This Sunday we are invited to celebrate and ponder the Assumption of Mary into heaven. What does this feast mean? The Church believes and teaches that at the end of her earthly life, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was taken into heaven, body and soul, to remain there eternally with Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit. 

Why does the Church believe this? We know that Mary was conceived without original sin and lived her entire life without committing sin. We also know that she was chosen by God to be the Mother of Jesus and that she conceived Him as a virgin and remained so until the end of her life. These are tremendous privileges and they show that God had a particular love for Mary, such that He prepared her place in His divine plan from all eternity. The completion of His plan for her included the Assumption, that is, taking Mary to live forever in heaven with the One and Triune God. In doing this, God did not allow the flesh of Mary to be corrupted by decay after death. In a certain sense, He maintained the purity and integrity of her body until the very end, when she was gathered into heaven. 

The Assumption of Mary is not found in Scripture directly, but there are scriptural texts that support the Church’s belief about Mary. In Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 1:39-56), we observe the scene of the Visitation. Mary, who is pregnant with Jesus, goes to Elizabeth, her cousin, who is pregnant with John the Baptist. This is a very moving scene, in which two mothers rejoice together at the marvelous work of God in their lives. After they greet one another, Mary breaks out into a song of praise, called the Magnificat. Mary does not point to what she has done, but to what God has done in her. Only because of His power and goodness will all generations praise Mary. She has things exactly right in this regard! It is God’s work in Mary that makes her so wonderful.

In Sunday’s First Reading (Rev 11:19a, 12:1-6a, 10ab), there is also some complex imagery that points both to Mary and to the things that prefigured her in the Old Testament. First, there is the mention of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant is a sign of Mary because it was a sacred vessel that contained three very important things: The 10 Commandments, the manna and the rod of Aaron (Heb 9:4). Mary contained Jesus in her womb and the three items in the ark all point to this mystery of Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus is the Word of God, corresponding to The 10 Commandments. He is also the bread of life, corresponding to the manna. Finally, He is the perfect high priest who sacrificed Himself for us, corresponding to Aaron’s staff — Aaron was the first high priest.

Another scene in this reading points to Mary: the faceoff between the woman, clothed with the sun, and the dragon who wants to devour her child. This is a reference to Genesis 3:15, where God promised that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent, while the serpent would strike at his heel. Those words were spoken to Eve, so Mary is here presented as the New Eve, whose Son, Jesus, defeats the serpent and destroys death.

That, perhaps more than anything else, is what we celebrate on the Assumption. As Saint Paul says in Sunday’s Second Reading (1 Cor 15:20-27), the last enemy, death, is destroyed. Death has no power over Jesus nor over Mary. We, too, have confidence that Jesus has defeated death for us, so that with Him and our Blessed Mother Mary, we will live forever in heaven.