Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. What exactly are we celebrating in Mary’s life? The dogma of the Assumption of Mary is rather simple, in fact. Pope Pius XII defined it thusly: “that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” In other words, when Mary came to the end of her life, she was taken body and soul into Heaven. Thus there are no relics of the Blessed Virgin Mary in existence; only such things as her veil and even her wedding ring, although the last one is disputed. I did see it once in Italy, however.
Why was Mary taken up into Heaven body and soul? Mary was preserved free from all stain of original sin (that’s the Immaculate Conception) so there was no need for her to have the separation of her body and soul and wait until the Last Day to have them reunited. For those of us who were born into original sin—and that’s all of us—when we die our bodies will remain here on Earth until we are reunited with them when Jesus comes again in glory. Mary, having no original sin and no actual sin, was not subject to this separation and is able to exist wholly in Heaven.
Mary sits now in Heaven and is exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death. Mary is our example: we hope to one day be like her, seeing God face-to-face in Heaven with both our body and soul. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians. What has already happened to Mary—that is, her existence in Heaven body and soul—is the anticipation of all of us: that one day we too might live with God forever in Heaven, body and soul.
The English Catholic priest, theologian, author, and radio broadcaster, Msgr. Ronald Knox, who was ordained a priest of the Church of England and converted to Roman Catholicism in 1917, writes concerning the Assumption: “You see, we get it all wrong about body and soul, simply because our minds are dominated by matter. We think it the most natural thing in the world that soul and body should be separated after death; that the body should remain on earth and the soul go to heaven, once it is purged and assoiled. But it isn’t a natural thing at all; soul and body were made for one another, and the temporary divorce between them is something out of the way, something extraordinary, occasioned by the fall. In our Blessed Lady, not born under the star of that defeat, human nature was perfectly integrated; body and soul belonged to one another, as one day, please God, yours and mine will.”