Mary’s Assumption: The Assumption That Divides Us, and the One That Also Unites Us

By David Mills Published on August 15, 2017

On this matter the two sides stand farther apart than Red Sox and Yankee fans. “Say what?” and “Are you kidding me?” and “That’s just wrong” — that’s what some of my Protestant friends tend to say if we happen to talk on August 15th. Today Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.

Pope Pius XII declared it “a divinely revealed dogma” in 1950. All he said about it is 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.”

If you want to know more, I’ve written a hit-and-run introduction to the Assumption. For the bigger story, I’d also commend, if I may do this, my book Discovering Mary.

Not What My Protestant Friends Believe

The Assumption of Mary: Soooooo not what my Protestant friends believe. Not anywhere close. It expresses a very deep difference in how we read the Bible and how we understand the Church Christ gave us. It’s an Assumption that divides us. I don’t see any possibility of reconciliation without one side or the other giving in completely.

The Evangelical says “You can’t believe it because it’s not in the Bible.” The Catholic says “Yes, you can, and anyway it is there implicitly.” Pius XI said only that the dogma “is in wonderful accord with those divine truths given us in Holy Scripture.” My Evangelical friends would say, “Big whoop.”

We can’t talk sentimentally about this. Evangelicals who want to be kind to Catholics say that they can learn a lot about Jesus’s mother from them. Catholics who want to be kind to Evangelicals say they can learn a lot about the Bible from them. Completely true. And completely irrelevant here.

Those gestures don’t touch the deep, deep, deep differences. I won’t argue it now. Just remember the Red Sox and the Yankee fans.

Not the End of the Matter

The weird thing is, though, these people like each other. They see in each other people who love the Lord and live their lives for Him. I wrote about this after I first met James Robison.

As I wrote then, here were men — James and his friends — who love Jesus. The same Jesus we Catholics love. If the Lord walked into the room, they’d hit their knees as fast, if not faster, than the Catholics with them.

I suggested a test. If Jesus told them, “You go join their Church,” they’d do it. Probably not right away, and not without grumbling, and only after double- and triple-checking, but they would do it. You can’t ask more than that.

What about the Assumption of Mary? It divides us big time, yes. But the truth it points to unites us. The Catholic dogma declares that that God has already done for Jesus’s Mother what He will do for the rest of us at the end of history.

It points us to the very practical, very real, very concrete hope we have: to be ourselves, body and soul, with our Lord in Heaven. The resurrection of the dead will be our assumption.

With Mary in Gloryland

I’ve always remembered a simple hymn my childhood Baptist friends sung at their church. It began: “I’ve got a home in gloryland that out-shines the sun,” repeated three times, followed by “Way beyond the blue.”

That’s what the Catholic looks forward to as well. A home in gloryland that out-shines the sun equals Pius’s “heavenly glory.” We’d just add a verse running, “Jesus’ mother Mary has gone there before,” also repeated three times followed by “Way beyond the blue.”

This morning Pope Francis tied the Assumption to Mary’s meeting with her cousin Elizabeth and the great hymn she sang. The Magnificat, he told the people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, “sings of the merciful and faithful God who accomplishes his plan of salvation with the little and the poor, with those who have faith in him, who trust in his Word as did Mary.”

In Elizabeth’s home, “the coming of Jesus through Mary has created not only a climate of joy and fraternal communion, but also a climate of faith that leads to hope, prayer, and praise.” All this we would like to have done today in our homes, Francis said.

The Immense Gift that is Jesus

The pope then explained what Catholics do when we celebrate the Assumption. “By celebrating Mary’s most holy Assumption into Heaven, we would like once again to bring to us, to our families, to our communities, that immense gift, the unique grace that we must always ask first and above the other graces that are of the heart: the grace that is Jesus Christ!”

God loves us and wants us with Him forever. That’s the assumption that unites us, the hardest core Evangelical and the hardest core Catholic. How our Father treated one of His creatures is an assumption that for now divides us. We can live with that, as brothers and sisters who will love each forever with each other, in our home in gloryland that out-shines the sun.

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  • Seems to me that accomplished very little.

    • Mensa Member

      I don’t think he changed many minds but, hopefully, he nudged us to more acceptance of each other.

      • Patmos

        “hopefully, he nudged us to more acceptance of each other.”

        The troll’s goal, stated plainly. Not in line with God’s word of course, but a troll can’t be a troll without ulterior motives.

  • ImaginaryDomain

    That was very nice. The glass really is half full!! Cheers to you for reminding us of our deep obligation to be civil and loving toward one another…

  • Mensa Member

    >> it is there implicitly.

    Just today, I heard a lengthly defense of the assumption of Mary. I listened with an open mind and heart but, I gotta say, the speaker didn’t convince me. Even the implicit argument.

    As a liberal, I try to be tolerant of diverse opinions, especially among my fellow Christians.

