Assumption: A Mother becomes Queen in Heaven
We understand what the Bible says about Mary by understanding what Old Testament roles she fulfills in the New Covenant.
By Ashwith Rego
August 15 is the Solemnity of the Assumption, the dogma defined by the Church under Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950. The liturgies for this Solemnity, both the Vigil Mass and Day Mass, give us the Scriptural basis for this dogma - that our Blessed Mother, “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” The Bible never states that Mary was assumed into heaven. So what do we know from Scripture?
To understand what the Bible says, we must study it like the Church. The Catechism explains that while the Bible contains 73 books, divided into two Testaments, there is unity in Scripture. This unity is brought about through typology where the "New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old is unveiled in the New” as stated by Saint Augustine. We understand what the Bible says about Mary by understanding what Old Testament roles she fulfills in the New Covenant.
The First Reading and the Gospel of the Day Mass point to Mary’s role as the Ark of the Covenant. The Psalm for the Vigil Mass recalls David’s desire to bring the Ark to Jerusalem and build a house for God. Instead, God promises to build David’s house and that his son would build the temple. All this was fulfilled in Solomon but more so in Christ. Since Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, we see that her Assumption fulfills the Psalm response: "Arise, O Lord, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.”
Mary is also the New Eve, which is shown most profoundly in the Gospel of John. The first reading for the Day Mass talks about the struggle between the dragon and “the woman.” We know the woman is Mary because John tells us that her son is Jesus. He also tells us that the dragon is “that ancient serpent” (Rev 12:9). The words “woman" and “serpent” remind us of the struggle at the beginning of the Bible. It shows us the fulfillment of God’s promise in Genesis 3:15. In Genesis, a woman and Adam listened to Satan and brought sin into the world. In the New Creation, a woman, Mary, listened to God and cooperated with Jesus, the New Adam, who took away sin from the world.
Finally, the New Covenant is also the everlasting kingdom of David with Jesus as the King. A kingdom needs a queen. Today we would assume that the queen would be the king’s wife. But in the Davidic dynasty, the queen wasn’t the king’s wife as he had many wives. However, he had only one mother who was the connection between him and the previous king and was thus the queen. In Hebrew she was called the “Gebirah” or “Great Lady.” In 1 Kings 2:19, we see Solomon rise up to meet his mother, Bathsheba. He honors her and makes her sit at his right - a sign that Solomon considered her his equal. None of this took away Solomon’s glory. In the books of Kings and Chronicles we repeatedly see references to the King and the Queen Mother. Thus if Jesus is the Davidic King, the Queen is his Mother. The Psalm for the Day Mass declares that she stands at Jesus’ right hand arrayed in gold.
How do these types connect to the Assumption? Just like the first Eve was created without sin, it was fitting that Mary, the New Eve, was created without sin. Thus she couldn’t be under the curse of Adam and return to dust. As the New Eve she is greater than the first Eve and it wouldn’t be fitting for her to meet the same end as the first and have her body decay. The dogma doesn’t say if Mary died or was taken up to heaven while she was alive. The majority view is that she did die, for she isn’t greater than her Son, but her body was taken up with her soul after her death. Mary’s Assumption is a sign of our eternity with God at the end of time where our souls will be reunited with our glorified bodies.
As the Ark of the Covenant, she takes up her place within the temple in heaven. John sees her there in Revelation 11:19-12:1, as a queen, clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
Finally as Queen Mother, she sits at Jesus’ right hand, where the angels and saints honor Jesus and her. Just like honoring Bathsheba didn’t take away from Solomon’s glory so too honoring Mary in no way takes away from Jesus his infinite glory - we worship him but we do not worship Mary. We honor her because we imitate Jesus who honored her ( Luke 11:28).
An important role of the Queen Mother was that of an intercessor for the people as seen in 1 Kings 2:13-18. They would go to her if they couldn’t approach the king and she would pass on their requests to him. As Queen Mother, she places our petitions before Jesus, just like she did at Cana. As our own Mother, she petitions for us in earnest and leads us to Jesus saying “do whatever he tells you.”
(An analog circuit designer based in Bangalore, AshwithRego is a Catholic layman very much interested in apologetics, Biblical studies, philosophy, Aquinas and Fathers of the Church. He often writes on themes related to these fields.)
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