What came first? The doctrine? Or the practice? In my opinion, Protestants function under the premise that: a. all doctrine is first, written down. b. the Church issues the doctrine in some sort of edict. c. the Catholic faithful now begin to follow this doctrine.
Although that is how God promulgated the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament. That is probably the only occasion when a doctrine was first written and then issued. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ did not write anything down. He commanded that His Teachings be passed down by the Church, but did not, as far as we know, restrict the teaching to any particular methodology. He neither required that His Teachings be written down, nor did He forbid it.
Specifically, in the case of the Assumption of Mary, this did not occur until well after Jesus Himself ascended into heaven. Jesus did not say, "in the future, my Mom will be assumed into heaven and you will issue a doctrine to this effect." No.
What actually happened? We have historical evidence that by the 3rd century, which means in the years from 200-299 AD, the Catholic faithful were making pilgimages to an empty tomb. Not Jesus' empty tomb. But Mary's empty tomb and celebrating there, the "Dormition" (Falling asleep/Death) of Mary. What came first, the practice or the evidence of the practice? Related to that which I mentioned above, we also find that when the Church shows evidence of the faithful celebrating a certain doctrine, many people, especially Protestants will say, "That is when they began to celebrate the doctrine."
That is false reasoning. We find that the Assumption of Mary was a well established practice by the 3rd century. Our Lady passed away in the late first century. Around that time that Jerusalem was destroyed (75 AD) and the Apostles were dispersed throughout the world. Our Lady remained with St. John and it was he who first wrote about the Assumption of Mary in Revelation 12.
Between that time and the 3rd century, we find evidence of an established practice. Faithful throughout Christendom make regular pilgrimages to the empty tomb of Mary. And they begin to write about the Assumption of Mary in apocryphal works
Sola Scriptura vs Theological or Biblical principles.
Sola Scriptura is the doctrine that all Christian doctrines must be explicitly in Scripture. Although Protestants in this day and age have learned that Sola Scriptura is not in explicitly taught in Scripture and will therefore deny this definition for Sola Scriptura. Nonetheless, they will reject any Catholic doctrine which is not explicitly in Scripture on the grounds that it isn't explicitly in Scripture. For example, if I say, 1 Cor 3:15 is the basis for the doctrine of Purgatory. The typical Protestant response will be, "where does that say Purgatory?"
By the same token, they will provide 2 Tim 3:16 as the basis for Sola Scriptura and cry foul when we ask, "Where does that say, Sola Scriptura?"
Theological or Biblical principles are guidelines by which we live our lives and understand the Word of God in Scripture and Tradition. They are consistent with the Word of God in Scripture and Tradition, but may not necessarily be there explicitly.
For instance, there is a Biblical principle that good people go to heaven. Therefore I believe that Adam, Eve and Abel are in heaven. They seemed like good people who sinned but repented and therefore I believe they went to heaven. The Bible doesn't say these people are in heaven, does it?
On the other hand, the Bible teaches that bad people who don't repent of their evil ways go to hell. Cain didn't seem to repent. I would say he's in hell. The Bible doesn't explicitly say that Cain is in hell, does it?
Do you see what I mean?
Now, the Bible says that Enoch was translated to heaven. Does the Bible say why?
Compare Enoch's description to the other Patriarchs:
Genesis 5:22And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:....19And Jared lived after he begat Enoch eight hundred years,
Enoch walked with God after he begat his first child. All the other Patriarchs simply lived after they begat their first child. Obviously, Enoch was far and away more beloved of God than his contemporaries.
So, then, there seems to be a Biblical principle that extraordinarily good people are taken to heaven body and soul, Enoch and Elijah are prime examples. Therefore, I believe that Mary is in heaven body and soul because she is an extraordinary person. I believe this is consistent with Scripture.
Now, let me ask you this, does anyone NOT believe that Mary is in heaven? I have yet to meet a Bible Christian who doesn't. Funny thing though, I can't find any explicit statements in Scripture saying that Mary is in heaven. Can you? If you can, please show me.
This is very interesting because, every Protestant, every Bible Christian that I've ever asked has said they definitely believe that Mary is in heaven. But how can that be if it doesn't say so in Scripture? Simple, because it is consistent with Scripture.
The error of discovering the doctrine in Scripture.
It is unfortunate that sometimes, Catholics also fall into this error.
The Catholic Church teaches: 113 2. Read the Scripture within "the living Tradition of the whole Church". According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church's heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God's Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture (". . . according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church"81).
What this means is that, the Catholic Church interprets the Scriptures according to "presuppositions." It is the only Church which can legitimately do so because Christ did not write Scripture. He established Traditions and it is from these Traditions that the New Testament was written.
83 The Tradition here in question comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus' teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit. The first generation of Christians did not yet have a written New Testament, and the New Testament itself demonstrates the process of living Tradition. Tradition is to be distinguished from the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical or devotional traditions, born in the local churches over time. These are the particular forms, adapted to different places and times, in which the great Tradition is expressed. In the light of Tradition, these traditions can be retained, modified or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church's Magisterium.
But Protestants do not have the proper presuppositions. They have those which were established by the Reformers in the 16th century. Most of them have actually rejected those as well. They don't have those established by Christ and the Apostles. Therefore, when they read the Scriptures, they impose upon them their own views and make them say things which were never intended.
So, let's talk about the Assumption
The Bible seems explicit to me concerning the assumption of Enoch. The Bible also seems explicit in explaining why Enoch was assumed into heaven:
Hebrews 11:5 ....for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. Now it seems to me that this sort of gives us a guideline or Biblical principle. Apparently, God will translate to Himself those who please Him. We know that we all await our translation to heaven body and soul, eventually, in the Resurrection. But apparently, God will translate some to Himself who please Him extraordinarily. Such as, Elijah and Moses ( 4 Kings 2:11; Jude 1:9).
Now, if He did this in the past, why would God not do it in the future. After all, God is absolute and does not change. And isn't Scripture clear that Mary pleased God:
Luke 1:28 And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women....42 And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.
Additional texts which support the translation of Mary to heaven body and soul are these:
Rev 11:19 And the temple of God was opened in heaven: and the ark of his testament was seen in his temple, and there were lightnings, and voices, and an earthquake, and great hail. Rev 12:1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars:
John 17:24 Father, I will that where I am, they also whom thou hast given me may be with me; that they may see my glory which thou hast given me, because thou hast loved me before the creation of the world. Psalms 132:8 Arise, O Lord, into thy resting place: thou and the ark, which thou hast sanctified.
I guess your next question is "what does the ark have to do with Mary?" I'll save that answer for a future article.