The Assumption, the Dormition and John Paul II

The dogma of the Assumption affirms that Mary's body was glorified after her death. (John Paul II, 2 July 1997,

(John Paul II, 25 June 1997,
Some theologians have in fact maintained that the Blessed Virgin did not die and was immediately raised from earthly life to heavenly glory. However, this opinion was unknown until the 17th century, whereas a common tradition actually exists which sees Mary's death as her entry into heavenly glory.

2. Could Mary of Nazareth have experienced the drama of death in her own flesh? Reflecting on Mary's destiny and her relationship with her divine Son, it seems legitimate to answer in the affirmative: since Christ died, it would be difficult to maintain the contrary for his Mother.

The Fathers of the Church, who had no doubts in this regard, reasoned along these lines. One need only quote St Jacob of Sarug (d. 521), who wrote that when the time came for Mary "to walk on the way of all generations", the way, that is, of death, "the group of the Twelve Apostles" gathered to bury "the virginal body of the Blessed One" (Discourse on the burial of the Holy Mother of God, 87-99 in C. Vona, Lateranum 19 [1953], 188). St Modestus of Jerusalem (d. 634), after a lengthy discussion of "the most blessed dormition of the most glorious Mother of God", ends his eulogy by exalting the miraculous intervention of Christ who "raised her from the tomb", to take her up with him in glory (Enc. in dormitionem Deiparae semperque Virginis Mariae, nn. 7 and 14: PG 86 bis, 3293; 3311). St John Damascene (d. 704) for his part asks: "Why is it that she who in giving birth surpassed all the limits of nature should now bend to its laws, and her immaculate body be subjected to death?". And he answers: "To be clothed in immortality, it is of course necessary that the mortal part be shed, since even the master of nature did not refuse the experience of death. Indeed, he died according to the flesh and by dying destroyed death; on corruption he bestowed incorruption and made death the source of resurrection" (Panegyric on the Dormition of the Mother of God, n. 10: SC 80, 107).


John Paul II
August 15, 2000

1. Mary, Mother of God, your death was entirely free from whatever might make death bitter: attachment to the world, remorse for sins and the uncertainty of salvation. Rather, your death was accompanied by three graces that made it precious and full of joy. You died as you had lived, entirely detached from the things of the world, you died in the most perfect peace and in the certainty of eternal glory.

Your Son, though He was Life itself, did not exempt Himself from death. So, as daughter of Adam you submitted to the sentence passed in the garden of Eden. You died of no infirmity. Little by little the links between your body and soul were dissolved by the resistless force of love. Intense love for the Infinite God withdrew your soul from this earthly life, and caused you death.

Mary, My Mother, though your body was separated from your soul in death, your soul was reunited in your incorrupt body, and you were taken up into heaven by angels. The bodies of even the just are corrupted after death, and only on the last day will they be joined, each to its own glorious soul. But God has willed that you should be exempted from this general rule because, by an entirely singular privilege, you completely overcame sin by your Immaculate Conception. Corruption is a consequence of sin, but you were sinless. You did not have to wait until the end of time for the resurrection of your body. As the body of your Divine Son was preserved from the corruption of the grave, so you, from whom He took flesh, were also free from the power of earthly decay. Your body, which was the living tabernacle of the Eternal God and the temple of the Adorable Trinity, was not meant to crumble into dust.

2. Mary, Mother of God, I believe that it is a divinely revealed dogma that you, Immaculate Mother of God, having completed the course of your earthly life, were assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. Jesus ascended to Heaven by His own power as Lord and Creator, accompanied by angels who paid Him homage. You were taken to Heaven by the power of God, accompanied and upheld by the angels, raised aloft by grace, not by nature. Jesus ascended to Heaven before you not only that He might prepare a throne for you in that Kingdom, but also that He might Himself accompany you with all the blessed spirits and thus render your entry into Heaven more glorious and worthy of His Mother. At the Annunciation you received Jesus on earth; it was proper that He should receive you in Heaven. Having deigned to come down to you, He wished to raise you up to Himself in order that you might enter into glory.

Mary, My Mother, the day of your Assumption was the great day of your triumph. After the triumph of your Divine Son on the day of His Ascension, there never was, and there never will be, a triumph like that which you enjoyed on this day. When He had finished the work of our Redemption by His labors, suffering and death, the Eternal Word, clothed in our nature, entered into His glory and was seated on the right hand of the Eternal Father. He became Sovereign Master of the universe and Supreme Judge of the living and the dead. In your triumph, as the Mother of the same Word Incarnate, having perfectly followed out the great designs of God upon you, having acquired immense merits by the practice of all the virtues, and having reached the highest holiness, you were assumed body and soul, into Heaven. Angels came to escort you. You were borne aloft to the palace of your Beloved.

You passed amid the different choirs of the blessed, above all the heavenly spirits, and approached the throne of light prepared for you. Your loving Son welcomed you with joy. What songs of gladness by the elect as you were crowned by the Blessed Trinity and made Queen of heaven, advocate of the human race and dispenser of the graces of the Redemption!

3. Mary, Mother of God, you reign in splendor for all eternity with your Divine Son. Your kingdom, like His, is a kingdom of imperishable glory, because yours is a throne of clemency, mercy and pardon. All your trials and sufferings are now transformed into jewels that decorate your triumphal throne in Heaven. In God there are no disappointments, no false promises. Eternity is real; Heaven is eternal happiness, the final reward for loyalty to God. Through you my own goal becomes more real, more attainable, for the lessons of your life are the doors to eternal peace and happiness.

I can only faintly imagine with what tenderness the Eternal Father received you, His loving daughter the Divine Son, His chosen Mother; and the Holy Spirit, His immaculate Bride. The Father crowned you by making you a sharer in His power, the Son by making you partaker of His wisdom; the Holy Spirit, by making you partaker of His love. The three Divine Persons declared you Queen of heaven and earth and assigned to you a place at the right hand of Jesus. You received from the Adorable Trinity the crown and sceptre, which made you Queen of all the angels and saints and the all-powerful Mediatrix between God and men. You became the treasurer of God's graces, the channel through which He dispenses His gifts upon earth.

Your Assumption was for you not only the crowning of a holy life, but also a cause of joy and triumph for the human race. Just as the patriarchs in Limbo had beheld your birth as the breaking of that dawn which announced to them their near deliverance, so, too, your Assumption, together with the Ascension of Jesus, became for mortal man a sure pledge of resurrection and immortality.

Mary, My Mother, I wish to recall this triumph and to share in your greatness and glory.

If the honor of parents descends upon their children, what glory and joy for all of us, your children, to see you raised to such heights of glory! Confidence fills my soul, for you were raised to this glory not for your own advantage only, but for that of your children also, in order to make us feel the effects of your powerful protection and intercession. One of your greatest delights is to lavish these treasures upon your faithful children. With your arms outstretched—those arms in which the Eternal God delighted to rest when He became our Brother—plead our cause. Pray to Him for us, your children, that in our exile we may resemble you, His most devoted follower, and at last may glorify Him in union with you forever.