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The Blessed Virgin Mary: Sinless by grace, saved by grace, assumed by grace

On the Readings for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15, 2022.

Top half of "Assumption of the Virgin" (1517) by Rosso Fiorentino []

• Rev 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab
• Psa 45:10, 11, 12, 16
• 1 Cor 15:20-27
• Lk 1:39-56

On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the doctrine that God the Father chose and prepared a Mother for his only-begotten Son who was “ever absolutely free of all stain of sin, all fair and perfect” and who “would possess that fullness of holy innocence and sanctity than which, under God, one cannot even imagine anything greater…”

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII declared as dogma the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. His Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus noted the connection between the two Marian dogmas, stating that the two “are most closely bound to one another.” It said that God does not usually “grant to the just the full effect of the victory over death until the end of time has come,” but did so with the Assumption, “and as a result she was not subject to the law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, and she did not have to wait until the end of time for the redemption of her body.” What does this mean? That just as Mary was kept from original sin by God’s grace, she was also kept from the decay of the grave by that same grace.

Pius XII stated that the image of the woman clothed with the sun, which is part of today’s first reading from the Book of Revelation, has long been understood by the “scholastic Doctors” as signifying “the Assumption of the Virgin Mother of God”. The celebration of the Feast of the Assumption can be traced back to at least the seventh century in both the East and the West. Liturgical developments and theological insights flourished from the seventh to ninth centuries.

Among those insights was the recognition, as Pius XII observed, that Mary—sinless and full of grace, the divine life of God—was uniquely preserved from physical corruption and decay. Her body, in the words of Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., “would not return to dust but would be resuscitated in an anticipated resurrection.” He makes the careful and important distinction between the Ascension of Christ, which occurred by Jesus’ own power, and the Assumption of Mary, who “was lifted up by God to the degree of glory for which she had been predestined.”

While many Protestants object to the dogma of the Assumption (and the Immaculate Conception) because they see it as somehow introducing a competition of sorts between Jesus and his Mother, the exact opposite is the case. Jesus’ love for Mary, her perfect love for Him, and her faithful obedience to the Father lead to a logical and incredible conclusion: “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection, and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 966).

Mary, the Mother of God, is also Mother of the Church. She gave physical birth to the unique Son of God who is fully divine and fully human; she now gives spiritual birth to the sons and daughters of God who, filled with the divine life of her Son, are made fully human, really alive, truly divinized (see CCC, 963-970; 1988). Pius XII also wrote of the Virgin Mary as being the new Eve who, “although subject to the new Adam, is most intimately associated with him in that struggle against the infernal foe which … would finally result in that most complete victory over the sin and death…”

Mary’s cooperation with the saving work of her Son is perfect and whole, and the Assumption is a stamp of approval on her life of humble faith and quiet discipleship. The old Eve failed the test in the Garden, and so returned to dust. But the new Eve willingly accepted the Word of the Lord, embraced the will of the Father, and reciprocated the love of the Holy Spirit. She perfectly shared in the conception, life, and death of her Son, and so also perfectly shared in his Resurrection.

(This “Opening the Word” column originally appeared in the August 15, 2010, issue of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)

Bottom half of “Assumption of the Virgin” (1517) by Rosso Fiorentino []

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About Carl E. Olson 1207 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.


  1. Thanks for a good theological lesson on the relation of the assumption with the Immaculate Conception. And with that Mary’s perfect cooperation with Christ’s grace. With that truth is freedom, the liberum arbitrium of free choice in pursuit of God’s will. Grace doesn’t remove that freedom, as it was similar to Christ’s human nature and the real suffering that included distress, doubt [My God my God why have you forsaken me?]. Sanctity and perfection for Man consists in these anomalies to perfection. Mary’s state was unique, closely related to her son’s human nature. Did Mary suffer alongside our Lord his passion? It’s widely acknowledged for our Mater Dolorosa. In relation may we compare Mary’s state on Earth to her enthronement in Heaven? Again, her cooperation on earth had merit precisely because it was not that of a heavenly enthroned mother with divinely imparted knowledge, as if she were already Seat of Wisdom who knew all the outcomes. We find evidence in her grief when Jesus remains in Jerusalem without her knowledge, when she seems rebuffed when Jesus responds to her request, Who are my mother and my brothers? And the widely acknowledged pain she suffered when at the Cross, Woman! There is your son. Cana and the first miracle portending the Holy Eucharist. Her refusal to accept an apparent no and command [she held a significant position at this wedding banquet] the waiters to return to Jesus and follow his instructions is truly a mysterious event. A sign of her motherly authority, Christ’s obedience to her, aware from experience he was capable of miracles. Was it prescient knowledge of the Passion, the Precious Blood? It appears more the saga of the most noble suffering mother doing what she knows best during her mist enshrouded journey in participation with Jesus and the salvation of Man.