    So, I ask… does this (mis-)believe hurt anyone?

    I don’t see how it does. That’s important to me.

  • Cana Brava

    Read John 3: 13!

    • Mensa Member

      I’ll doubt you’ll change any Catholic minds with that verse.

      When Jesus said that, Elijah, Enoch, and Moses all had been similarly taken up to heaven. So, clearly Jesus wasn’t ruling that out.

      • Cana Brava

        Read the verse again. NO One has ever gone to heaven except JESUS! Not even the person’s you mentioned. Read Colossians 1: 18 and 1 Cor 15: 6, 20-23. Jesus Christ is the firstborn from the dead to a spiritual body. Don’t you believe Jesus’s words?

        • Mensa Member

          No need to read it again. The verse is fairly memorable.

          Jesus surely knew what the Old Testament said about Moses, Elijah and Enoch who all went to heaven without dying.

          I’m not sure how you can reconcile your interpretation of John 3:13 with the Old Testament. If you can, I’m genuinely interested in hearing it.

          >>> Don’t you believe Jesus’s words?

          Do you really need to go there?

          • Cana Brava

            Did you read the other verses? Elijah did not ascend to heaven (Jesus said so read again John 3: 13). Ten years after he was removed he wrote a letter to King Jehoram, read II Chronicles 21: 12-15. God removed Elijah to another part of the world not to heaven.

          • Patmos

            “Do you really need to go there?”

            Considering you’ve yet to demonstrate any understanding of the light of Christ, and have only posted ideologies counter to Christ while still claiming to be in line with Christ, the answer is an emphatic yes.

            That you’ve now morphed into calling yourself an Evangelical was what did you in though. You are a fake Christian troll.

          • Bryan

            You know, he’s not doing a bad job here. I don’t often agree with MM but here he makes a good point and one against someone who is taking a single scripture, out of context, and applying it to the rest of scripture as proof that one or the other is a lie. If you would call out MM, you should call out CB too.

          • Cana Brava

            A single scripture? Did you read my posts? I quoted several and if you want I can quote more. Jesus is the only person who has ever ascended to heaven. Again read Col 1: 18, 1 Cor 15: 6; 20-23, and here is another one, 1 Tim 6: 15-16. “Who alone has immortality”… Read these verses in your own Bible. Jesus is the Firstborn and Firstfruit of all.

          • Bryan

            A single scripture quotes Jesus saying “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.” The rest talk of the raising of the dead, and that Christ was raised from the dead, which is our hope, that Christ is the Firstborn, Sovereign, etc. These don’t specifically state your case, though you could argue from them. However, they can be used to argue that as Christ has been raised to heaven, so shall we be raised when we die on earth.
            Additionally, the verses you mention don’t explain how if no one has gone to heaven except Jesus, where Elijah went when the whirlwind took him to heaven in 2 Kings 2, where Enoch went in Genesis 5, or why Luke’s gospel states in a parable about a man named Lazarus that he was in heaven at Abraham’s side while the rich man was in Hades. If you are arguing for Purgatory, these would seem to cast doubt on the concept. But if that’s your argument, then I don’t expect mine will deter you either.
            Lastly, I don’t know where you’re getting that Elijah was removed to another part of the world for 10 years from the 2 Chronicles reference. I have to review my OT history again but that’ll have to wait until I have the chance.

          • Andrew Mason

            Where did Moses go after his death? Since both Elijah and Moses appeared before Him, and since Jesus is the only way to Heaven, it seems like there may behave been, more than 1 Heaven. Consider the reference to Lazarus and the rich man. Note too that Catholics have the concept of purgatory.

  • Paul

    Yup, ain’t in the Bible.

    Funny thing about this topic, I’ve encountered many people who theorize how the Bible has been edited along the way to suit particular agendas or doctrines. Here is a perfect example of why that theory is bunk. This emphasis on Mary would have been really easy to add into the Bible along the way but no, it ain’t in the Bible. They had like a thousand years to put it in but no. I’m sure some along the way were tempted. It would have been so easy, a little nudge and wink to the scribe along with a bit of extra wine and poof, there it is in the Bible. OK maybe a lot of wine and a sack of coin, but no, still ain’t in the Bible.

    I have friends who are part of an Orthodox church, not sure which flavor but it’s in full communion with Catholics. We’ve had some interesting conversations about Sola Scriptura. There’s kinda stunned I don’t know Saint so and so and what they wrote back in the Dark Ages, and I’m kinda stunned at how well versed they are on all these Saints and church history. I admit I find the history interesting, but everything these long dead folks has to say is examined through the lens of scripture no different than my pastors sermon this past Sunday or Stream articles. Sola Scriptura.

  • PilgrimGirl

    The bodily assumption of Mary is Catholic dogma. It is not taught by the word of God. Period.

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