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When Mary’s soul left her body, the soft chanting of the angels seemed to withdraw slowly from the Cenacle. Peter and John must have perceived the glory of her soul in this moment of its liberation, for they both looked up, while the other apostles remained absorbed in prayer, with their heads bowed to the ground.

The Blessed Virgin’s body lay radiant with light, surrounded by her thousand invisible guardian angels. Her eyes were closed, and her hands were folded on her breast.

When at last all the apostles, disciples, and holy women present realized that their beloved spiritual Mother had indeed left them, their sorrow was so intense that only a special dispensation of divine power prevented some of them from dying of grief.

For some time they prayed and wept silently. Then they arose and sang a number of hymns in honor of their departed Queen.

Later Mary’s two devoted servant girls were told to anoint and wrap her body in a shroud with the greatest reverence and modesty. But when they entered her room, they were so blinded by the dazzling mystical light surrounding her couch that they could not even see her body. Highly excited, they hastened to notify the apostles. Peter and John then went into the room, perceived the bright light, and heard angels singing: “A Virgin before the Nativity, during the Nativity, and after the Nativity.” Kneeling down and praying for guidance, the two saints heard a Voice say: “Let not this virginal body be touched!”

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1. The most bountiful God, who is almighty, the plan of whose providence rests upon wisdom and love, tempers, in the secret purpose of his own mind, the sorrows of peoples and of individual men by means of joys that he interposes in their lives from time to time, in such a way that, under different conditions and in different ways, all things may work together unto good for those who love him (1).
 
2. Now, just like the present age, our pontificate is weighed down by ever so many cares, anxieties, and troubles, by reason of very severe calamities that have taken place and by reason of the fact that many have strayed away from truth and virtue. Nevertheless, we are greatly consoled to see that, while the Catholic faith is being professed publicly and vigorously, piety toward the Virgin Mother of God is flourishing and daily growing more fervent, and that almost everywhere on earth it is showing indications of a better and holier life. Thus, while the Blessed Virgin is fulfilling in the most affectionate manner her maternal duties on behalf of those redeemed by the blood of Christ, the minds and the hearts of her children are being vigorously aroused to a more assiduous consideration of her prerogatives.
 
3. Actually God, who from all eternity regards Mary with a most favorable and unique affection, has “when the fullness of time came” (2) put the plan of his providence into effect in such a way that all the privileges and prerogatives he had granted to her in his sovereign generosity were to shine forth in her in a kind of perfect harmony. And, although the Church has always recognized this supreme generosity and the perfect harmony of graces and has daily studied them more and more throughout the course of the centuries, still it is in our own age that the privilege of the bodily Assumption into heaven of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, has certainly shone forth more clearly.
 
4. That privilege has shone forth in new radiance since our predecessor of immortal memory, Pius IX, solemnly proclaimed the dogma of the loving Mother of God’s Immaculate Conception. These two privileges are most closely bound to one another. Christ overcame sin and death by his own death, and one who through Baptism has been born again in a supernatural way has conquered sin and death through the same Christ. Yet, according to the general rule, God does not will to grant to the just the full effect of the victory over death until the end of time has come. And so it is that the bodies of even the just are corrupted after death, and only on the last day will they be joined, each to its own glorious soul.
 
5. Now God has willed that the Blessed Virgin Mary should be exempted from this general rule. She, by an entirely unique privilege, completely overcame sin by her Immaculate Conception, and as a result she was not subject to the law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, and she did not have to wait until the end of time for the redemption of her body.
 
6. Thus, when it was solemnly proclaimed that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, was from the very beginning free from the taint of original sin, the minds of the faithful were filled with a stronger hope that the day might soon come when the dogma of the Virgin Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven would also be defined by the Church’s supreme teaching authority.
 
7. Actually it was seen that not only individual Catholics, but also those who could speak for nations or ecclesiastical provinces, and even a considerable number of the Fathers of the Vatican Council, urgently petitioned the Apostolic See to this effect.
 
8. During the course of time such postulations and petitions did not decrease but rather grew continually in number and in urgency. In this cause there were pious crusades of prayer. Many outstanding theologians eagerly and zealously carried out investigations on this subject either privately or in public ecclesiastical institutions and in other schools where the sacred disciplines are taught. Marian Congresses, both national and international in scope, have been held in many parts of the Catholic world. These studies and investigations have brought out into even clearer light the fact that the dogma of the Virgin Mary’s Assumption into heaven is contained in the deposit of Christian faith entrusted to the Church. They have resulted in many more petitions, begging and urging the Apostolic See that this truth be solemnly defined.
 
9. In this pious striving, the faithful have been associated in a wonderful way with their own holy bishops, who have sent petitions of this kind, truly remarkable in number, to this See of the Blessed Peter. Consequently, when we were elevated to the throne of the supreme pontificate, petitions of this sort had already been addressed by the thousands from every part of the world and from every class of people, from our beloved sons the Cardinals of the Sacred College, from our venerable brethren, archbishops and bishops, from dioceses and from parishes.
 
10. Consequently, while we sent up earnest prayers to God that he might grant to our mind the light of the Holy Spirit, to enable us to make a decision on this most serious subject, we issued special orders in which we commanded that, by corporate effort, more advanced inquiries into this matter should be begun and that, in the meantime, all the petitions about the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven which had been sent to this Apostolic See from the time of Pius IX, our predecessor of happy memory, down to our own days should be gathered together and carefully evaluated (3).
 
11. And, since we were dealing with a matter of such great moment and of such importance, we considered it opportune to ask all our venerable brethren in the episcopate directly and authoritatively that each of them should make known to us his mind in a formal statement. Hence, on May 1, 1946, we gave them our letter “Deiparae Virginis Mariae,” a letter in which these words are contained: “Do you, venerable brethren, in your outstanding wisdom and prudence, judge that the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin can be proposed and defined as a dogma of faith? Do you, with your clergy and people, desire it?”
 
12. But those whom “the Holy Spirit has placed as bishops to rule the Church of God” (4) gave an almost unanimous affirmative response to both these questions. This “outstanding agreement of the Catholic prelates and the faithful” (5), affirming that the bodily Assumption of God’s Mother into heaven can be defined as a dogma of faith, since it shows us the concordant teaching of the Church’s ordinary doctrinal authority and the concordant faith of the Christian people which the same doctrinal authority sustains and directs, thus by itself and in an entirely certain and infallible way, manifests this privilege as a truth revealed by God and contained in that divine deposit which Christ has delivered to his Spouse to be guarded faithfully and to be taught infallibly (6). Certainly this teaching authority of the Church, not by any merely human effort but under the protection of the Spirit of Truth (7), and therefore absolutely without error, carries out the commission entrusted to it, that of preserving the revealed truths pure and entire throughout every age, in such a way that it presents them undefiled, adding nothing to them and taking nothing away from them. For, as the Vatican Council teaches, “the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter in such a way that, by his revelation, they might manifest new doctrine, but so that, by his assistance, they might guard as sacred and might faithfully propose the revelation delivered through the apostles, or the deposit of faith” (8). Thus, from the universal agreement of the Church’s ordinary teaching authority we have a certain and firm proof, demonstrating that the Blessed Virgin Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven—which surely no faculty of the human mind could know by its own natural powers, as far as the heavenly glorification of the virginal body of the loving Mother of God is concerned—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. For, as the Vatican Council asserts, “all those things are to be believed by divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the written Word of God or in Tradition, and which are proposed by the Church, either in solemn judgment or in its ordinary and universal teaching office, as divinely revealed truths which must be believed” (9).
 
13. Various testimonies, indications and signs of this common belief of the Church are evident from remote times down through the course of the centuries; and this same belief becomes more clearly manifest from day to day.
 
14. Christ’s faithful, through the teaching and the leadership of their pastors, have learned from the sacred books that the Virgin Mary, throughout the course of her earthly pilgrimage, led a life troubled by cares, hardships, and sorrows, and that, moreover, what the holy old man Simeon had foretold actually came to pass, that is, that a terribly sharp sword pierced her heart as she stood under the cross of her divine Son, our Redeemer. In the same way, it was not difficult for them to admit that the great Mother of God, like her only begotten Son, had actually passed from this life. But this in no way prevented them from believing and from professing openly that her sacred body had never been subject to the corruption of the tomb, and that the august tabernacle of the Divine Word had never been reduced to dust and ashes. Actually, enlightened by divine grace and moved by affection for her, God’s Mother and our own dearest Mother, they have contemplated in an ever clearer light the wonderful harmony and order of those privileges which the most provident God has lavished upon this loving associate of our Redeemer, privileges which reach such an exalted plane that, except for her, nothing created by God other than the human nature of Jesus Christ has ever reached this level.
 
15. The innumerable temples which have been dedicated to the Virgin Mary assumed into heaven clearly attest this faith. So do those sacred images, exposed therein for the veneration of the faithful, which bring this unique triumph of the Blessed Virgin before the eyes of all men. Moreover, cities, dioceses, and individual regions have been placed under the special patronage and guardianship of the Virgin Mother of God assumed into heaven. In the same way, religious institutes, with the approval of the Church, have been founded and have taken their name from this privilege. Nor can we pass over in silence the fact that in the Rosary of Mary, the recitation of which this Apostolic See so urgently recommends, there is one mystery proposed for pious meditation which, as all know, deals with the Blessed Virgin’s Assumption into heaven.
 
