Welcome to Part 4 of this series of articles where we explain the four Marian Dogmas that all Catholics should accept. I am joined by Karlo Broussard, to explain the last of the four Dogmas which is the assumption of Mary body and soul to Heaven. To read about the other 3 Dogmas please refer to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series.
Bryan: This last dogma is on the assumption, and Protestants are quick to remark that Jesus ascended into heaven in power and glory. And so why would Catholics say that Mary ascended into heaven? And doesn’t that steal Christ’s glory? But did Mary ascend into heaven or is there a difference between the assumption and the ascension? And is there any biblical evidence for this?
Karlo: Yeah. So, a lot of things on the table there. Let’s first distinguish between what we mean by ascension and by assumption.
Jesus’s ascension involves Jesus going into heaven by his own power. So that’s what is wrapped up in our belief in Jesus’s ascension. Mary’s bodily assumption is not that, because we do not believe that Mary goes into heaven with her body by her own power. She goes into heaven with her body, because of the power of Jesus. It is Jesus who is assuming her into heaven with her body. This would be an essential difference between the ascension of Jesus and the bodily assumption of the blessed virgin. With that distinction, we can see that Mary’s bodily assumption no more takes away from Jesus’s ascension, than our own bodily resurrection or assumption at the end of time, when we’re going to receive our bodies back and exist in a heavenly state with our resurrected bodies. The difference between Mary and us is that she gets her resurrected body immediately, at the end of her earthly life. We have to wait until the end of time. That’s a special privilege that was given to her that is not given to us with God’s divine providence.
Bryan: Can I interject something there? Would you say that the assumption is a consequence of the immaculate conception? Romans 6:23 says: “The wage of sin is death”, but Mary never sinned. So, could it be seen as a consequence of that?
Karlo: Well, that would assume that Mary did not die. But that’s not a part of Church teaching. The church is open to the question of whether Mary died or not. But of course, this raises the question, well, if we say she was immaculately conceived, does that necessitate that she not dies? And of course, the answer is No. Jesus didn’t have original sin, but yet he still died. It’s possible for Mary to still have died in accord with God’s divine providence, for whatever rationale we want to offer there, and still be free from sin, both original and personal.
The bodily assumption is separate than whether Mary died or not. The bodily assumption only affirms that at the end of Mary’s earthly life, whether that end involved death or not, Mary was taken up into heaven in her glorified body. That’s the target, you might say, of the definition. That’s precisely what we are affirming: Assumed into Heaven bodily, with her glorified body, which is irrespective of whether she died or not.
Bryan: So we believe that she was taken up body and soul into Heaven after her death. Is there any biblical evidence for that, and what evidence does the Catholic Church have of that?
Karlo: There is one text that converges with this sacred Tradition. Mary’s bodily assumption is primarily based on sacred Tradition and the Church giving us this dogma in light of sacred Tradition. Now there is a scriptural text, at least one particular passage, that converges with this Tradition, which at least can provide us with some biblical justification for the Dogma. It’s not necessarily a proof text, but it’s pretty darn close, and it converges with the Tradition.
So, in Revelation 12:1-5, I mentioned this already Bryan, that’s where John has his vision, where he sees the woman clothed with the sun, and a crown of 12 stars upon her head and the moon underneath her feet, and she gives birth to the male child to rule with the rod of iron. The red dragon is there looking to devour the male child. Now, as we already said, we have good reason to think this woman is Mary. Why? Because John is mentioning four characters in total, the woman, the male child, the serpent, and Michael the archangel. If three of the four refer to individual beings like Saint Michael the archangel, the devil and Jesus, well then surely the fourth character, the woman, is going to refer to an individual as well. Who might that be? Well, John describes her as the mother of the Messiah. That’s Mary. Secondly, John is clearly drawing a parallel between Revelation 12:1-5 and Genesis 3:15. You have the serpent of old, you have the male child, and you have the woman. Well, in Genesis 3: 15, Christians recognize that the seed of the woman is Jesus and that the serpent is Satan. And so, the mother of that Messiah in Genesis 3:15, is Mary. So, it’s a prophecy about Mary. Given that Revelation 12:1-5 is connected to that first prophecy, then the woman in Revelation 12:1-5 is going to be a reference to Mary. So, we have strong indication here that this woman is Mary.
What about the bodily assumption? Notice Bryan, how John describes her in bodily form. He describes her as seeing her head and her feet. Now, initially you might think, well, big deal. This is the book of Revelation. Metaphors are used all the time! But contrast this description, with the souls of those slain for the testimony of Jesus in Revelation 6:9. When that seal is lifted, John sees souls under the altar crying out for God to enact vengeance upon their enemies on earth. Notice how he describes them there: He describes them as souls. He does not describe them in bodily form, but yet here, with regard to the woman, he does describe the woman in bodily form, which stands in stark contrast to his description of the souls in Heaven in Revelation 6:9. And so that gives grounds to say that John is having a vision of Mary in Heaven in bodily form. That revelation converges with what we know by way of sacred Tradition that Mary was bodily assumed.
Bryan: Now, if I could follow up with one more question. I’m not sure how familiar you are with “Soul sleep”, but there are a minority of Protestants today, who say that Mary’s still in the grave. Nobody has resurrected yet. She has not resurrected yet, so how could she be in Heaven?
Karlo: Well, that just begs the question against the Catholics, who are giving argumentation for Mary’s bodily assumption. To say that Mary has not been resurrected yet, is to say Mary has not been bodily assumed, but that’s the very question that we’re trying to consider here, right? Was Mary Bodily assumed? So that particular response would beg the question. Assuming in its premises, what it’s trying to prove, or assuming the conclusion is true in the premises.
Now with regard to Soul sleep, often that is opposed to us as Catholics in our belief that the Saints in Heaven are aware of what’s going on in our lives here on Earth, and are interceding for us, etc. Well, in response to that, Bryan, I would simply go back to where I was: Revelation 6:9. Notice there, the souls of those slain for the testimony of Jesus, are conscious and aware that their enemies are still living on Earth. And secondly, they’re engaging in rational activity: They’re asking God to bestow vengeance upon their enemies on Earth. That is completely at odds with the idea of Soul sleep.
Now, it is true that without such biblical revelation, if we’re just working on philosophy alone, in our own Canagan, and the nature of the human being, and how we know things as rational animals, then it would follow from that, that once the soul departs from the body, then the soul of its own nature and power, would be in Soul sleep. Like it wouldn’t be engaging in the rational activity that it normally does in its human mode. But given the divine revelation of souls in Heaven, being aware and conscious of the things that are happening here on earth, and engaging in rational activity by way of God’s grace and power, we can dispel this notion of Soul sleep.
Bryan: Absolutely. Great answer and thank you for conquering these dogmas. Once again, I would like to point our readers to your books: Meeting the Protestant Challenge and Meeting the Protestant Response. Karlo Broussard has more books as well. But these two books specifically answer common objections you’re going to hear all the time against the Catholic Church.
Karlo: Bryan, it’s always a pleasure and I look forward to the next time.