The Assumption of the Blessed Mother is one of those mysteries that boggles the mind of many non-Catholics and to tell you the truth sometimes even Catholics can’t wrap their mind around it. So why did Pope Pius XII make this a dogma of the Church ? Her assumption is simply dependent upon one’s understanding of whom the Blessed Mother is. First of all, scriptures tell she was assumed due to the fact that she’s the New Ark of the Covenant. Second, there were Christians in the 1st century who understood this quite well.
Why is she the New Ark of the Covenant ? We have to first understand the the significance of the original Ark of the Covenant first. In the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was the dwelling place of God on Earth. The Ark of the Covenant also contained the Ten Commandments. “You shall put into the ark the testimony which I shall give you” (Exodus 25:16). The ark was made of incorruptible wood called acacia wood. Acacia wood would was regarded not only holy in ancient Egypt but also extremely durable. The ark was covered in pure gold. The Hebrew word for “pure” used to describe the gold used is tahor meaning clean from impurities. It contained the manna from God which was placed in a golden urn and staff of Aaron which budded. Uzzah as seen in 2 Samuel 2-7 was actually killed because he mishandled it. It was actually supposed to be carried on poles and instead it was carried on the back of oxen. So the ark was not just a passive piece of liturgical furniture. It was exceptionally holy.
The first Christians understood the Blessed Mother to be the New Ark of the Covenant if you look first at Saint Luke’s gospel. Saint Luke in chapter one discusses a narrative of the Blessed Mother traveling to see her cousin Elizabeth and it mirrors the narrative in 2 Samuel of the ark being brought into Jerusalem. Let’s take a look a few passages:
David arose and went to the hill country of Judah to bring up “the ark of God” (2 Samuel 6:2) vs. Mary arose and went into the hill country of Judah to visit Elizabeth (Luke 1:39)
David states his unworthiness to receive the Ark: “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” (2 Samuel 6:9) vs. Elizabeth states her unworthiness to receive Mary by exclaiming: “And why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43)
David leaped before the Ark as it was brought in “with shouting” (2 Samuel 6:15-16) vs. John the Baptist leaped in Elizabeth’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice and Elizabeth cried “with a loud shout” (Luke 1:41-42)
The Ark remained in the hill country, in the house of Obed-Edom, “three months” (2 Samuel 6:11) vs. Mary remained in the hill country, in Elizabeth’s house, “three months” (Luke 1:56)
So you see the Ark of the Covenant entering into Jerusalem ? Does it stand to reason that the New Ark of the Covenant would be brought into the New Jerusalem (The heavenly Jerusalem) ? If the Ark of the Covenant carried manna, wouldn’t the New Ark of the Covenant carry the new manna, our Lord Jesus Christ who dwelt in the Blessed Mother’s womb ? Did Our Lord not ascend into the heavenly Jerusalem ? Let’s take a look at Saint John’s Revelation 11:19-12:1: “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of the covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, loud noises, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars”. Since it’s easy to forget that when the letter was written, there were no chapters and verses and so it’s important to read the verses in their complete context and not break them up as separate ideas. I wrote a book review some time back for Dr. Brant Pitre’s book Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary. That book does an excellent job going into greater depth of the Blessed Mother’s role in salvation history.