16. This belief of the sacred pastors and of Christ’s faithful is universally manifested still more splendidly by the fact that, since ancient times, there have been both in the East and in the West solemn liturgical offices commemorating this privilege. The holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church have never failed to draw enlightenment from this fact since, as everyone knows, the sacred liturgy, “because it is the profession, subject to the supreme teaching authority within the Church, of heavenly truths, can supply proofs and testimonies of no small value for deciding a particular point of Christian doctrine” (10).
 
17. In the liturgical books which deal with the feast either of the dormition or of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin there are expressions that agree in testifying that, when the Virgin Mother of God passed from this earthly exile to heaven, what happened to her sacred body was, by the decree of divine Providence, in keeping with the dignity of the Mother of the Word Incarnate, and with the other privileges she had been accorded. Thus, to cite an illustrious example, this is set forth in that sacramentary which Adrian I, our predecessor of immortal memory, sent to the Emperor Charlemagne. These words are found in this volume: “Venerable to us, O Lord, is the festivity of this day on which the holy Mother of God suffered temporal death, but still could not be kept down by the bonds of death, who has begotten your Son our Lord incarnate from herself” (11).
 
18. What is here indicated in that sobriety characteristic of the Roman liturgy is presented more clearly and completely in other ancient liturgical books. To take one as an example, the Gallican sacramentary designates this privilege of Mary’s as “an ineffable mystery all the more worthy of praise as the Virgin’s Assumption is something unique among men.” And, in the Byzantine liturgy, not only is the Virgin Mary’s bodily Assumption connected time and time again with the dignity of the Mother of God, but also with the other privileges, and in particular with the virginal motherhood granted her by a singular decree of God’s Providence. “God, the King of the universe, has granted you favors that surpass nature. As he kept you a virgin in childbirth, thus he has kept your body incorrupt in the tomb and has glorified it by his divine act of transferring it from the tomb” (12).
 
19. The fact that the Apostolic See, which has inherited the function entrusted to the Prince of the Apostles, the function of confirming the brethren in the faith (13), has by its own authority, made the celebration of this feast ever more solemn, has certainly and effectively moved the attentive minds of the faithful to appreciate always more completely the magnitude of the mystery it commemorates. So it was that the Feast of the Assumption was elevated from the rank which it had occupied from the beginning among the other Marian feasts to be classed among the more solemn celebrations of the entire liturgical cycle. And, when our predecessor St. Sergius I prescribed what is known as the litany, or the stational procession, to be held on four Marian feasts, he specified together the Feasts of the Nativity, the Annunciation, the Purification, and the Dormition of the Virgin Mary (14). Again, St. Leo IV saw to it that the feast, which was already being celebrated under the title of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother of God, should be observed in even a more solemn way when he ordered a vigil to be held on the day before it and prescribed prayers to be recited after it until the octave day. When this had been done, he decided to take part himself in the celebration, in the midst of a great multitude of the faithful (15). Moreover, the fact that a holy fast had been ordered from ancient times for the day prior to the feast is made very evident by what our predecessor St. Nicholas I testifies in treating of the principal fasts which “the Holy Roman Church has observed for a long time, and still observes” (16).
 
20. However, since the liturgy of the Church does not engender the Catholic faith, but rather springs from it, in such a way that the practices of the sacred worship proceed from the faith as the fruit comes from the tree, it follows that the holy Fathers and the great Doctors, in the homilies and sermons they gave the people on this feast day, did not draw their teaching from the feast itself as from a primary source, but rather they spoke of this doctrine as something already known and accepted by Christ’s faithful. They presented it more clearly. They offered more profound explanations of its meaning and nature, bringing out into sharper light the fact that this feast shows, not only that the dead body of the Blessed Virgin Mary remained incorrupt, but that she gained a triumph out of death, her heavenly glorification after the example of her only begotten Son, Jesus Christ—truths that the liturgical books had frequently touched upon concisely and briefly.
 
21. Thus St. John Damascene, an outstanding herald of this traditional truth, spoke out with powerful eloquence when he compared the bodily Assumption of the loving Mother of God with her other prerogatives and privileges. “It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped in the act of giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father. It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God” (17).
 
22. These words of St. John Damascene agree perfectly with what others have taught on this same subject. Statements no less clear and accurate are to be found in sermons delivered by Fathers of an earlier time or of the same period, particularly on the occasion of this feast. And so, to cite some other examples, St. Germanus of Constantinople considered the fact that the body of Mary, the virgin Mother of God, was incorrupt and had been taken up into heaven to be in keeping, not only with her divine motherhood, but also with the special holiness of her virginal body. “You are she who, as it is written, appears in beauty, and your virginal body is all holy, all chaste, entirely the dwelling place of God, so that it is henceforth completely exempt from dissolution into dust. Though still human, it is changed into the heavenly life of incorruptibility, truly living and glorious, undamaged and sharing in perfect life” (18). And another very ancient writer asserts: “As the most glorious Mother of Christ, our Savior and God and the giver of life and immortality, has been endowed with life by him, she has received an eternal incorruptibility of the body together with him who has raised her up from the tomb and has taken her up to himself in a way known only to him” (19).
 
23. When this liturgical feast was being celebrated ever more widely and with ever increasing devotion and piety, the bishops of the Church and its preachers in continually greater numbers considered it their duty openly and clearly to explain the mystery that the feast commemorates, and to explain how it is intimately connected with the other revealed truths.
 
24. Among the scholastic theologians there have not been lacking those who, wishing to inquire more profoundly into divinely revealed truths and desirous of showing the harmony that exists between what is termed the theological demonstration and the Catholic faith, have always considered it worthy of note that this privilege of the Virgin Mary’s Assumption is in wonderful accord with those divine truths given us in Holy Scripture.
 
25. When they go on to explain this point, they adduce various proofs to throw light on this privilege of Mary. As the first element of these demonstrations, they insist upon the fact that, out of filial love for his mother, Jesus Christ has willed that she be assumed into heaven. They base the strength of their proofs on the incomparable dignity of her divine motherhood and of all those prerogatives which follow from it. These include her exalted holiness, entirely surpassing the sanctity of all men and of the angels, the intimate union of Mary with her Son, and the affection of preeminent love which the Son has for his most worthy Mother.
 
26. Often there are theologians and preachers who, following in the footsteps of the holy Fathers (20), have been rather free in their use of events and expressions taken from Sacred Scripture to explain their belief in the Assumption. Thus, to mention only a few of the texts rather frequently cited in this fashion, some have employed the words of the psalmist: “Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified” (21); and have looked upon the Ark of the Covenant, built of incorruptible wood and placed in the Lord’s temple, as a type of the most pure body of the Virgin Mary, preserved and exempt from all the corruption of the tomb and raised up to such glory in heaven. Treating of this subject, they also describe her as the Queen entering triumphantly into the royal halls of heaven and sitting at the right hand of the divine Redeemer (22). Likewise they mention the Spouse of the Canticles “that goes up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke of aromatical spices, of myrrh and frankincense” to be crowned (23). These are proposed as depicting that heavenly Queen and heavenly Spouse who has been lifted up to the courts of heaven with the divine Bridegroom.
 
27. Moreover, the scholastic Doctors have recognized the Assumption of the Virgin Mother of God as something signified, not only in various figures of the Old Testament, but also in that woman clothed with the sun whom John the Apostle contemplated on the Island of Patmos (24). Similarly they have given special attention to these words of the New Testament: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women” (25), since they saw, in the mystery of the Assumption, the fulfillment of that most perfect grace granted to the Blessed Virgin and the special blessing that countered the curse of Eve.
 
28. Thus, during the earliest period of scholastic theology, that most pious man, Amadeus, Bishop of Lausarme, held that the Virgin Mary’s flesh had remained incorrupt—for it is wrong to believe that her body has seen corruption—because it was really united again to her soul and, together with it, crowned with great glory in the heavenly courts. “For she was full of grace and blessed among women. She alone merited to conceive the true God of true God, whom as a virgin, she brought forth, to whom as a virgin she gave milk, fondling him in her lap, and in all things she waited upon him with loving care” (26).
 
29. Among the holy writers who at that time employed statements and various images and analogies of Sacred Scripture to Illustrate and to confirm the doctrine of the Assumption, which was piously believed, the Evangelical Doctor, St. Anthony of Padua, holds a special place. On the feast day of the Assumption, while explaining the prophet’s words: “I will glorify the place of my feet” (27), he stated it as certain that the divine Redeemer had bedecked with supreme glory his most beloved Mother from whom he had received human flesh. He asserts that “you have here a clear statement that the Blessed Virgin has been assumed in her body, where was the place of the Lord’s feet. Hence it is that the holy Psalmist writes: ‘Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark which you have sanctified.”‘ And he asserts that, just as Jesus Christ has risen from the death over which he triumphed and has ascended to the right hand of the Father, so likewise the ark of his sanctification “has risen up, since on this day the Virgin Mother has been taken up to her heavenly dwelling” (28).
 
