“Regardless of how long Mary lived after Jesus’ death, surely she missed her son and husband and yearned to be reunited with them. Did Mary die? Most theologians think that Mary underwent death—just as her son did and as we all will do. The Church has no formal teaching about Mary’s death. What it does believe is that when Mary’s life on earth was ended, she was immediately taken body and soul into heaven. In this way, God preserved her body from corruption—that body which had served his Son so well.
“The Assumption was declared a doctrine of faith in 1950, although the church has believed it since the early centuries. One significance of the timing of this declaration is that it came right after World War II and the Holocaust, when the value of the human body was held in such low esteem. By insisting that Mary’s body had been assumed into heaven, the Church was saying that the human body was sacred and important to God.
“Remains of several saints were discovered to be incorrupt, but these bodies are still on earth. There are no mortal remains of Mary, and the Church does not expect to find any. Unlike the rest of us, Mary didn’t have to wait until the end of the world for her body to be glorified and reunited with her soul. Right now she is already with her son in body and soul in heaven, worshipping God and enjoying eternal bliss. In this state, Mary is a sign and a promise of what awaits us. How Mary is now, God intends everyone to be someday. This truth gives us hope and consolation as we struggle with the trials, crises, sickness and death of physical life on earth.
“In this one woman, who is the mother of us all, the ultimate destiny of the human race has already been realized. A helpful analogy is that we himans are like a fleet of ships in a storm at sea, and Mary is the first ship to reach the safe harbor. Mary is the first flowering of the Church. In the words of theologian Karl Rahner, ‘God’s grace is doing is us what he did in her.’
“St. John of Damascus said that as Mary enters heaven, the Temple of God, ‘David, her ancestor and God’s relative, dances for joy (2 Samuel 7:14); the angels dance in unison, the archangels applaud, and the powers of the heavens sing her glory.’ ”
How do you picture Mary in heaven?