…we can affirm together the teaching that God has taken the Blessed Virgin Mary in the fullness of her person into his glory as consonant with Scripture and that it can, indeed, only be understood in the light of Scripture. Roman Catholics can recognise that this teaching about Mary is contained in the dogma.
[2005 report by Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians]
Thus, as so often in spite of the best efforts of men, Our Lady unites.
In 1950, Pope Pius XII, in Munificentissimus Deus, proclaimed:
We pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.
It was only the second occasion on which a Pope had made such an Infallible pronouncement, the first being the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX, in Ineffabilis Deus, 1854.
I remember some years ago reassuring Jessica, whose devotion to Our Lady is intense, that as an Anglican she was not in breach of anything her Church held in celebrating the Assumption.
One of her many Protestant friends had asked her where the Biblical warrant for such a feast was. The answer is simple. If Jesus is who the Bible says He is, then His mother must have been conceived without sin, because we are told that He was like us in all things except for sin. Death is the wages of sin, so if Mary was not conceived in sin, then she could not have been subject death. If Jesus is the first fruits of the Resurrection, the new Adam, Mary is the new Eve. There’s your Biblical evidence. And that is before tradition kicks in, going back to the early second century. If Jessica wanted to bring in the third leg of the stool, Reason, it’s entirely reasonable that Our Blessed Lady did not die and was not separated from her Son.
We do not know the details. There’s a tradition that she stayed in Jerusalem and died there. But given our belief that St John looked after her, there is another tradition that she was assumed into Heaven at Ephesus. The Orthodox call it the Dormition, or the falling asleep.
In short, Our Lady unites the majority of Christians. That she is an object of division to some is a sad reflection on our fallen state. Along with St John Henry Newman, the Blessed Virgin has been one of my invariable sources of refuge in need. However far away I have sometimes felt her Son was because of my sin, she has always been there, her veil protecting me, one hand reaching out while pointing to her Son with the other. How often has she guided me home? How could I ever express what I owe to her intercession?
I grew up in a port town in the north-west, and navigation by the stars mattered. So when I discover that Our Lady was the Star of the Sea for the first time, it all made sense. As I pray my Rosary I sometimes hear the hymn in my head … and surely she guides me homeward.
Virgin most pure, Star of the sea,
Pray for the sinner, pray for me.