30. When, during the Middle Ages, scholastic theology was especially flourishing, St. Albert the Great who, to establish this teaching, had gathered together many proofs from Sacred Scripture, from the statements of older writers, and finally from the liturgy and from what is known as theological reasoning, concluded in this way: “From these proofs and authorities and from many others, it is manifest that the most blessed Mother of God has been assumed above the choirs of angels. And this we believe in every way to be true” (29). And, in a sermon which he delivered on the sacred day of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s annunciation, explained the words “Hail, full of grace”—words used by the angel who addressed her—the Universal Doctor, comparing the Blessed Virgin with Eve, stated clearly and incisively that she was exempted from the fourfold curse that had been laid upon Eve (30).
 
31. Following the footsteps of his distinguished teacher, the Angelic Doctor, despite the fact that he never dealt directly with this question, nevertheless, whenever he touched upon it, always held together with the Catholic Church, that Mary’s body had been assumed into heaven along with her soul (31).
 
32. Along with many others, the Seraphic Doctor held the same views. He considered it as entirely certain that, as God had preserved the most holy Virgin Mary from the violation of her virginal purity and integrity in conceiving and in childbirth, he would never have permitted her body to have been resolved into dust and ashes (32). Explaining these words of Sacred Scripture: “Who is this that comes up from the desert, flowing with delights, leaning upon her beloved?” (33) and applying them in a kind of accommodated sense to the Blessed Virgin, he reasons thus: “From this we can see that she is there bodily…her blessedness would not have been complete unless she were there as a person. The soul is not a person, but the soul, joined to the body, is a person. It is manifest that she is there in soul and in body. Otherwise she would not possess her complete beatitude (34).
 
33. In the fifteenth century, during a later period of scholastic theology, St. Bernardine of Siena collected and diligently evaluated all that the medieval theologians had said and taught on this question. He was not content with setting down the principal considerations which these writers of an earlier day had already expressed, but he added others of his own. The likeness between God’s Mother and her divine Son, in the way of the nobility and dignity of body and of soul—a likeness that forbids us to think of the heavenly Queen as being separated from the heavenly King—makes it entirely imperative that Mary “should be only where Christ is” (35). Moreover, it is reasonable and fitting that not only the soul and body of a man, but also the soul and body of a woman should have obtained heavenly glory. Finally, since the Church has never looked for the bodily relics of the Blessed Virgin nor proposed them for the veneration of the people, we have a proof on the order of a sensible experience (36).
 
34. The above-mentioned teachings of the holy Fathers and of the Doctors have been in common use during more recent times. Gathering together the testimonies of the Christians of earlier days, St. Robert Bellarmine exclaimed: “And who, I ask, could believe that the ark of holiness, the dwelling place of the Word of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit, could be reduced to ruin? My soul is filled with horror at the thought that this virginal flesh which had begotten God, had brought him into the world, had nourished and carried him, could have been turned into ashes or given over to be food for worms” (37).
 
35. In like manner St. Francis de Sales, after asserting that it is wrong to doubt that Jesus Christ has himself observed, in the most perfect way, the divine commandment by which children are ordered to honor their parents, asks this question: “What son would not bring his mother back to life and would not bring her into paradise after her death if he could?” (38). And St. Alphonsus writes that “Jesus did not wish to have the body of Mary corrupted after death, since it would have redounded to his own dishonor to have her virginal flesh, from which he himself had assumed flesh, reduced to dust” (39).
 
36. Once the mystery which is commemorated in this feast had been placed in its proper light, there were not lacking teachers who, instead of dealing with the theological reasonings that show why it is fitting and right to believe the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven, chose to focus their mind and attention on the faith of the Church itself, which is the Mystical Body of Christ without stain or wrinkle (40) and is called by the Apostle “the pillar and ground of truth” (41). Relying on this common faith, they considered the teaching opposed to the doctrine of our Lady’s Assumption as temerarious, if not heretical. Thus, like not a few others, St. Peter Canisius, after he had declared that the very word “assumption” signifies the glorification, not only of the soul but also of the body, and that the Church has venerated and has solemnly celebrated this mystery of Mary’s Assumption for many centuries, adds these words of warning: “This teaching has already been accepted for some centuries, it has been held as certain in the minds of the pious people, and it has been taught to the entire Church in such a way that those who deny that Mary’s body has been assumed into heaven are not to be listened to patiently but are everywhere to be denounced as over-contentious or rash men, and as imbued with a spirit that is heretical rather than Catholic” (42).
 
37. At the same time the great Suarez was professing in the field of mariology the norm that “keeping in mind the standards of propriety, and when there is no contradiction or repugnance on the part of Scripture, the mysteries of grace which God has wrought in the Virgin must be measured, not by the ordinary laws, but by the divine omnipotence” (43). Supported by the common faith of the entire Church on the subject of the mystery of the Assumption, he could conclude that this mystery was to be believed with the same firmness of assent as that given to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin. Thus he already held that such truths could be defined.
 
38. All these proofs and considerations of the holy Fathers and the theologians are based upon the Sacred Writings as their ultimate foundation. These set the loving Mother of God as it were before our very eyes as most intimately joined to her divine Son and as always sharing his lot. Consequently it seems impossible to think of her, the one who conceived Christ, brought him forth, nursed him with her milk, held him in her arms, and clasped him to her breast, as being apart from him in body, even though not in soul, after this earthly life. Since our Redeemer is the Son of Mary, he could not do otherwise, as the perfect observer of God’s law, than to honor, not only his eternal Father, but also his most beloved Mother. And, since it was within his power to grant her this great honor, to preserve her from the corruption of the tomb, we must believe that he really acted in this way.
 
39. We must remember especially that, since the second century, the Virgin Mary has been designated by the holy Fathers as the new Eve, who, although subject to the new Adam, is most intimately associated with him in that struggle against the infernal foe which, as foretold in the protoevangelium (44), would finally result in that most complete victory over the sin and death which are always mentioned together in the writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles (45). Consequently, just as the glorious resurrection of Christ was an essential part and the final sign of this victory, so that struggle which was common to the Blessed Virgin and her divine Son should be brought to a close by the glorification of her virginal body, for the same Apostle says: “When this mortal thing hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory” (46).
 
40. Hence the revered Mother of God, from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination (47), immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendor at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages (48).
 
41. Since the universal Church, within which dwells the Spirit of Truth who infallibly directs it toward an ever more perfect knowledge of the revealed truths, has expressed its own belief many times over the course of the centuries, and since the bishops of the entire world are almost unanimously petitioning that the truth of the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven should be defined as a dogma of divine and Catholic faith—this truth which is based on the Sacred Writings, which is thoroughly rooted in the minds of the faithful, which has been approved in ecclesiastical worship from the most remote times, which is completely in harmony with the other revealed truths, and which has been expounded and explained magnificently in the work, the science, and the wisdom of the theologians—we believe that the moment appointed in the plan of divine providence for the solemn proclamation of this outstanding privilege of the Virgin Mary has already arrived.
 
42. We, who have placed our pontificate under the special patronage of the most holy Virgin, to whom we have had recourse so often in times of grave trouble, we who have consecrated the entire human race to her Immaculate Heart in public ceremonies, and who have time and time again experienced her powerful protection, are confident that this solemn proclamation and definition of the Assumption will contribute in no small way to the advantage of human society, since it redounds to the glory of the Most Blessed Trinity, to which the Blessed Mother of God is bound by such singular bonds. It is to be hoped that all the faithful will be stirred up to a stronger piety toward their heavenly Mother, and that the souls of all those who glory in the Christian name may be moved by the desire of sharing in the unity of Jesus Christ’s Mystical Body and of increasing their love for her who shows her motherly heart to all the members of this august body. And so we may hope that those who meditate upon the glorious example Mary offers us may be more and more convinced of the value of a human life entirely devoted to carrying out the heavenly Father’s will and to bringing good to others. Thus, while the illusory teachings of materialism and the corruption of morals that follows from these teachings threaten to extinguish the light of virtue and to ruin the lives of men by exciting discord among them, in this magnificent way all may see clearly to what a lofty goal our bodies and souls are destined. Finally it is our hope that belief in Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven will make our belief in our own resurrection stronger and render it more effective.
 
43. We rejoice greatly that this solemn event falls, according to the design of God’s providence, during this Holy Year, so that we are able, while the great Jubilee is being observed, to adorn the brow of God’s Virgin Mother with this brilliant gem, and to leave a monument more enduring than bronze of our own most fervent love for the Mother of God.
 
44. For which reason, after we have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; 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.
 
45. Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.
 
46. In order that this, our definition of the bodily Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven may be brought to the attention of the universal Church, we desire that this, our Apostolic Letter, should stand for perpetual remembrance, commanding that written copies of it, or even printed copies, signed by the hand of any public notary and bearing the seal of a person constituted in ecclesiastical dignity, should be accorded by all men the same reception they would give to this present letter, were it tendered or shown.
 
47. It is forbidden to any man to change this, our declaration, pronouncement, and definition or, by rash attempt, to oppose and counter it. If any man should presume to make such an attempt, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.
 
48. Given at Rome, at St. Peter’s, in the year of the great Jubilee, 1950, on the first day of the month of November, on the Feast of All Saints, in the twelfth year of our pontificate.

