August 15, a Holy Day of Obligation, celebrates the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Heaven. This is a dogma of the Church, declared on November 1, 1950 by Pope Pius XII, though it had been believed and celebrated in the Church throughout history that Mary was taken directly to heaven after her time on earth had ended. The Church has never formally stated whether this occurred after Mary had died or whether she was taken to heaven while alive.
Share Pope Pius XII’s statement on declaring the dogma, entitled Munificentissimus Deus (The Most Bountiful God).
Meaning of the Assumption
The Assumption of Mary to Heaven is the sign of all that has been accomplished through the work of Christ. In her we witness the resurrection of the body and the new creation which has been promised. Mary’s Assumption is the guarantee of the final resurrection of all the faithful.
The Church is the community of the “now” and the “not yet.” Mary makes visible the “now.” In Mary, we see that the final triumph of God over evil is already accomplished, even though time has not run its full course. In her Assumption, Mary is oriented to the fullness of the kingdom and every part of her has been united with God in Three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Church, too, will one day be oriented to the fullness of the kingdom and every part of the Church will be united with God. Any who look on Mary cannot help but see the glory of God which she reflects so perfectly. So too, at the end of time, every aspect of the Church will be united with God so that all who look on the Church will see the kingdom of God in its fullness.
Prayer on the Assumption of Our Lady in Honor of Pope Pius XII
O Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God and Mother of all! We believe with all the fervor of our faith in your triumphal Assumption, both in body and soul, into Heaven, where you are acclaimed as Queen by all the choirs of angels and all the legions of saints; and we united with them to praise and bless the Lord who has exalted you above all other pure creatures, and to offer you the tribute of our devotion and our love.
We know that your gaze, which on earth watched over the humble and suffering humanity of Jesus, is filled in Heaven with the vision of that humanity glorified, and with the vision of Uncreated Wisdom; and that the joy of your soul in the direct contemplation of the adored Trinity, causes your heart to throb with overwhelming tenderness.
And we, poor sinners, whose body weighs down the flight of the soul, beg you to purify our hearts, so that, while we remain here below, we may learn to see God, and God alone, in the beauties of his creatures.
We trust that your merciful eyes may glance down upon our miseries and sorrows, upon our struggles and our weaknesses; that your countenance may smile upon our joys and our victories; that you may hear the voice of Jesus saying to you of each one of us, as he once said to you of his beloved disciple: “Behold your son.” (from Blessed Art Thou by Richard J. Beyer, Ave Maria Press, 1996)