On August 15, the Church celebrates the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, body and soul, into heaven. The Solemnity of the Assumption is a holy day of obligation, when the faithful are bound to participate in Mass.
Although this Marian feast likely dates back before the year 500, the dogma that Mary was assumed bodily into heaven was not defined until 1950, when Pope Pius XII promulgated the Apostolic Constitution “Munificentissimus Deus.”
In it, he writes, “the Blessed Virgin Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven […] is a truth that has been revealed by God and consequently something that must be firmly and faithfully believed by all children of the Church.”
This was reiterated at the Second Vatican Council with the Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen Gentium, which states, “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.”
Mary’s Assumption, like her Immaculate Conception, derives from her closeness to Jesus and her special place in His saving mission. As the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” explains, “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians.”
On August 15, Catholics not only honor the Blessed Virgin, we look forward to the day when we will be reunited with our bodies, beyond the reach of death. Let us pray for an increase of the supernatural virtue of hope, and for a greater devotion to the Blessed Mother, who is our mother in the order of grace.
Image: The Assumption of the Virgin Mary, by Peter Paul Rubens