Thursday, August 14, 2014

When did Mary die? and For how long was she dead?

Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven
August 15th

When Pope Pius XII solemnly defined as a dogma of the faith the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, body and soul, into the glories of heaven, he also taught as belonging to the ordinary and universal magisterium that Mary did die before her body was raised and glorified.

And so, we may wonder, When did Mary die? For how long did her holy body lie in the tomb? And, What was the Assumption like?

In this matter, the private revelations given to St. Bridget of Sweden help to fill out the common teaching of the saints and theologians.

The ordinary and universal magisterium

Pope Pius XII teaches that Mary did indeed die, but that her body was not subject to corruption.

This teaching is clearest in Munificentissimus Deus: “This feast shows, not only that the dead body of the Blessed Virgin Mary remained incorrupt, but that she gained a triumph out of death.” (n. 20)

The Baltimore Catechism summarizes the Tradition as follows: "After the death of Our Lord the Blessed Virgin lived for about eleven years with the Apostle St. John the Evangelist, called also the Beloved Disciple." (No.3, q.1090)

Why was it fitting for Mary to die?

It was no offense that Mary, who was preserved from every stain of sin, should die, since in so doing she imitated her own Divine Son. We maintain that death for her was soft and most sweet – like ripe fruit being plucked from a tree. Her death was not violent, for she had already endured a most painful and agonizing death as she stood at the foot of the Cross.

While Mary did not have to die, it was fitting that she should overcome death after the same manner in which her Son had conquered: Through Resurrection. Indeed, this also gives comfort to us her children, for as death is our common lot, yet also we hope to attain to future glory with her.

Finally, we do well to note that death did not truly overcome her body. For, even in death, she was preserved from all corruption. Her body did not decay in any respect, but, like the divine body of her Son, remained entirely incorrupt and most pure awaiting resurrection and glory.

Consider the words of Pius XII from the same encyclical: “Hence the revered Mother of God […] finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven.” (n. 40)

Details given to St. Bridget

From private revelation, we also learn that Mary lived for another 15 years after the death of Christ and then gave up her spirit, about the year AD 48. She was dead for 15 days before her Assumption, and her burial cloths were not assumed but remained as relics for the Church.

The Blessed Virgin speaks to St. Bridget,

"Afterwards, when my lifetime had been accomplished, my Son first raised up my soul - for it was the mistress of the body - to a more excellent place than others in heaven, right next to his Divinity. Later, he also raised up my body in such a manner that no other creature’s body is so close to God as mine. See how much my Son loved my soul and body! Yet, there are some people with a malevolent spirit who deny that I was assumed into Heaven, body and soul, and also others who simply do not know any better. But this is a most certain truth: I, with body and soul, was assumed to the Divinity!" (Revelations 1.9)

"Be attentive, daughter! After my Son ascended to heaven, I lived in the world for fifteen years and as much time more as there is from the feast of the ascension of that same Son of mine until my death. And then I lay dead in this sepulchre for fifteen days. 
Thereupon I was assumed into heaven with infinite honor and joy. However, my garments with which I was buried then remained in this sepulchre; and I was then clothed in such garments as those that clothe my Son and my Lord, Jesus Christ. Know also that there is no human body in heaven except the glorious body of my Son and my own body. ”Therefore go now, all of you, back to the lands of Christians; ever amend your lives for the better; and in future, live with the greatest of care and attention now that you have visited these holy places, where my Son and I lived in the body and died and were buried."  (Revelations 7.26)

Mary, assumed into heaven, Pray for us!


DO said...

Actually, Pope St. John Paul II made it abundantly and explicitly clear that Pius XII was *not* teaching that Mary did die.

DO said...

"On 1 November 1950, in defining the dogma of the Assumption, Pius XII avoided using the term “resurrection” and did not take a position on the question of the Blessed Virgin’s death as a truth of faith."
-Pope St. John Paul II

(When it's Fr. Ryan vs. Pope St. John Paul II... I choose the latter. Sorry ;-) )

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

In order to interpret a Pontiff, you must know the difference between various modes of teaching. For example, a teaching may be from the extraordinary magisterium (as when Pius XII infallibly taught ex cathedra that Mary "at the end of her earthly life" was assumed into heaven), or a teaching may be ordinary magisterium (as when Pius XII taught that Mary died).

Now, I never claimed that the death of Mary was "de fide" (a "truth of the faith") or proposed by the extraordinary magisterium, I only claimed that Pius XII taught it as ordinary magisterium (which is clear from the large words in bold which preface the portion of my post which is in question).

On the other hand, St John Paul II also taught Mary's death, if you cared to read the words directly before what you quoted form the General Audience of 2 July 1997: "The dogma of the Assumption affirms that Mary's body was glorified after her death."

We can get into a real mess if we don't read the context of a theological statement (whether it be in a blog post or a papal audience). +

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