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!”
They therefore brought in a plain wooden bier. And with their own hands they reverently took Mary’s robe at both ends and carefully lifted her light body onto the bier. Numerous candles were then lit and set around it, and although they burned for many hours they were not at all consumed. During all this time great numbers of the faithful quietly entered the room, prayed for a moment, and left, weeping and mourning.
On the day of the funeral, the apostles took up the bier and bore it in a solemn procession from the Cenacle to the tomb in the Valley of Josaphat, near the Garden of Gethsemane. All the Christians of Jerusalem, as well as an invisible multitude of angels, patriarchs, prophets and saints, accompanied the funeral, during which numerous miraculous cures and conversions of compassionate Jewish and Gentile spectators took place. Everyone was amazed at the delicious fragrance and heavenly music that followed the passage of Mary’s remains.
When the procession reached the prepared tomb, St. Peter and St. John reverently carried the bier into the sepulcher, which was then filled with aromatic flowers and closed with a large stone, while everyone present wept and prayed in profound sorrow. The heavenly chanting of the angels continued, and many persons noticed an extraordinary light shining around the tomb. Gradually most of the mourners returned to the city, but some of the apostles and holy women remained watching and praying before the sepulcher.
Meanwhile, immediately after Mary’s death, Our Lord had entered Heaven, conducting the pure soul of His Mother at His right hand. And presenting her before the throne of the Divinity, He said:
“Eternal Father, it is right that to My Mother be given the reward of a Mother. And since during all her life and in all her works she was as like to Me as it is possible for a creature to be, let her also be like to Me in glory and on the throne of Our Majesty.”
This decree was approved by the Father and the Holy Spirit. And Mary’s soul was immediately raised to the right hand of her divine Son and placed beside the throne of the Holy Trinity.
Later, after the funeral, the Lord descended in a dazzling beam of light to the tomb of the Blessed Virgin, accompanied by Mary’s soul and by innumerable angels. Then the holy soul of the Mother of God penetrated into her body in the sepulcher, reanimated it, and rose up again united to it, utterly radiant, gloriously attired, and indescribably beautiful.
Now amid celestial music a magnificent triumphant procession ascended from the tomb to Heaven. First came the rejoicing angels and saints, and then Christ the King with His Immaculate Mother at His side, while the souls of all the blessed in Heaven gladly welcomed and praised their new Queen and the whole universe seemed to be chanting exultantly:
“Who is this that cometh up from the desert, flowing with delights, leaning upon her Beloved?”
At the throne of the Holy Trinity the three Divine Persons received and welcomed Mary in a mystical embrace of eternal love, after she had bowed before Them in deep humility and reverence. She was attired in a marvelous sparkling robe that trailed behind her and scintillated with multicolored iridescence.
Then the Eternal Father announced to all the angels and saints:
“Our Daughter Mary has been chosen by Our will from among all creatures as the first in Our favor, and she has never fallen from the position of a true Daughter. Therefore she has a claim to Our Kingdom, of which she is to be acknowledged and crowned the lawful Sovereign and Queen.”
The Incarnate Word declared:
“To My true and natural Mother belong all the creatures that I have created and redeemed. And of all things over which I am King, she too shall be the rightful Queen.”
And the Holy Spirit said:
“By the title of My only chosen Spouse, to which she has faithfully corresponded, the crown of Queen is also due to her for all eternity.”
Then the three divine Persons solemnly placed on Mary’s bowed head a splendid gleaming crown of glory which far exceeds in beauty any crown that ever has been or ever will be awarded to a creature by God.
