At the end of her earthly life the Blessed Virgin Mary was taken to heaven, body and soul. This dogma proclaims an essential truth of the Christian religion, a religious truth necessary for our salvation.
Did our Lady actually die, or did she begin the life of the resurrection without undergoing bodily death? The 1950 papal definition of the dogma left this question open. The precise details of how God raised His mother nigh the throne are not available to us because they are not necessary for our salvation. As with so many articles of the faith, the Church proclaims the essential heart of the matter, and wisely leaves the non-essential aspects for further reflection. The infallible core of the dogma of the Assumption is this: when her life on earth was ended our blessed Lady went straight to heaven, body and soul.
Yet even that sublime fact is only part of what the dogma teaches. It also teaches us about the resurrection of Christ in relation to our own destiny. By His resurrection and ascension Christ opened up for us the way to heaven. Our Lady’s Assumption exemplifies our human destiny, if we choose to accept it. The Blessed Virgin entered upon the fullness of resurrection, a life in which body and spirit are finally and fully one. All God’s children are invited to share that integral wholeness.
A major impediment to attaining our destiny is our enslavement to sin, a blockage which only the grace of Christ can properly deal with. For us there is purgatory before heaven. Moreover we shall not receive our resurrected body until the general resurrection of the dead, when this world passes. For our Lady there could be no such delay. By reason of her sinless perfection, corruption and decay had no claim on Mary of Nazareth. An immediate transition to heaven was the only possible fulfilment of her life on earth.
The humble maiden from Nazareth is now Queen of heaven and Mediatrix of all graces, assisting her divine Son in His ongoing work of consecrating the world. She had begun that task at Cana and now she continues that same work in heaven, until the full number of the elect is complete, a number known only to God. Our Christian baptism and our persevering practice of the faith assure us that if we want to be, we may certainly be counted among that number.