I’ve never understood why people who have no problem with Elijah and Enoch being assumed into paradise have a problem with Mary — the greatest, and most blessed of all created creatures — being assumed into heaven. “It’s not in scripture” doesn’t cut it, (as Msgr. Charles Pope demonstrates here) because what did the early Christians reference before the bible as we know it finally came into being in the fifth century? Teachings and traditions, as Saint Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “…stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15)
While the dogma was only made definitive by Pope Pius XII in 1950 (Munificentissimus Deus), the tradition of Mary’s assumption after her death at Ephesus is an old, old one that, as demonstrated by early-fourth century Ethiopian apocrypha (Liber Requiei Mariae (The Book of Mary’s Repose), pre-dates the Bible.
But I’m not interested in apologetics or in re-arguing sola scriptura, an idea which, ironically enough, is also not found in scripture. I believe in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary not because my church tells me to, or because I am particularly pious. I believe it because of scripture and science, and frankly, for me science has the edge in the argument, because of microchemerism. I’ve written about this these past four years; learning that every child leaves within his mother a microscopic bit of himself — and that it remains within her forever — made the dogma of the Assumption a no-brainer for me.
In Psalm 16 we read a curious reference to body and soul:
And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad;
even my body shall rest in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead,
nor let your Holy One know decay.
Christ’s divine body did not undergo corruption. It follows that his mother’s body, which forever contained a cellular component of the Divinity — and a particle of God is God, entire — would not be allowed to corrupt as well, but would be taken into heaven and reunited with Christ. Mary was a created creature and moral. But she was no mere mortal; she could not be, once the particles of God had entered her chemistry.
In receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, we share a small portion of Mary’s larger reality, but it is a temporary portion — the Christ-food goes into our digestive system and is fed into our blood and our cells, but our blood and cells live and die and are ultimately sloughed off as new ones are created: this Eucharistic unity cannot last, and this is why we seek repeated reception of this Divine Meal — if we’re not lazy, we seek it every day, so this supernatural Sustenance and Presence can remain with us. But for us it will never be as it was for Mary, who lived every day of her life, from the moment of the Incarnation until her death (or, as our Eastern brothers and sisters say, her Dormition) with the very cells of the Living God dwelling within her own flesh. Do we bury God, even on the cellular level? Christ’s own resurrection says no. The Holy One will not undergo corruption.
In the the book of Revelation we read (as explained by Father Dwight Longenecker) about the place of the Ark of the Covenant in cosmic design:
Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm. A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. (Rev. 11:19a)
We bible-believing Christians understand that there is an ongoing supernatural battle taking place all around us — a pageant of good and evil, things seen and unseen — and that all things will be revealed in God’s own time, when we will finally comprehend all of what seems to us mysterious and unknowable, today. But scripture, science and common reasoning (if it is undertaken) all serve to inform us that Mary is no bit-player meant to bear God himself to the world and then exit, stage right, with no further relevance to this great drama.