At the same time a Voice sounded from the throne, saying:
“Our Beloved and Chosen One among creatures, Our Kingdom is yours. You are the Queen and Sovereign of the Seraphim and of all Our ministering angels and of all the created universe. We give you power, majesty, and dominion over it. While filled with grace beyond all others, you humbled yourself to the lowest place in your own estimation. Receive now the supreme honor which you deserve, and participate in the sovereign power exercised by the Divinity over all that Our Omnipotence has created. From your royal throne you shall rule over Hell and earth and nature. Our own will shall ever be ready to accomplish your will. You shall be the Protectress, Advocate and Mother of the Church Militant. Whenever any of the children of Adam call upon you from their hearts or serve you, you shall relieve them and help them in their labors and necessities. You shall be the Friend and Defender of the just and of Our friends. All of them you shall comfort, console, and fill with blessings according to their devotion to you. Therefore We make you the treasury of all Our graces. In your hands We place the distribution of Our grace and blessings. For We wish nothing to be given to the world that does not pass through your hands. And We will refuse nothing that you wish to grant. Whatever is Ours shall be yours, just as you have ever been Ours. And you shall reign with Us forever.”
In execution of this divine decree, all the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Heaven, all the angels and saints and blessed, and especially St. Joachim, St. Ann, and St. Joseph, joyfully rendered homage and obedience to their glorious new Queen and Sovereign.
Meanwhile, on the morning of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, St. Peter and St. John had been watching and praying at her tomb with some of the faithful. Suddenly they noticed that the music of the angels had ceased. Looking up at the sky, the two apostles were partly enlightened by the Holy Spirit and guessed that the Blessed Virgin’s body might have been taken up to Heaven by God.
As they were debating whether to open the tomb, St. Thomas arrived from the Orient. When they told him that Mary was already dead, he burst into tears and earnestly begged them to allow him to have one last look at the Mother of his Lord. Peter and John consented and proceeded to open the tomb.
John and Thomas went in and reverently knelt down in prayer. Then John stood up, while Thomas held aloft a torch.
There was nothing on the bier but Mary’s robe and mantle.
In wonder and awe the two saints gazed at the ceiling of the tomb. Then John ran to the entrance and cried to the others outside:
“Come and see —she is no longer here!”
St. Peter and the rest entered two by two in the narrow grotto. In mixed joy and sorrow they all wept as they slowly realized what an extraordinary honor and privilege God had accorded to Mary.
Peter carefully folded and took with him her mantle and robe. Then they all stood outside the tomb and sang hymns of praise to the Lord and to His holy Mother.
After they had replaced the large stone, they were standing gazing silently at the sepulcher when suddenly an angel appeared to them and said:
“Men of Galilee, why do you tarry here? Your Queen and ours is now living body and soul in Heaven and reigning in it forever with Christ. She has sent me to confirm you in this truth. And she recommends to you again the Church, the conversion of souls, and the spread of the Gospel. She wishes you now to return to your ministry. From her throne she will watch over you and protect you.”
Then, celebrating this first feast of Our Lady’s Assumption with deep joy and peace of heart, the apostles and disciples went back to the Cenacle, praying together and singing hymns of thanksgiving to God.
The Blessed Virgin said to St. Bridget of Sweden:
“One day while I was admiring the Love of God in a spiritual ecstasy, my soul was filled with such joy that it could hardly contain itself. And during that contemplation my soul departed from my body. You cannot imagine what splendor my soul perceived then, and with what honor the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit welcomed it, and with what a multitude of angels it was carried upward.
“But that persons who were in my house with me when I gave up my spirit fully understood what divine mysteries I was then experiencing, because of the unusual light which they saw.
“Thereafter those friends of my Son who had been brought together by God buried my body in the Valley of Josaphat. Countless angels accompanied them.
“My body lay entombed in the ground. Then it was taken up to Heaven with infinite honor and rejoicing. There is no other human body in Heaven except the glorious Body of my Son and my body.
“That my Assumption was not known to many persons was the will of God, my Son, in order that faith in His Ascension might first of all be firmly established in the hearts of men, for they were not prepared to believe in His Ascension, especially if my Assumption had been announced in the beginning.”
This article was excerpted from The Life of Mary: As Seen by the Mystics, compiled by Raphael Brown, Tan, 1991.