Notes
 
(1) Rom 8:28.
(2) Gal 4:4.
(3) Cf. Hentrich-Von Moos, Petitiones de Assumptione Corporea B. Virginis Mariae in Caelum Definienda ad S. Sedem Delatae, 2 volumes (Vatican Polyglot Press, 1942).
(4) Acts 20:28.
(5) The Bull Ineffabilis Deus, in the Acta Pii IX, pars 1, Vol. 1, p. 615.
(6) The Vatican Council, Constitution Dei filius, c. 4.
(7) Jn 14:26.
(8) Vatican Council, Constitution Pastor Aeternus, c. 4.
(9) Ibid., Dei Filius, c. 3.
(10) The encyclical Mediator Dei (Acta Apostolicae Sedis, XXXIX, 541).
(11) Sacramentarium Gregorianum.
(12) Menaei Totius Anni.
(13) Lk 22:32.
(14) Liber Pontificalis.
(15) Ibid.
(16) Responsa Nicolai Papae I ad Consulta Bulgarorum.
(17) St. John Damascene, Encomium in Dormitionem Dei Genetricis Semperque Virginis Mariae, Hom. II, n. 14; cf. also ibid, n. 3.
(18) St. Germanus of Constantinople, In Sanctae Dei Genetricis Dormitionem, Sermo I.
(19) The Encomium in Dormitionem Sanctissimae Dominae Nostrate Deiparae Semperque Virginis Mariae, attributed to St. Modestus of Jerusalem, n. 14.
(20) Cf. St. John Damascene, op. cit., Hom. II, n. 11; and also the Encomium attributed to St. Modestus.
(21) Ps 131:8.
(22) Ps 44:10-14ff.
(23) Song 3:6; cf. also 4:8; 6:9.
(24) Rv 12:1ff.
(25) Lk 1:28.
(26) Amadeus of Lausanne, De Beatae Virginis Obitu, Assumptione in Caelum Exaltatione ad Filii Dexteram.
(27) Is 61:13.
(28) St. Anthony of Padua, Sermones Dominicales et in Solemnitatibus, In Assumptione S. Mariae Virginis Sermo.
(29) St. Albert the Great, Mariale, q. 132.
(30) St. Albert the Great, Sermones de Sanctis, Sermo XV in Annuntiatione B. Mariae; cf. also Mariale, q. 132.
(31) St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol., I, lla; q. 27, a. 1; q. 83, a. 5, ad 8; Expositio Salutationis Angelicae; In Symb. Apostolorum Expositio, a. S; In IV Sent., d. 12, q. 1, a. 3, sol. 3; d. 43, q. 1, a. 3, sol. 1, 2.
(32) St. Bonaventure, De Nativitate B. Mariae Virginis, Sermo V.
(33) Song 8:5.
(34) St. Bonaventure, De Assumptione B. Mariae Virginis, Sermo 1.
(35) St. Bernardine of Siena, In Assumptione B. Mariae Virginis, Sermo 11.
(36) Ibid.
(37) St. Robert Bellarmine, Conciones Habitae Lovanii, n. 40, De Assumption B. Mariae Virginis.
(38) Oeuvres de St. Francois De Sales, sermon for the Feast of the Assumption.
(39) St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Glories of Mary, Part 2, d. 1.
(40) Eph 5:27.
(41) 1 Tim 3:15.
(42) St. Peter Canisius, De Maria Virgine.
(43) Suarez, In Tertiam Partem D. Thomae, q. 27, a. 2, disp. 3, sec. 5, n. 31.
(44) Gen 3:15.
(45) Rom 5-6; 1 Cor. 15:21-26, 54-57.
(46) 1 Cor 15:54.
(47) The Bull Ineffabilis Deus, loc. cit., p. 599.
(48) 1 Tim 1:17.

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The following article is an excerpt from  “Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons.”  To order a copy  click here .  - Asst. Ed.  

In the Old Testament, there were some mysterious departures from this life. God granted a special privilege of not dying to Enoch and Elijah. The first case concerns Enoch, referred to in the book of Genesis: “Enoch walked with God, then was no more, because God took him” (Gen 5:24). The letter to the Hebrews furnishes more information: “It was because of his faith that Enoch was taken up and did not experience death: he was no more, because God took him; because before his assumption he was acknowledged to have pleased God” (Heb 11:5). Significantly, the word assumption is adopted (1). Similarly, the passing of Elijah was extraordinary, since he did not die: “Now as they (Elijah and Elisha) walked on, talking as they went, a chariot of fire appeared and horses of fire coming between the two of them; and Elijah went up to heaven in the whirlwind” (2 Kings 2:11; cf. Sir 48:9). 

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Introduction

One of the problems that arise in any discussion on Co-redemption is the limiting of Redemption exclusively to the events of Good Friday. We must realize that the whole life of Christ is of salvific value, from His Annunciation to the hidden years of Nazareth, His public ministry, His passion, death, resurrection and ascension. Throughout His life Jesus is true to His name as the one who saves.

In the West when the feast of the Annunciation, March 25, falls on Good Friday, the feast is moved to another day as if the two events are unrelated and cause a distraction. The Fathers of the second century speak of the inseparability of the Incarnation and the Passion of the Son of God. The Incarnation was Salvation. For them to invoke the former is to include the latter. John Saward in the “Mysteries of March” states that for the Fathers “to say Incarnation is to say Cross.” (1)

In presenting this talk on the Assumption and Co-redemption, it is essential that we keep the whole of the plan of salvation together. As Mary is introduced into the mystery of Redemption with her Immaculate Conception, followed by the Annunciation and Divine Maternity, so then the Assumption event at the end of her earthly life must also be considered and understood as part of the plan of Redemption. If Mary has shared intimately in the joys and sorrows of the Lord through His birth and death, so then it is fitting that she should share in the glory of the Lord’s resurrection. One day we will experience the fruit of the resurrection, but Mary already has partaken of it in an anticipatory way by the resurrection of her body and soul in the Assumption.

As the definition of our Lady’s Assumption has already been solemnly defined by Pius XII in 1950 with Munificentissimus Deus, I will try to show how we can come to a greater understanding of Co-redemption by having recourse to the dogma of the Assumption. We will be able to see how a full and proper appreciation of Co-redemption is a prelude and necessary foundation that leads to the definition of the Assumption. If this defined dogma can only be fully understood as a consequence of, and in relation to, our Lady’s Co-redemption then we will have the impetus to have this fifth and final dogma defined as well.

 

Before we can proceed to develop this further, it is fitting that we look at the usage of the title Co-redemptrix and its theology which was commonly held up to the time of the definition of the Assumption. I will then return to the main argument of Co-redemption as a necessary foundation for the Assumption. This is confirmed by post Conciliar Mariology with reference to Redemptoris Mater and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Our Lady as “Mother of the Church” and “Image of the Church” receives the reward of her pilgrimage of faith by the resurrection of her body. This in turn inspires and leads us on our pilgrimage through life until we too will share what we profess to believe in—the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

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Assumption in Scripture

Published on May 19, 2009 by in Mariology

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Assumption in Tradition

Published on May 19, 2009 by in Mariology

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On the Assumption

Published on August 9, 2008 by in Marian Private Revelation

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The following account of the Assumption of Mary is an excerpt from the revelations received by Maria Valtorta, as contained in the work, The Poem of the Man-God. The Poem of the Man-God remains a legitimate mystical/spiritual source within the Church for Christian meditation regarding the life of Jesus as recorded by the Italian mystic, Maria Valtorta (see article, “In Response to Various Questions Regarding ‘The Poem of the Man-God'” in the Marian Private Revelation section).
– Ed
.

 

The Assumption of Our Lady

December 8, 1951

How many days have gone by? It is difficult to ascertain it. If one judges by the flowers that form a crown around the dead body, one should say that only a few hours have gone by. But if one judges by the olive branches on which the fresh flowers are lying, branches with leaves already withered, and by the other withered flowers lying like relics on the cover of the chest, one must conclude that some days have by now gone by.

 
[...]

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One of the problems that arise in any discussion on Co-redemption is the limiting of Redemption exclusively to the events of Good Friday. We must realize that the whole life of Christ is of salvific value, from His Annunciation to the hidden years of Nazareth, His public ministry, His passion, death, resurrection and ascension. Throughout His life Jesus is true to His name as the one who saves.

In the West when the feast of the Annunciation, March 25, falls on Good Friday, the feast is moved to another day as if the two events are unrelated and cause a distraction. The Fathers of the second century speak of the inseparability of the Incarnation and the Passion of the Son of God. The Incarnation was Salvation. For them to invoke the former is to include the latter. John Saward in the “Mysteries of March” states that for the Fathers “to say Incarnation is to say Cross.” (1)

In presenting this talk on the Assumption and Co-redemption, it is essential that we keep the whole of the plan of salvation together. As Mary is introduced into the mystery of Redemption with her Immaculate Conception, followed by the Annunciation and Divine Maternity, so then the Assumption event at the end of her earthly life must also be considered and understood as part of the plan of Redemption. If Mary has shared intimately in the joys and sorrows of the Lord through His birth and death, so then it is fitting that she should share in the glory of the Lord’s resurrection. One day we will experience the fruit of the resurrection, but Mary already has partaken of it in an anticipatory way by the resurrection of her body and soul in the Assumption.

As the definition of our Lady’s Assumption has already been solemnly defined by Pius XII in 1950 with Munificentissimus Deus, I will try to show how we can come to a greater understanding of Co-redemption by having recourse to the dogma of the Assumption. We will be able to see how a full and proper appreciation of Co-redemption is a prelude and necessary foundation that leads to the definition of the Assumption. If this defined dogma can only be fully understood as a consequence of, and in relation to, our Lady’s Co-redemption then we will have the impetus to have this fifth and final dogma defined as well.

