The Holy Catholic Church infallibly teaches that the Blessed Virgin Mary was taken up, body and soul, into Heaven after completing the course of earthly life (CCC 966). Her body was not subjected to any corruption or decay. The Church has not defined whether Mary actually died before she was assumed, but the tradition of the Church is that she did. This Marian dogma is connected to the other three Marian dogmas, especially the Motherhood of God and Immaculate Conception.
As she is the Mother of God, Jesus would have honored His mother more then any other son could. It would make sense that God would have preserved the body of Mary from any corruption and glorify her body before the general resurrection at the end of time.
The Immaculate Conception of Mary made her the “Enmity” or total opposition to Satan. According to Saint Paul, Satan’s hold on humanity is twofold — sin and death — and because of the Blessed Mother’s share in the victory over Satan, she was preserved from both sin, in her Immaculate Conception, and death, in her Bodily Assumption.
It is very important to make it clear that the teaching of the assumption is not the same as the teaching of the ascension of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ ascended under His own power, while Mary was taken to Heaven by the power of the Triune God. Mary did not go into Heaven through her own will – she was assumed into Heaven by God.
However, many non-Catholics strongly oppose the idea that Mary was assumed into Heaven because it does not explicitly, word for word, say so in the Bible. This is true – but it is also true that sola scriptura is a false doctrine. Pointing this out is an essential part of defending all Marian dogmas, and particularly this one.
Although there is no explicit reference to the assumption found in the Bible, there are many verses which suggest this. In I Corinthians 15, Saint Paul teaches the resurrection of the body. Non-Catholics believe that this passage contradicts the teaching of Mary’s assumption body and soul into Heaven before everyone else. But there is precedent in the Bible for bodily assumption prior to the resurrection of the dead and the end times.
The explicit teaching exists with regard to prophets in the Old Testament. Elijah in II Kings 2:11 is taken up into Heaven, and Enoch in Genesis 5:24 was also assumed to heaven. It is therefore perfectly possible for someone to be assumed into Heaven bodily. The non-Catholic objection relies on a sola scriptura vision of Christianity (i.e. that because it does not say in the Bible that it happened it means it didn’t happen) and also an either/or view (i.e. that because Paul teaches the resurrection of the body at the end of time there can be no-one with bodies in Heaven now).
On the other hand, there is also Scriptural support for the assumption of people into Heaven. When Jesus died, it says in Matthew 27:52-53 that “the graves were opened: and many bodies of the saints that had slept arose. And coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, came into the holy city and appeared to many.” The early Church Fathers taught that these saints’ bodies were resurrected to join their souls in Heaven – they were assumed into Heaven.
It is also clear that Mary is the New Testament Ark of the Covenant. The Old Testament Ark was the bearer of the written Word of God, and was kept free from all defect, profanation, and corruption. In the New Testament, Mary is the new Ark and is the bearer of the living Word of God. In the same way as God kept Mary’s virginity intact, He also kept her body intact after death.
In Revelation 12:1, it is clear that Mary is in Heaven as the Ark of the Covenant – is it not fitting that Mary would be assumed bodily into Heaven in this case? It is her physicality which was the new Ark of the Covenant – it was her body which bore Jesus Christ. Would God the Father allow the body from which His Son took His flesh – the flesh which hung on the cross and saved all and the flesh which is eaten in the Eucharist – simply rot and decay? Or would He rather take this flesh into Heaven to be with Him for eternity, enthroned as the Queen of Heaven?
“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth […] She gave birth to a son, a male child, who ‘will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.’ And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.” —Revelation 12:1-2, 5 (NIV)
Remember, the Blessed Virgin Mary freely and actively cooperated in a unique way with God’s plan of salvation (Luke 1:38; Galatian 4:4). Like any mother, she was never separated from the suffering of her Son (Luke 2:35), and Scripture promises that those who share in the sufferings of Christ will share in His glory (Romans 8:17). Since she suffered a unique interior martyrdom, it is appropriate that the Lord Jesus Christ would honor her with a unique glory.
Lastly, from the very early days of the Church, saints were revered and honored and their relics were venerated. Many churches and cities claimed to be the resting place of saints and the holders of their relics. Rome for instance, holds the bodies of Saints Peter and Paul. Some saints were so highly venerated that there were actually two or more places who claimed to hold their physical remains!
But while there are two places which claim to be the place where Mary was assumed into Heaven (Jerusalem and Ephesus) nowhere claimed to have her bones. As can clearly be seen by reading the Church Fathers and the Bible, Mary was a very important figure in the early Church. It would be entirely likely that her relics would be venerated. But they are not — nowhere claims to have the physical remains of the Mother of God! Other saints – Peter, Paul, Andrew, James and John – all have relics, but Mary does not. There has to be a very good reason for this – the one which the Catholic Church teaches is that there were no relics to be found, as she was assumed bodily into Heaven.