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Browsing Fr. Joel Hastings

How old was Mary when she rose into heaven?

May 14, 2018

Happy Mother’s Day.

     I want to begin my words today by giving a special greeting to all mothers today on this Mother’s Day. As the Church devotes the whole month of May to honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary, may this particular day within May on which our culture gives honor to mothers be for you especially blessed through Mary’s intercession on behalf of your common vocation of motherhood, and may the graces of Jesus that are given through her increase within you.

How old was Mary when she rose into heaven?

     A first part of answering this question is to explain more clearly how Mary left this world. For at the end of her earthly life, we believe that Mary was “assumed” into heaven; that is, at the proper time for her life on earth to end she was taken up into heaven in the fullness of her being (in the body). Whether or not she actually died is a point of speculation – one that has led some in the history of the Church to speak of her “dormition,” or when she “fell asleep,” out of a sense that she who is immaculate would not have undergone death. On the other hand, even if Mary died first, the reality of her sharing in the fullness of eternal life in the body was granted to her in an immediate way when she was assumed into heaven. Thus, we do not think of Mary “rising” into heaven; it is more proper to consider her having been taken up to heaven by God, which we call her Assumption.

     As for Mary’s age at the time of the Assumption, such detail is not known with any certainty. While tradition speaks of her having lived for a time in the city of Ephesus (along the Aegean Sea coast within modern day Turkey), no dates are given either for her Assumption nor for how old she herself may have been at that time. It is likely that she was at least in her mid to later 40s, as she would have been of that age at time of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. How long she still lived after Jesus’ own Ascension into heaven is not known for certain. In any case, it is likely that she lived for a time in the midst of the Church in her beginnings, remaining a source of strength and consolation to the first believers, just as she is for us and for the whole Church through all generations.

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