Before we can proceed to develop this further, it is fitting that we look at the usage of the title Co-redemptrix and its theology which was commonly held up to the time of the definition of the Assumption. I will then return to the main argument of Co-redemption as a necessary foundation for the Assumption. This is confirmed by post Conciliar Mariology with reference to Redemptoris Mater and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Our Lady as “Mother of the Church” and “Image of the Church” receives the reward of her pilgrimage of faith by the resurrection of her body. This in turn inspires and leads us on our pilgrimage through life until we too will share what we profess to believe in—the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

The Theology and Use of the Title Co-redemptrix to the Time of the Definition of the Assumption

The discussion on Co-redemption since the turn of the twentieth century has been systematically recorded by a number of people. I am most grateful to Dr. Miravalle for his excellent reference book, Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate, Theological Foundations, vol. 1.

The path to the proclamation of the Assumption in the twentieth century begins with Pope St. Pius X (1903-1914). In the numerous encyclicals of Pius X there is an emphasis on the intimate union of mother and Son in accomplishing redemption. Mary distributes the gift of eternal life and actively obtains the gift together with her Son.

Through this communion of pain and will between Christ and Mary, “she merited to become the most worthy restorer (reparatrix) of a lost world,” and hence, too the disburser of all the gifts which Jesus bought for us by the price of His death and His blood. (2)

Miravalle notes that “Pope Pius adds to mariological development when he sanctions the use of the title ‘Co-redemptrix’ by three Congregations of the curia.” (3) The first usage concerns an actual feast of Mary that commemorates her seven sorrows (4) and her participation in the whole plan of Redemption. This feast was raised to a double of the second class, with the intention of giving greater honor to Mary who is known as the Co-redemptrix. (5) The Holy Office repeats the title in the following section on Indulgences.

There are some people whose love for our Most Blessed Virgin inclines them never to pray to Jesus without mentioning the name of His mother, Blessed Mary, our Co-redemptrix. This laudable custom expands the invocation, or the Christian salutation: “Praised be Jesus Christ” concerning which this congregation issued a decree on March 27, 1913. (6)

The third time the title is used is in an indulgence prayer of reparation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, in which her prerogative as Co-redemptrix of the human race is blessed. (7)

Miravalle and Schug comment that “we can do no more than presume that Pope St. Pius X personally approved their statements. After all they were published in the official Acta Apostolicae Sedis and were never recanted.” (8) So already we can see that this is none other than the Magisterium’s first three endorsements of Mary’s title “Co-redemptrix.”

Benedict XV (1914-1922) during his pontificate witnessed and supported the upsurge in the theology of Mary as “Mediatrix of Grace.” In 1921, Cardinal Mercier of Belgium petitioned and obtained from the Holy Office a special Mass and Office of Our Lady, Mediatrix of Grace. In Benedict’s encyclical, Inter sodalicia, Mary’s coredemption and her mediation of the fruits of that united sacrifice with her son are clearly stated.

“The fact that she was with her Son crucified and dying, was in accord with the divine plan. To such an extent did she suffer and almost die with her suffering and dying Son; to such an extent did she surrender her maternal rights over her Son for man’s salvation, and immolated Him, in so far as she could, in order to appease the justice of God, that we may rightly say she redeemed the human race together with Christ. For this reason, those graces that flow from the treasury of the Redemption are administered as it were, through the hands of the same sorrowful Virgin. No one can fail to see that the work of our Redemption is effectively and permanently completed especially by this gift.” (9)

It is possible to see then in Benedict’s own writing the extent to which the understanding of Mary’s co-redemption and its subsequent mediation had been developed.

Pius XI (1922-1939) made a specific contribution to the theology of Mary’s coredemption, by frequently designating Mary as “Co-redemptrix.” In 1933 the title was first used by him in an address to pilgrims from Vicenza, as recorded in the Italian edition of L’Osservatore Romano. Since Jesus is the Redeemer, then there is a natural association with Mary as she is His Mother; so “the Redeemer could not help but associate His Mother in His work, and therefore we invoke her under the title of Co-redemptrix.” (10)

1934 was designated as a Jubilee year to commemorate the nineteenth hundred anniversary of the Redemption. During an audience with Spanish pilgrims celebrating the anniversary of the Divine Redemption, Pius XI acknowledged that it was also the anniversary of Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix. (11) “These young (pilgrims) must follow the thoughts and wishes of Mary most holy, who is our Mother and Co-redemptrix. They must make every effort to be Co-redeemers and apostles.”

In 1935, Pius XI officially closed the Jubilee year; he addressed Mary as the Co-redemptrix in a radio message to pilgrims at Lourdes. In the closing prayer Pius XI recalled Mary’s presence at the foot of her Son’s cross. “O Mother of love and mercy, when your sweet son was consummating the Redemption of the Human race on the altar of the cross, you stood next to Him, suffering with Him as Co-redemptrix.” (12)

During this inter-war period, the theology of Mary’s Co-redemption gained wide acceptance leading some to postulate that it would soon be solemnly defined by the Magisterium.

The Pope of the Assumption—Pius XII

We now arrive at our study of the Pope who defined the dogma of the Assumption. The pontificate of Pius XII (1939-1958) has been seen to be a great Marian era for the Church. As well as defining the Assumption Pius XII made a contribution to Marian doctrine and devotion. In 1942, he consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The feasts of Mary’s Queenship and of her Immaculate Heart were established. Pius XII canonized three “Marian” saints: St. Catherine Labouré, St. Louis Marie de Montfort and St. Anthony Mary Claret. There were centenaries of the definition at Lourdes and the recognition of the Marian shrine at Fatima. Pius XII wrote an Encyclical Fulgens Corona for the Marian year 1953-1954, centenary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. In 1950 a Holy Year was celebrated and it was during this year that Pius XII, in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption. “The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary having completed the course of her earthly life was assumed body and soul to heavenly glory.”

The Mariology of Pius XII was based upon the patristic notion of Mary as the “New Eve,” a concept essential to a full understanding of Co-redemption and the Assumption. Evidence of this “New Eve” typology is found in four major encyclicals: Mystici Corporis (on the Mystical Body), Mediator Dei (on the Liturgy), Sacra Virginitatis (on Holy Virginity) and Haurietis Aquas (on the Sacred Heart).

The New Eve Typology

The title, New Eve, has been applied to the Blessed Virgin from the time of the Fathers of the Church. The Fathers saw Mary as having a unique role with Jesus Christ, the “new Adam.” It was through Eve’s disobedience that salvation was lost, but through Mary’s obedience that salvation was found; as Eve co-operated with Adam so Mary, the New Eve, co-operates with Jesus, the new Adam. There have been great allegorical studies and comparisons of the opening of the Old Testament and the opening of the New Testament: the narrative of Eve and the serpent and the narrative of Gabriel and Mary; the pride of Eve and the humility of Mary. A comparison is also made with the Calvary scene, the tree of life and tree that brings death in the Garden of Eden, alongside which, are found Mary who stands at the foot of the cross, and Eve who is next to the tree.

This participation of Mary in the work of Redemption’ is regarded as a universal teaching in the early church; J.H. Newman comments that by the time of Jerome (331-420), the contrast between Eve and Mary had almost passed into a proverb, which says “Death by Eve, life by Mary.” (13)

The principal papal contribution to this typology comes from Pius XII. In Mystici Corporis 1943 he writes “Mary offered Him on Golgotha to the eternal Father together with the Holocaust of her Maternal rights and motherly love, like a new Eve, for all the children of Adam contaminated through this unhappy fall.” Later Ad caeli Reginam (1954) Pius writes “Mary, in the work of Redemption, was by God’s will joined with Jesus Christ, the cause of salvation, in much the same way as Eve was joined with Adam, the cause of death…” Pius continues, “the Blessed Virgin is Queen not only as mother of God, but also because she was associated as the second Eve with the new Adam. Pius XII combines both the Annunciation narrative and the Calvary scene with the Genesis account of the fall and hence sees it as the basis for Mary’s part in our salvation. However, the most interesting quote that combines the Mary-Eve typology with the theology of Co-redemption and the Assumption comes from Munificentissimus Deus. “We must remember especially that, since the second century, the Virgin Mary has been designated by the holy Fathers as the new Eve, who, although subject to the new Adam, is most intimately associated with Him in that struggle against the infernal foe which, as foretold in the protoevangelium, would finally result in that most complete victory over sin and death which are always mentioned together in the writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles.”

The period before the definition of the Assumption was one when Mary as Co-redemptrix had its strongest support. It was at this time that the official investigation on the suitability of the proclamation of the Assumption began. In 1946 the Apostolic Letter, Deiparae Virginis was circulated to investigate the sensus fidelium on the Assumption of Mary. The favorable replies to Deiparae Virginis for the definition of Mary’s Assumption may well have been argued from the wide acceptance and support of Mary as Co-redemptrix. In the same year of the definition of the Assumption there was an International Mariological Congress held at Rome. The title of the Congress was Alma Soda Christi, which may well have been chosen in the light of discussions about Mary as Co-redemptrix. Miravalle notes that a petition was sent from the Roman Mariological Congress for a dogmatic pronouncement on Mary’s coredemption and mediation now that her personal attributes were already defined. (14) This was followed by another petition in November 1951 from the Cuban hierarchy, headed by Cardinal Manuel Arteaga y Betancourt, Archbishop of Havana.