    • ” Was it prescient knowledge of the Passion, the Precious Blood?”…
      We can surely think so. After 18 years since the grief of losing him in Jerusalem, was Mary now signaling Christ that, yes, she was now fully ready to go with Him for what was to come?

      Grace touches and infuses nature, without annihilating any of it. Mary consents, fully. Such a total bond between Mary and Christ (as now between Christ and His Church), such that both totally understood each other. He waited until she repeated “fiat” a second time. Then, to the wine stewards, we are also invited, “[you too], do whatever He tells you.”

      Whatever this is, it isn’t the colorless and collarless (Batzing) marionettes of the German “synodal way” new-church.

  2. As already said, thank you for another good theological lesson. One thing that I find disconcerting is that few Catholic Churches are offering more than 1 Mass today. I realize than since this is falling on a Monday it is not a Holy Day of Obligation, the mass requirement is not in place. Nevertheless, what is going on, pastors should still have additional Masses, ie evening masses for today, to allow for more attendance at Mass today. We need to have the time to honor Our Blessed Mother, Jesus’ Mother, by going to Mass in her honor.

  3. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

    Romans 1:22,23.

  4. Difficult teachings can mould us in to better servants. If we believe Holy Scripture, we honour the one who laid down His life to redeem us from the curse of sin. Examining the following verses will lead us on the Lords path. Is that not best for eternal soul?

    Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

    Luke 1:38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

    Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

    Luke 1:35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.

    Matthew 1:25 But knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

    1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

    Galatians 1:19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother.

    Mark 6:3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offence at him.

    Let us hold the mother of Jesus in high regard and yet, let Holy Scripture be our guide, not trying to draw attention away from Jesus Christ.

    • Nothing in holding the Mother of Jesus in high regard draws a Catholic’s attention away from Jesus Christ. You should try to venerate her the way Catholics do Brian, you will find your attention and love for Jesus will grow exponentially.

      • Hello Duane,

        God’s word put matters in proper perspective. You will want to add your biblical outlook on this important topic!

        Thank you and looking forward to your response.

        God bless you,


        Luke 1:48 For he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

        Luke 8:21 But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

        • Brian,

          When the angel appeared to Mary to let her know that she will become the mother of God, he addressed her as “Full of Grace”.

          If grace is what saves us, then even before she conceived the Lord she was already full of it, full of the grace needed to be saved.

          • Dear Cory:

            It is good when brothers in Christ strive together. It might be argued (that through faith we are full of grace). Are we on the level of the Virgin Mary, no indeed and yet God loves us and gives the measure of grace that is needed.

            Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

            2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

            Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

            Romans 3:24 And are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

            Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

            Titus 3:7 So that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

            Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

            Blessings in Christ,


        • Brian,

          You quote: Luke 1:48 For he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

          Elizabeth also said that she is blessed of all women.
          My question to you: Do you follow the Bible and call her blessed?

          Luke 8:21 But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

          And who heard the word of God and kept it more perfectly than Mary? Upon hearing the angel’s words she said “Be it done to me according to thy word”. She could have been stoned to death for being pregnant without a husband. That was a real possibility and yet she said: Be it done to me according to your word.

      • Thank you Cory for suggesting Brant Pitre’s view on the brothers of Jesus. His comments deserve a counterpoint and I am willing to address this with you. Let us take one point at a time, speak to it it and move to the next point.

        Bring your first proposition. Alas, I am not a biblical scholar, nor a preacher, bur a layman who loves the Lord Jesus and delights in His word. All the same, we should have a fruitful discussion.

        Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

        2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

        Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.

        Blessings of peace and discernment,

        Brian Young

        • Hi Brian,

          You say a lot here that does not in any way address the link to Dr Pitre’s video.

          In my discussions with Protestants of one denomination or another (I assume you are one) I have found that without exception, when the topic gets hard they evade it and move on to another point or simply quote Bible verses that are not germane to the subject and unfortunately this is what your responses are like.

          You assume that by dumping a few Bible verses you have made your point but you haven’t. You have to give an exegesis.

          To you response on AUGUST 16, 2022 AT 5:08 PM, it is the same thing.

