biblical grounds. The Bible is silent on this topic regarding Mary specifically. It is not by the Scriptures alone, but by sacred oral Tradition that Catholics believe this dogma (2 Thess 2:15).
**As a “negative proof” this is not to be considered true evidence FOR the Assumption, but rather, as a response to the charge that “the Assumption contradicts what the Bible says.” (see my response to a great point from James in the “Comments” section below.)
2. The idea of an “assumption” event does exist elsewhere in the Scriptures. “Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death” according to the Old and New Testaments (see Gen 5:24; Heb 11:5). Elijah was also taken into heaven (2 Kings 2:11). Although there is still some discussion on what actually happened here (particularly with Enoch) the best explanation is still believed by many to be that these men really were assumed to heaven. Lastly, consider the “two witnesses” in the Book of Revelation who go up to heaven “in a cloud” (Rev 11:12).
For a recent article by Jimmy Akin on the taking up of Elijah and Enoch click here.
3. An assumption is not an ascension. The resurrected Jesus ascended into heaven by His own infinite power. Mary was assumed into heaven by God’s infinite power. There is a fundamental difference between these two types of event. Therefore, we cannot say “Elijah did assume into heaven” but must say “Elijah was assumed” implying that it was not something he did but something done to him by the power of God. Thus both the Ascension of Jesus and the Assumption of Mary glorify God but in subtly different ways.
4. Not all Christian doctrines need to be found explicitly in the Bible. The apostles passed on tradition in two ways: orally and in writing (2 Thess 2:15). Consider the New Testament canon of Scripture, for example, which is not revealed in Scripture. Thus all Christians continue to rely on an outside, extra-biblical tradition — and, perhaps unwittingly, the authority of the Catholic Church — to know what actually belongs in the Bible and what does not. Apostolic oral traditions have been revered as the Word of God since the beginning (see 1 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:25). Included in this apostolic deposit of faith that spans two millennia is the Assumption of Mary.
5. If there’s ever existed any creature whose body should be preserved from corruption, it is Mary’s. Why shouldn’t God assume Mary into heaven? According to the Scriptures, Mary is “full of grace” (Lk 1:28), favored by God (Lk 1:30), “overshadowed” by the Most High as the Ark of the New Covenant (Ex 40:35; 2 Samuel 6:2-11; Lk 1:35; Lk 1:39-56; Rev 11:19), “blessed among women” (Lk 1:42), the mother of our Lord Jesus (L 1:43) and to be called blessed by “all generations” (Lk 1:38). If God was going to assume anyone into heaven (if only as a solemn reminder of the bodily resurrection that awaits us all), surely, it would be fitting if He chose Mary.
6. With God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). If God can give humans the power to cast out devils and carry out miraculous healings, there is no reason that God could not “assume” Mary, His highly favoured one, into heaven. God can do all things that are logically possible. Therefore, since the Assumption is an act of God’s love and not contradictory to His nature (1 John 4:8), being all-powerful, the Assumption is entirely within His scope of action.
7. There are no first class (bodily) relics of Mary. The early Christians revered the bodily remains of the saints. In A.D. 156, in an account of Polycarp of Smyrna’s martyrdom, it is noted that the martyr’s bones were preserved for veneration. His bones, which would qualify as first class relics, were described in this 2nd century account as “more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold.” From a biblical perspective, the veneration and spiritual value of relics is perhaps most explicitly revealed in 2 Kings 13:21, when a dead man is revived after touching Elisha’s bones (see also Acts 5:12-15 & Acts 19:11-12) . Even today, the Church venerates first class relics of first century Christians such as Sts. Peter, John, Philip and Paul (this is not an exhaustive list).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
“…relics are not magic. They do not contain a power that is their own; a power separate from God. Any good that comes about through a relic is God’s doing” (828)
Surely if Mary had not been assumed bodily, the Christian people would have taken great measures to preserve her sacred remains as they did with the apostles and other great early century Christian figures; or they would have at least made a record of where her remains where. But we have no such thing.
8. Early Christians wrote about the the Assumption of Mary.
Timothy of Jerusalem wrote at the beginning of the 5th century:
“Therefore the Virgin is immortal to this day, seeing that he who had dwelt in her transported her to the regions of her assumption” (Homily on Simeon and Anna [A.D. 400]).
John the Theologian wrote also at the beginning of the 5th century:
“And from that time forth all knew that the spotless and precious body had been transferred to paradise” (The Falling Asleep of Mary [A.D. 400]).
Gregory of Tours wrote in the 6th century:
“But Mary, the glorious Mother of Christ, who is believed to be a virgin both before and after she bore him, has, as we said above, been translated into paradise, amid the singing of the angelic choirs, whither the Lord preceded her” (Eight Books of Miracles 1:8 [A.D. 584])