August 15 is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in which Catholics believe that Mary was assumed into heaven, body and soul after her death.
This does not mean that Mary did not die, nor does it mean that Mary was all powerful and rose from the dead and ascended into heaven under her own power. Rather, Catholics believe that Jesus, out of love for his human mother, assumed her body and soul into heaven after her earthly life was over.
Catholics believe that Mary’s assumption is a foretaste of what all believers will undergo at the end of time. In other words, Mary’s assumption is a pre-view of our own bodily assumption when the world ends.
Nothing certain is known about Mary’s death. The earliest known literary reference to the Assumption is in the Greek work De Obitu S. Dominae. This work assigned the date of the Assumption to be between three and fifteen years after Christ’s final appearence to his disciples at the Ascension.
The first mention of the Assumption was by Epiphanius in 377 A.D. He stated that no one knows what actually happened to Mary. Since Epiphanius lived near Palestine, if there were a tradition in the Church that people generally believed he would have known it. But he clearly states that ‘her end no one knows.’
It is believed that one of two cities could be the place of her departure: Jerusalem or Ephesus. (Most claim Jerusalem is the spot where Mary’s tomb was believed to have been shown.
Around the year 451, the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria wished to possess the body of Mary. But the Bishop of Jerusalem, St. Juvenal, claimed that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles and later, when St. Thomas asked to have her tomb opened they found it empty. The Apostles thereby concluded that she was taken up to heaven both body and soul.
The assumption event does not appear in the Bible, but some claim that the a reference to the assumption does appear in Revelation 12:1: “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”
In 1950, Pope Pius XII defined the dogma of the Assumption for the Church.