We can see then that as the influence and interest in Co-redemption rises, there is a simultaneous increase in the influence and interest in the Assumption. This eventually leads to the proclamation of the Assumption as a dogma of faith. This must lead us to ask what happened to the definition of Co-redemption? Or can we postulate that in the dogma of the Assumption there is implicitly contained the definition of Our Lady as Co-redemptrix. What is required now is to bring it to light. From the evidence I have shown so far, I personally believe that it is only from fully understanding Co-redemption that we can fully understand the Assumption.

Pius XII provides one solution which we can develop. He states that the new Adam and the new Eve, who was subject to Him, obtained the victory over sin and death. If Christ is victorious over sin and death by His crucifixion and resurrection, then we must ask: is it logical to deduce that Mary, the immaculate one, who suffers on Golgotha and acts as the Co-redemptrix, should therefore to that victory over sin and death by her anticipated Resurrection in her glorious Assumption? If she does share in the victory then it can only be as the consequence of her role as the Co-redemptrix.

When the Letter Deiparae Virginis was sent out, the different schools of Mariology promoted various arguments in favor of the Assumption. J. B. Carol in the American Ecclesiastical Review of March 1948 presents a short summary of these schools of thought and then his own understanding in favor of the definition of the Assumption from our Lady’s Coredemption.

There exists a positive correlation between the Assumption and the other Marian dogmas. The study of our Lady’s Assumption has for some been regarded as a consequence of the divine maternity in her role as Theotokos, the Mother of God. Others have seen that the prerogative of the Assumption as a consequence of the Immaculate Conception. Others argue in favor of the Assumption from the Perpetual Virginity of our Lady. I will now briefly present these different arguments.

1. The Divine Maternity

On January the first each year we celebrate the solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. Our Faith teaches that in Jesus Christ there are two natures, human and divine, united in the one person. As Mary is the Mother of the person of Jesus Christ she can be called the Mother of God. This unique role of our Lady as Theotokos, God bearer, gives Mary a unique place and dignity in the plan of salvation. The argument in favor of the Assumption from divine maternity rests upon the unique dignity of Mary as Mother of God. It is impossible to assume that the body of her, who conceived and gave birth to the God-Man and who by that very fact, was endowed with an almost infinite dignity, should be indefinitely confined to the state of death.

Carol views this argument as a weak one. The reasoning is based on what is unbecoming on the part of Christ, to allow His mother to remain in the state of death at the end of her earthly life. If it is unbecoming then it is impossible for Christ to allow this. But what is unbecoming for us is quite different from what is becoming or unbecoming for Almighty God. It would be unbecoming for us to give birth in the poverty of a stable or to be stripped and crucified; yet this is the way of God. Carol states “It must be borne in mind that we are here considering the divine maternity in its purely essential concept, that is, in as much as it implies the conceiving and giving birth to the God-Man and the quasi-infinite dignity of God’s Mother. We are, therefore, abstracting from any other privilege or aspect which, although not necessarily implied in the concept of the divine motherhood, is de facto connected with it in the present dispensation. And we are of the opinion that the divine maternity in this sense does not seem to furnish an apodictic argument in favor of the revealed character of Mary’s Assumption. In other words, a mere analysis of the concept of divine maternity does not disclose the concept of the Assumption.” (15)

2. The Immaculate Conception

It has been argued that by the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, through which the Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived without sin, and lived exempt from personal sin and concupiscence, she therefore, could not be subject to death up to the time of the general resurrection on the last day. This understanding of a preservation from death that necessitated the Assumption is based on the concept that death is a penalty for sin, therefore the argument runs, if our Lady is Immaculate she cannot be punished and consequently is assumed into heaven. Whilst it is true that the Scriptures make a connection between sin and death (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 5:12) it would be necessary to show that the doctrine of the Assumption is formally, implicitly revealed in the revelation of Mary’s absolute exemption from sin. It would have to be proved that death, whether final or transitory, until the day of resurrection, is always and necessarily a punishment for sin even after Christ has redeemed the world on the cross. This is the problem, for we know that through baptism original sin is forgiven and all punishment associated with it and yet those who are baptized and remain in that grace not only die, but are subject to corruption until the last day. Undoubtedly, the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Lady does have vital implications for her Assumption, but it is only a contributory factor.

3. Mary’s Perpetual Virginity

The third argument proposed in favor of the Assumption is as follows: that Mary remained a Virgin before, during and after childbirth. The virginity during birth is rightly seen as an immunity from the curse of Genesis 3:15, but this particular curse referring to the pain connected with childbirth is only one of the punishments resulting from original sin. It is therefore proposed, that if she is immune from this, then it is logical to suppose that likewise she was immune from the corruption of the grave, which is another aspect of the same general curse.

This argument is not entirely convincing as an exclusive proof in favor of the Assumption. Just because Mary is free from one aspect of the curse, it doesn’t necessarily follow by simple analysis that she is free from all other aspects of the same. If virginal integrity before, during and after childbirth implied the concept of bodily incorruptibility, it would not necessarily establish the fact of Mary’s anticipated resurrection by her Assumption. It would prove that Mary was not subject to the corruption of the grave. But this is a privilege, which is not exclusive to the Blessed Virgin and has been granted to many saints, whose incorrupt bodies remain visible today and have not had the privilege of an anticipated resurrection.

The Coredemption of Our Lady

So far, our previous attempts have failed fully to assert the dogma of the Assumption. We now turn to our Lady’s Coredemption to find a fully comprehensive guide to the Assumption. Before we proceed it is useful and necessary to clarify the title Co-redemptrix and coredemption.

The title Co-redemptrix theologically connotes the cooperation of Mary in the work of Redemption. It is a co-operation that is dependent on Christ and subordinate to Him. It can be understood as a passive or a remote co-operation that is, Mary provided Christ for redemption, (by being His mother). Co-redemption can also be understood as it usually is, as an active and immediate co-operation uniquely sharing in Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice which destroys sin and death. This is a complete and total victory over the dominion of the devil and all that this implies.

When we consider this understanding of co-redemption in relation to the Assumption we see how fittingly and necessarily the two theological concepts match.

Carol presents the argument thus: “The manner in which Christ fulfilled His office as Redeemer of the human race was precisely by obtaining a complete and total victory over the devil and his dominion which victory culminated in His anticipated glorious resurrection. Now our Blessed Lady, being the Co-redemptrix of mankind, shared Christ’s identical victory over the devil and his dominion. Therefore, she, too, enjoyed the privilege of an anticipated glorious resurrection.” (16)

The argument hinges on the association of Christ, the new Adam with Mary, the new Eve; the Redeemer with the Co-redemptrix, the man with the woman. This close association in the plan of Redemption must be continued through to the full fruit of redemption, the destruction of death and the promise of everlasting life and the resurrection of the body on the last day.

Throughout the numerous examples of magisterial approval of the cooperation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, either in its explicit reference to her as the Co-redemptrix or to its theology, we cannot doubt the close and indispensable association of Mary in the plan of God for the salvation of the world. We have seen how she has been called “the restorer of salvation,” how “she redeemed the human race together with Christ,” her “suffering as Co-redemptrix” and as her title of “the new Eve.”

Although the title Co-redemptrix is absent from the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus there is express recourse to the doctrine and paraphrases pertinent to the association of the theology of Coredemption with its consequence, the Assumption. This close association between Christ and Our Lady is stressed five times in the Constitution.

1. Pius XII speaks of the “wonderful harmony and order of those privileges which the most provident God has lavished upon this revered associate of our redeemer.”

2. The second reference is in connection with the scholastics who “base the strength of their proof on the incomparable dignity of her divine motherhood and of all those prerogatives which follow from it. These include her exalted holiness, the intimate union of Mary with her Son.”

3. The third reference in favor of the Assumption reads “All these proofs and considerations of the holy Fathers and theologians are based upon the Sacred Writings as their ultimate foundation. These set the revered Mother of God as it were before our very eyes as most intimately joined to her divine Son and as always sharing His Lot.”

4. We have already seen in our treatment of the new Eve that Pius XII in the Constitution speaks of the intimate association of Mary with Christ in that struggle against the infernal foe which as foretold in the Protoevangelium (Gen. 3, 15), finally resulted in that most complete victory over the sin and death which are always mentioned together in the writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles. Consequently, just as the glorious Resurrection of Christ was an essential part and final sign of this victory, so that struggle, which was common to the Blessed Virgin Mary and her divine Son, should be brought to a close by the glorification of her virginal body, for the same Apostle says: “when this mortal thing hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory.”

5. The last reference that we need to look at follows on immediately from the above: “Hence, the revered Mother of God, from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination, immaculate in her conception, a most noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, was finally granted, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of Heaven.”

The Constitution makes it clear to us that the Assumption of our Lady is a sharing in the victory of redemption over sin and death in which she herself has taken an active part by being associated with the Redeemer.

The Complete Victory of Christ the Redeemer Over Sin and Death in the Resurrection, and the Complete Victory of Mary as Co-redemptrix Who Is Assumed into Heaven by the Anticipated Resurrection of Her Body and Soul

Christ was victorious over death, not by not dying, but by not remaining dead, by rising again with a glorified body. St. Paul reminds us that “If Christ is not risen, then our faith is in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:17).

