The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches hold that Mary, mother of Jesus, was “assumed” body and soul into heaven. Catholics believe that she never actually died. The Orthodox believe the assumption took place after death occurred. I highlight the word “assumed” with quotation marks for it connotes something that was done to her under someone else’s power. I take strong exception to the word for I find it diminishes who she really was and what she accomplished in her lifetime. When I think of Jesus I am reminded of a modern day idiom: “The apple never falls far from the tree.”
Mary has been my rock for as long as I can remember and I vigorously defend her in this blog. She once appeared to me forty years ago in a dream. Of all the dreams I have had in my eighty years on the planet, that one is the only one I can remember. The Miraculous Medal, commissioned at her appearances to Saint Catherine Labouré at Rue de Bac (Paris) in 1880, has been hanging around my neck for as long as I can remember. Worldwide, over a billion of the medals have been sold. I don’t leave home without it.
The December 2015 issue of National Geographic magazine features Mary, describing her on the front cover as “The Most Powerful Woman in the World.” I totally agree. As reported in the issue, she has appeared in the material world over two thousand times, the first being reported in 40 AD. I have had the pleasure of visiting three apparition sites, Knock, Ireland; Lourdes, France; and Mexico City Lady of Guadalupe. My planned trip to Fatima was cancelled because of the Covid pandemic. It is still on my hit list. As Mary told young visionary Anathalie Mukamazimpka in her 1981 appearance at Kibeho, Rwanda: “I have the ability to appear to anyone I want, anytime I want, anywhere I want.” Through her many apparitions, Mary shows she is not partial to any one religious expression. She just asks that we love her as much as she loves us.
In Mary we find a two-thousand year old, non-divine, woman who has retained her earthly identity and pops in and out of the material world as she wishes. Doesn’t that speak loudly to the value we place on this life relative to what the afterlife has to offer? Even though I am eighty years old, I still want to be like her when I grow up.
The Bible has little to say of her. She speaks four times: to the Angel Gabriel on the occasion of the Annunciation (Luke 1:38); with relative Elizabeth (reciting the Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55); when gently scolding the twelve year old Jesus after finding him in the Temple (Luke 2:48); and at the wedding feast at Cana where she tells the servants, “do whatever he tells you” (John 2:3-5).
There are two reasons I take exception to the word “assumed.”
The first centers around the wedding feast at Cana. You know the story. It is reported in John’s Gospel, 2:1-11. Mary and Jesus attend a wedding at Cana, a small town located about eight miles from their home in Nazareth. When Mary discovers the celebration is running short on wine she tells Jesus. At first he responds with a snotty “not my problem” attitude but Mary ignores him and tells the servants to do what he, Jesus, tells them. Following his instructions, filling empty jugs with water, the feast winds up with an extra 120-180 gallons of fine wine compliments of Jesus. Did it actually happen? I personally doubt it. John’s Gospel is highly symbolic with lots of fluff and I suspect an embellished feast presented an opportunity for John to introduce Jesus’s capacity for the paranormal. But, that is not the point. The point is…Mary knew! She knew of Jesus’s capacity for the paranormal. She demonstrates that she is the one in command using a kind of teacher-student relationship and a “just do it” Nike response to Jesus’s banal attitude. Mary was the one who changed water into wine. She did it by using her son as the agent who made it happen, as she trained him to do. “Show them what you got, Jesus.” As we have learned from the Eastern traditions, those accomplished in the paranormal benefit from the involvement with a master, a teacher who has been there, done that. I choose to believe Mary was Jesus’s teacher. As noted earlier, “The apple never falls far from the tree.”
Secondly, we must understand that dying without leaving a corpse behind is not the miraculous event Christianity has made it out to be. In has happened thousands of times in human history, primarily in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, even in modern times. For insight I refer you to my rainbow body blog. Rainbow body is where the bodies of common, spiritually advanced people vanish from sight at death, as did Jesus’s on the first Easter Sunday.
When resurrection is considered a miraculous event which is singularly unique to Jesus I can accept that he might raise her, body and soul, into heaven, something she is unable to do on her own. But, what we have come to call resurrection is not a miracle. It is the way the human body is designed to naturally (and gracefully) exit the planet. And, I can assure you, that, it is, is commonly known in the lofty offices of the Catholic clergy hierarchy. It is what I refer to in my book entitled Christianity’s Dirty Little Secrets. Rainbow body doesn’t randomly happen. It is the result of a hard, difficult, spiritually focused lifestyle that only a special, select, dedicated few achieve. Jesus was one. So was Mary. To me it is misleading, even blasphemous, to minimize her achievement by explaining it as something that was done to her through divine intervention rather than something she earned on her own by the spiritual life she led. It is one thing to hide the truth of resurrection from the faithful. It is another to have the deceit spill over and diminish the greatness of Mary. To me, them is fighting words.
To me it is misleading, even blasphemous, to minimize her achievement by explaining it as something that was done to her through divine intervention rather than something she earned on her own by the spiritual life she led.
Catholics hold that Mary, unlike Jesus, never died (i.e., the soul never separated from the body). She was “assumed” body and soul into heaven. There is that word again. How a physical body made of atoms which manifest in material form can exist in the non-material, heavenly realm, is beyond me. Undisturbed by fact, her assumption is official Catholic dogma which was implemented by the papal infallibility of Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950. The mystery is celebrated annually on August 15, a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic liturgy. Catholic faith is based on apostolic tradition as literary references are scarce. The earliest literary reference is the 4th-5th century, apocryphal Greek work De Obitu S. Dominae which is attributed to St. John. Numerous other references are from letters and sermons. While saintly relics are quiet common in the Catholic tradition no Mary relics have ever been found.
The Bible tells us that Enoch and Elijah, and possibly Moses, died without leaving a corpse behind, confirming that Jesus was not the first. But, their graceful, glorious departures from mother earth are held to be a special favor from God. That is, something done to them as opposed to something they accomplished on their own through spiritually focused lives. In Christian doctrine, their graceful departures are something that “will also be done” to every human being at the end of time. It is a doctrine of sheer speculation that translates to mumbo-jumbo when evaluated in the context of the rainbow body phenomenon and the hard life that must be led in order to bring it about. And, unfortunately, Mary is caught-up and short changed in the Church’s contrived and twisted speculation and its unwillingness to fess up to the faithful and admit they have done a number on them for two-thousand years. Crow is a hard meal to digest, especially when empty collection plates and employment considerations are on the line. Oh what a tangled web we weave when our intention is to deceive.
Mary passed the baton to Jesus at Cana. Hanging on the cross he passed it back to her. Speaking to her and the disciple that he loved he said, “Woman, behold your son.” He knew who the power broker was in his life. Speaking to the disciple he said, “Behold your mother.” (John 19:26-27)
I’m sorry Mary for the way you are being treated under doctrine, but I am doing everything I can to get you the credit you deserve.