          My point about about the address by the angel is that “Full of Grace” was addressed to Mary even before she conceived the Lord. So if the Lord’s death is the means by which we are saved by grace then clearly that grace was already given to Mary even before that death happened. What ever grace you received you received after you were born and after Christ’s atoning death. But Mary received hers even before the event of that atoning death.

          • Dear Cory:

            Thank you for your thoughts. Rather than “evading” the proposition, I fully invite you to take a point that rings true and present it! It would be a pleasure to dialogue with you. As we attempt to honour God, we seek His light and inspiration to aid our fellow man.

            Looking forward to reading your first point in scripture and interacting with you.

            In Christ’s name,

            Brian Y

  5. And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”. Sinless people do not need a savior.
    Mary, the creature, did exactly as God, the Creator, told her to do. She obeyed God as she was destined to do before the foundation of the universe….nothing more, nothing less. It is sinful man that is trying to exalt a fellow servant with god-like worship or veneration.

    • You sound like a broken record of not correlated scripture pieces. The Blessed Virgin Mary, a human creature, was redeemed and freed from any stain of sin at her conception by the grace of the Son of God our Savior who is the I AM – out of time – but eternal. The Son of God willed for Himself an immaculate womb and an all holy mother, and He wants her honored as such. The Church’s doctrines, Immaculate Conception, Mother of God, and her Assumption into heaven, soul and body, and crowned Queen of heaven is the faith of the Catholic Apostolic Church. Alas, you do not seem to be catholic. I recommend praying the holy rosary, the Mother of God will lead you to Jesus and His Truth.

    • Brian,

      Mary is both: saved by God and also sinless.

      You can look at it this way. We were all saved after we have fallen into the pit. Mary was saved from falling into the pit. Her sinlessness is not of her own making, it was a singular grace from God.

      Many explain this sinless state as not being necessary but more as being fitting to the Son that she would bear.

      But I think it is necessary. In Christ and Mary, God was starting anew. Christ is the new Adam, Mary the new Eve. As such they both have to be sinless just as Adam and Eve were – at the beginning of the first creation.

  6. Hello Brian,

    Neither of those passages in any way criticizes those who venerate members of the Church Triumphant who heard the Word of God and followed that Word. Since neither of the passages address anything to do with veneration of the Saints, again it is obvious that your interpretation of Scripture is highly flawed.

    In the Peace of Christ


    • Dear Duane:

      Thank you for your comment. Though you have spoken in general, would you take a verse and explain where you feel it is out of place?

      Our aim is to glorify God and reveal His truth so that we are assured in His unwavering promises to those who are in Christ.

      Blessings of godly wisdom,


  7. I was thinking that often familiarity with the text can sometimes cause it to fly past us.

    As I listened to the Gospel I was struck quite forcefully by this line from the Magnificat : And his mercy is on those who fear him
    from generation to generation.

    Not cheap mercy. Mercy on those who fear Him.

  8. You can definitely see where bad theology can cruelly lead. Can you imagine if Mary was to give birth to Jesus today? We would have 2 of the shining stars of the Catholic faith–Biden and Pelosi—-give their hearty approval and encouragement to abort the Savior and not even reflect on their lifelong Catholic teaching. The best thing to abort is Catholic man-made traditions and trust in the Creator’s Word.

    • Brian, do you know that before there was a Bible, traditions came first? How did the Gospels come about? Did Jesus come with the New Testament? Did the Bible fall from the sky already bound and divided into verses? Read Luke Chapter 1.

      Do not disdain the Catholic man-made traditions because without those, there would have been no Creator’s Word to talk about that is the Bible. Did everyone know how to read and write from the beginning? Did everyone have pen and paper with which to write?*

      Who do you think compiled all the 72 books that is now considered the Bible? During Jesus’ time, only the Old Testament was in existence.

      And read this: 2 Thessalonians 2:15.

      Now don’t quote Mk 7:7-13 because it is totally a different context —when Jesus was talking about the more than 600 laws that the Jews were made to observe like cleaning the outside of the cup but inside is steaming vermin.

      For the sake of CHRiST and His Church!

      *Oh, and to add a little humor…there was a popular meme about Moses being the first to download from the cloud into two stone tablets. I forgot about that.

  9. Brian, you assume way too much about Biden and Pelosi’s Catholicism. The Lord clearly told us that until the end of time the wheat and the weeds will grow together in the Church and God will sort them out at the judgement.!

    You will never understand the Catholic Church if you rely on quoting Scripture out of context. I entered the Catholic Church from a Protestant background over 20 years ago, a gift of grace, Christ’s peace to you.

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