The glorious Resurrection of Christ is an essential part and final sign of victory over the dominion of the devil and its effects. Into this struggle, and associated with the victory, is Our Lady. If the fruits of Christ’s death have been applied to her in an anticipatory way by her Immaculate Conception, thus enabling her to co-operate with our salvation, so now Mary, who though subordinate to and dependent upon Christ, acts as our Co-redemptrix and is entitled to share in the full effects of the victory of the resurrection by her own anticipated resurrection in the glorious Assumption. The words of Pius XII in the dogma of the Assumption confirm our argument that our Blessed Lady shared most intimately in the Redeemer’s struggle against the infernal foe. “Consequently, just as the glorious Resurrection of Christ was an essential part, a final sign of this victory, so that struggle which was common to the Blessed Virgin and her divine Son should be brought to a close by the glorification of her virginal body.” Christ and Mary shared the selfsame absolute struggle and complete victory over Satan. Christ’s Resurrection was an essential part of that struggle; therefore, so was Mary’s. The role of our Blessed Lady in the whole process is, of course, entirely subordinated to that of Christ from Whom it derived its very existence and all its efficacy. Christ, then, remains our only Redeemer. It is not a question of a Redeemer and a Redemptrix, but the Redeemer who makes use of the divine plan for Mary in salvation in her role as Co-redemptrix. For Christ, by not needing but allowing His Mother, is dependent upon no other and has destroyed the dominion of Satan and sin and death.

Apart from Munificentissimus Deus which infallibly defines the Assumption, there are some earlier petitions requesting this definition that are likewise based upon the wide belief and acceptance of Mary as the Co-redemptrix. At the time of the first Vatican Council a petition was sent (signed by 113 bishops and archbishops) requesting the definition of our Blessed Lady’s Assumption. It begins as follows: “Most Holy Father: Since according to the apostolic teaching, as recorded in Rom. 5-8; I Cor. 15:24-26, 54-57; Heb 2:14-15 and other texts, the triumph which Christ gained over Satan, the ancient serpent, consists of a threefold victory over sin and it’s effects, concupiscence and death; and since in Gen. 3:15 the Mother of God is shown as being associated in a unique manner in this triumph with her Son, which is also the unanimous opinion of the Fathers, we do not doubt that in the aforesaid prophecy (the Protoevangelium) this same Blessed Virgin was foretold as being prominent by that threefold victory; and therefore, that same passage (Gen. 3:15) foretells her singular triumph over hostile death by an anticipated resurrection similar to that of her Son, the same as it foretells her victory over sin by her Immaculate Conception, and over concupiscence by her virginal Motherhood.” (17) To the above is added two other testimonies petitioning for the Assumption in the first decade of the twentieth century. The first one, endorsed by eighty-six Ordinaries reads “It is evident that the privilege of the Assumption fits in admirably with the title and office of Mary as Coredemptrix of the human race.” (18) The other petition signed by thirty bishops and archbishops is more explicit still. It reads: “The same privilege of the Assumption is implied (continetur) in the revealed doctrine of Mary’s coredemption.” (19)

Carol summaries the conclusion “The victory of our Lady it must be remembered is an associated one, in other words she triumphs over Satan (and hence over death) through her close association with Christ, whose Victory she intimately shares. Christ triumphed over death, not by remaining alive, that is, by not dying, but precisely by not remaining dead, i.e., by His anticipated glorious resurrection, according to Romans 6:9. Hence, our Blessed Lady, because of her share in that victory (“arctissimo et indissolubii vinculo,” as Pius IX expressed it) triumphed over death, not by remaining alive, (that is by not dying), but rather by her anticipated glorious resurrection.” (20)

The Post-Conciliar Approach to Mariology and the Confirmation of the Assumption as a Result of Mary’s Cooperation in Redemption

There were two strands within Mariology of the period immediately prior to Vatican II. The predominant strand was to link Mariology with Christology. With the acknowledgement of new movements, both within and outside the Church, the emerging “Marian Model” was that of the “Mary-Church” theme. John XXIII, and subsequently Paul VI, were confronted with a dilemma: some of the council Fathers, rather nervous about the innovations of the Council and about a seeming break with the style of Marian piety of the last two centuries, wanted the Pope to do something that would recall the style and Marian devotion of Pius XII and his predecessors. The arguments were heated, new texts and schemas were written and re-written. The end result was the inclusion of Our Lady in the Schema on the Church in Lumen Gentium.

Within Chapter Eight of Lumen Gentium, the Fathers acknowledge that their presentation on Mary is incomplete and that the Mariological teaching prevailing in Catholic thinking up to that time was still viable.

“It (this sacred synod) does not, however, intend to give a complete doctrine on Mary, nor does it wish to decide those questions which the work of theologians has not yet fully clarified. Those opinions therefore may be lawfully retained which are propounded in Catholic schools concerning her, who occupies a place in the Church which is highest after Christ and also closest to us.” (21)

The co-operation of Mary is presented in the Constitution, not as a once-only event but as a “role” in the ongoing “working out” of Redemption. Mary remains united to her Son throughout His life, until its climax on Calvary. This Conciliar teaching echoes the previously mentioned papal teaching of Benedict XV in Inter sodalicia, as well as the teaching of Pius XI and Pius XII.

The co-operation and intimate union of Mother and Son in salvation understood in relation to victory over sin and death has been written about by the present Pope in the encyclical Redemptoris Mater and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The main Marian work of John Paul II is the 1987 encyclical letter Redemptoris Mater. Throughout it John Paul II refers to his predecessors and their teaching on Mary’s ongoing presence in the mysteries of Redemption. Within the encyclical, there is no mention of the title “Co-redemptrix” (though he has used it on other occasions). Yet the theological understanding of Mary co-operating in Redemption is implied not only in the title, but also in various passages within the text.

John Paul II reminds us of the truth of the Assumption as defined by Pius XII and reaffirmed by the second Vatican Council. In quoting Lumen Gentium, the Pope recognizes the conformity of Mother and Son. “Preserved free from all guilt of original sin, the Immaculate Virgin was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory upon the completion of her earthly sojourn. She was exalted by the Lord as Queen of the Universe, in order that she might be more thoroughly conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and the conqueror of sin and death.” The Pope continues that “By the mystery of the Assumption into heaven there were definitively accomplished in Mary all the effects of the one Mediation of Christ the Redeemer of the world and Risen Lord: ‘In Christ shall all be made alive, but each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. (I Cor. 15:22-23)'” (22) The Pope throughout this section on the Assumption speaks of the close and indissoluble bond of Mary and Christ. The plan of Redemption was obtained through the singular and unitive collaboration of Mary with (subordinate and dependent upon) Christ the Lord. We can rightly deduce from the teaching of John Paul II, that Mary, who so intimately co-operated with the life and death of Christ, has also partaken and received the definitive effects of His victorious resurrection by an anticipated resurrection of her own body in its Assumption into Heaven. The Pope further confirms this in 1985 in Ecuador. Not only does he call Mary the Co-redemptrix, but “as she was in a special way close to the Cross of her Son, she also had to have a privileged experience of His Resurrection. In fact, Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her Son.” (23) Therefore, the only way we can understand this is as follows: as the Redeemer has been glorified in His resurrection, then the Co-redemptrix who was united to the work of Redemption also experiences the resurrection in her body through her glorious Assumption.

John Paul II, in other words, continues the teaching of the Magisterium by asserting that, the glorification of Mary in her Assumption is a fulfillment of her singular participation with her Son in Redemption in her role as the Co-redemptrix.

The Catechism of The Catholic Church

The Catechism of the Catholic Church continues previous Magisterial Teaching on the co-operation of Mary in the Redemption. The foundation for this teaching on co-operation is Lumen Gentium and is presented in a section entitled “Wholly united to her Son.” In expounding Lumen Gentium Mary is identified as having a singular co-operation with Redemption that begins at the conception of Christ. This union is manifested above all at the hour of the passion where Mary joins her own suffering to that of her Son and renews the consent of the victim born of her. (24)

The Catechism views the Assumption of Mary in relation to her Son. “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians.” (25)

We can conclude from the Catechism that, Mary is wholly united to her Son especially at the hour of His death and therefore is able to participate in her Son’s Resurrection by her Assumption. If Mary has remained faithful throughout the life of Christ and at His death, then why should she not also share in the new life He has obtained for each one of us? This new life which we hope for, is bestowed on Mary in an anticipated way by her Assumption.

Conclusion

To conclude, the theological understanding of Mary’s cooperation in Redemption gives her a unique role. This co-operative role in no way diminishes or detracts from Christ’s mission as “Redeemer of the World.”

As Mary is chosen to participate in the plan of God, she is the “Woman” who is united with the life and death of the “Man” of redemption. This typology was developed by the Fathers who see a link between Eve’s cooperation with Adam which brought death to the world, and that of Mary, the “New Eve” co-operating with Jesus, the “New Adam” who brings life to the world.

