It is well known that in the early years of Christianity, when a prominent Christian died, the community of believers marked their graves and venerated their bones. Major churches were built over the graves of the apostles and many early Christian martyrs. This was going on hundreds of years before the content of the bible was even definitively settled by the Catholic Church in the early 5th century.
So isn’t it curious that no early Christian community ever claimed to have the bones of Jesus’ mother in their possession? A church was built over the possible grave of Mary, but even those who built the church believed that her dead body did not remain on earth for more than 3 days. They don’t claim to have her bones. Her bones are nowhere to be found. Mary was an extremely prominent figure in early Christianity. She is mentioned in all 4 gospels and is even quoted extensively (See Luke, chapter 1). Early Christian iconography depicts her image often, usually holding her child, Jesus. So where are the bones of Mary? And why don’t Christians flock to see her relics like they do for so many saints?
The answer is that there are no bones to be found. She was assumed into heaven, body and soul. This is all explained by the doctrine of the Assumption. (For a good explanation of this doctrine, click here.) The early tradition of the Church tells us that Mary’s body was assumed into heaven at the end of her life. The Eastern Church says that this happened three days after she died. The Western Church is less specific on the time frame. It may have been three days, but the Western Church is open to the idea that it happened sooner. Either way, both East and West agree that her body was taken up into heaven. We will NEVER find her bones because her bones are no longer here.
This ancient belief has always been the Catholic belief. It was only dogmatically defined in 1950, but this was simply because the belief was being challenged. (Dogmas are generally defined in response to challenges.)
So August 15th is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. It is such an important feast that it is a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics. That means that Catholics always attend Mass on this day to celebrate this incredible event.
Before I conclude, I’d like to share something along this topic that is more personal. A few years ago, a priest friend of mine was visiting with another friend on a cold winter evening in his parish rectory on the west side of South Bend, Indiana. At the end of their visit, they looked outside to check and see how badly it was snowing. What they saw in the little courtyard on the other side of the window was so incredible that they immediately took a photo. Here is that that photo:
You will notice that virtually all the traditional paintings of the Assumption of Mary include angels. It is thought by many that angels escorted Mary into heaven. (She DID have a history of angels appearing to her and her husband.) To have the snow form in such a way that it depicts what looks like an angel tenderly embracing Mary is, in my opinion, just too incredible to be a coincidence!
But what sent shivers down my spine is the posture of the angel embracing Mary. After I left my last job (at Holy Cross College), Mary guided me during my prayer of the rosary to be more present to my children at breakfast every morning. For reasons I will not explain here, I am quite certain that she led me to a new routine in the mornings before school. Incredibly, one of the things that I do every morning is to come up behind each child as they sit eating breakfast, and wrap an arm around them while kissing their head. That physical posture in the photo is exactly what I do to my kids every morning. I KNOW in my heart that Mary has led me to do this and this photo just confirms it.
Friends, God is REAL! Jesus is Lord! Mary, His mother, is REAL! The Assumption really happened! Go to Mass today on the Feast of the Assumption. Celebrate! Say “Thank you!” Pray the rosary! The 4th Glorious Mystery is the Assumption! You will never regret having this kind of faith!
Amen. I believe!