Mary came to be called the “Co-redemptrix” through theological and liturgical development. As the theological implications of this title became more precise, it has been positively used in magisterial teaching. With deeper study of the early church Fathers in the twentieth century, awareness of an ancient feast of the Dormition or falling asleep of Mary reawakened. This was commonly known in the West as the Assumption. As a consequence of the intimate union of Mother and Son in Redemption, the evidence points to the accepted role of Mary under the title of the Co-redemptrix. If Mary co-operates in the whole plan of Redemption, then she must also participate in its ultimate event, the resurrection, through her own resurrection of the body in the Assumption.

As the dogma of the Assumption is already defined, we have seen that this could well be as the result of the belief in the role of Mary as the Co-redemptrix. We therefore find encouragement in bringing this truth to greater clarity.

One day, each of us hopes to share in the joy of the resurrection of our own bodies. “While in the Blessed Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle, the faithful still strive to conquer sin and increase in holiness.” (26) May we like Mary be of service to the Lord and be brought by His passion and cross to the glory of the resurrection.

Father Jason Jones is a diocesan priest with the diocese of Menevia, Wales.

Notes

(1) J. Saward, The Mysteries of March, London, 1990, p. 3.

(2) Pius X, Ad diem illum (eng. Trans.), in D. J. Unger, Mary Mediatrix, New Jersey, 1948, p. 8.

(3) M. Miravalle and J. Schug, “Mary Co-redemptrix: The significance of her title in the Magisterium of the Church” in M. Miravalle (ed.), Mary Co-redemptrix, pp. 215-246. p. 223.

(4) The seven sorrows of Mary are traditionally recognized as the presentation in the Temple, the flight into Egypt, the loss of the child Jesus, the meeting of mother and Son on the way to Calvary, Mary at the foot of the cross, the descent from the cross, the entombment.

(5) “Through this decree… may devotion to the merciful Co-redemptrix increase.” Congregation for Rites, May 13, 1908, Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 41 (1908); 409, cited in Ibid.

(6) Holy Office (Indulgences) June 26, 1913, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 5, (1913): 364-365, cited in Ibid. p. 224.

(7) An indulgence of 500 days granted to the following prayer for reparation addressed to the Blessed Virgin Mary, “… I praised thine exalted privilege of being truly Mother of God, Ever Virgin, conceived without stain of sin, Coredemptrix of the human race.” Holy Office,  Jan.  1914: Sacred Penitentiary Apostolic, Dec. 4, 1934, in J.P. Christopher and C.E. Spence (eds.), The Raccolta, New York, 1944, p. 302.

(8) M. Miravalle and J. Schug, Ibid., p. 224.

(9) Benedict XV, Apostolic letter Inter Sodalicia C.T.S., London, 1918, p. 5.

(10) “The Papal Audience with a Pilgrimage from Vicenza: The glories of Mary. Coredemptrix of the Human Race.” In L’Osservatore Romano (Italian) Dec. 1 (1933) 281 n. 123, 344, p.3, in Miravalle and J. Schug, Mary Co-redemptrix, p. 226.

(11) “By these words the Pope meant that the pilgrims had come to celebrate with the Vicar of Christ not only the nineteenth centenary of the Divine Redemption but also the nineteenth centenary of her role as Coredemptrix and of her universal motherhood.

“These young (pilgrims) must follow the thoughts and wishes of Mary most holy, who is our mother and Coredemptrix. They too must make every effort to be Coredeemers and apostles.” Papal Audience with pilgrims from Spain, in L’Osservatore Romano, March 25, 1934, n. 69, n. 22, 437, Cited in Ibid., p. 227.

(12) “O Mother of love and mercy, when your sweet son was consummating the Redemption of the human race on the altar of the cross, you stood next to Him, suffering with Him as a Coredemptrix…. Day by day preserve and increase in us, we beg you, the precious fruit of his redemption and your compassion as His Mother.” Radio Message to Lourdes, April 28, 1935, L’Osservatore Romano, April 29, (1935), cited in M. Miravalle and J. Schug, Mary Co-redemptrix, p. 228.

(13) Eileen Breen, (ed.), Mary the second Eve, from the writings of John Henry Newman, England, 1983, p. 7.

(14) M. Miravalle and J. Schug, Mary Co-redemptrix, p. 231.

(15) J. B. Carol, “The Definability of Mary’s Assumption,” in The American Ecclesiastical Review, vol. 118, Nr. 3, March (1948) pp. 161-177, p. 168.

(16) Id., “The Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus and our Lady’s Coredemption,” Edizioni Marianum, Rome, (1951) p. 6.

(17) J. B. Carol, The Definability, p. 175.

(18) Ibid., p. 175.

(19) Ibid., p. 175.

(20) Ibid., p. 176.

(21) Lumen Gentium, n. 54.

(22) Pope John Paul II, Lumen Gentium cited in Redemptoris Mater, C.T.S. London, 1987 p. 88.

(23) Pope John Paul II, in Address at Alborada, Guayaquil, Ecuador, January 31, 1985 in L’Osservatore Romano, 876, March 11, (1985), cited in M. Miravalle and J. Schug, Mary Co-redemptrix, p. 238.

(24) Lumen Gentium 58.

(25) Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 966, p. 221.

(26) Lumen Gentium 65.

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Part One

What happened to the mother of Jesus Christ at the end of her life? The answer you get depends upon whom you ask. “Nothing at all unusual,” say Protestants. “A miracle! She was taken directly to heaven!”, say Catholics—at least those who know that Pope Pius XII solemnly proclaimed the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a dogma which we must believe:

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 (1).

As a general matter, Protestants have been averse to honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary ever since the Reformation persuaded them that such veneration is a vestige of “Popery” (2). Moreover, their view of an individual’s conscience as being the supreme moral arbiter has led them to reject papal infallibility and the binding nature of the Magisterium in general. But, for many of them, the Assumption represents the quintessence of what they reject in Catholicism because it lacks the Scriptural support which they insist must underpin dogma (3). [...]

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The fourth Marian dogma is the Assumption of Our Lady. The dogma of Mary’s Assumption, like her Immaculate Conception, has the added certainty of an infallible papal statement. Pope Pius XII in 1950 defined the Assumption of Mary in the following ex cathedra statement: “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.” (1)

What evidence is present in the sources of divine revelation for the dogma of Mary’s glorious Assumption into heaven? Pope Pius XII, in his papal document, declares the Assumption a dogma “revealed by God” and refers to several sources. [...]

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The Assumption of Our Lady

Published on August 11, 2006 by in General Mariology

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Dogma: By the Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, Pius XII on 1 November, 1950, defined the Assumption of Our Lady as a dogma of faith. (1) The essential passage was: “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 to heavenly glory.” (2) The dogma was part of a program planned by Pius XII, as he confided to Msgr. (later Cardinal) Tardini shortly after he had become Pope. It came as a climax to a movement of piety and theology centered on Our Lady, and prompted continuity and expansion of this movement. Literature on the subject had increased in the twentieth century; in the decade prior to the definition, two works—by Fr. M. Jugie, A.A. and Fr. C. Balic, O.F.M.—were conspicuous for exhaustive, scientific scholarship. Theological congresses, notably those organized by Fr. Balic in different countries and by the French Society for Marian Studies, stimulated research and reflection with a considerable corpus of writing as a result.

Due largely to Fr. Jugie’s expertise and influence, the question of Mary’s death was removed from the scope of the dogma. The idea of tracing a historical tradition from apostolic times was abandoned. It was thought better to concentrate on the whole of divine revelation so as to bring to an explicit stage what it contained implicitly. Again, though the Pope said that all the “proofs and considerations of the Holy Fathers and the theologians are based upon the Sacred Scriptures as their ultimate foundation,” (3) he appealed principally to the faith of the Church rather than any particular biblical text as the basis of the definition. A drafting committee, whose names are known, worked on Munificentissimus Deus. The proceedings were kept secret but the members were known publicly to differ as to what the biblical argument should be. [...]

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The theology of the body as taught by Pope John Paul II during the Wednesday audiences from September 5, 1979 to November 28, 1984 is becoming more and more acclaimed as a revolutionary approach to understanding the embodiedness of human persons. (1) In offering to the Church and the world a catechesis of the body, a theology of the body, John Paul II proved himself a true shepherd by responding to the twentieth century scandalum carnis. There can be no doubt that the body was perceived as an enigma by much of twentieth century thought. For example, Caryll Houselander, fully aware of the twentieth century infatuation with the body, wrote in 1944: “There has surely never been an age in which so many people were so particularly preoccupied with their bodies as this age, and yet to so little profit.” (2) For this reason, the theology of the body as taught by John Paul II is a theological response, in the form of a theological anthropology based in Divine Revelation, to the modern quest to understand the origin, meaning and destiny of the human body. (3)

Part of the reason for why this aspect of revelation—God’s knowledge shared with us concerning the human body—lay dormant for so many centuries is because the twentieth century, perhaps unlike any century in human history, with all of its technological advances, came to view the human body as a mere instrument to be used in the never ending quest for self-gratification and pleasure. For example, one has only to think of the various types of sins—all bodily sins—that became commonplace, many even becoming legal, during the twentieth century: abortion, euthanasia, pornography, prostitution, drugs, wars, suicide, terrorism, homosexual acts, adultery, contraception, concentration camps, genocide, sex changes, cloning, and the list goes on and on. Some philosophers have even ventured to label the current era in history the “post-human” era. Thus, a theology of the body could not have come at a more apropos epoch in history. God has saved a great treasure for our times. [...]

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