There is a huge difference in the Church's teaching about Jesus' Ascension and Mary's Assumption. The biggest difference is that Jesus raised himself up. The Assumption of Mary was carried out by Jesus. Jesus lifted Mary up. Jesus was her personal Saviour. The doctrine of Mary's Assumption states that Mary:
"...having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory."
- Pope Pius XII, 1950
This clearly shows that Mary did not raise herself up. Yes, she needed a Saviour.
The founder of the reform, Martin Luther said:
"There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in Heaven. How it happened we do not know."
- Martin Luther's Works, vol. 10, pg. 268
Some Evangelicals say, "the Pope declared this dogma in 1950, it's too late, you can't just make stuff up as you go along!" In the section on Mary and the early Church there are quotes of early Church fathers. This belief of Catholics dates back to at least the 6th century. There were also feasts in memory of Mary in Antioch dating back to 380 A.D.
In 451, when the bishops gathered at Constantinople, Emperor Marcian asked the Patriarch of Jerusalem to bring the relics (bones) of Mary to Constantinople, from Jerusalem. The patriarch explained that there were no relics of Mary:
"Mary had died in the presence of the apostles; but her tomb, when opened later...was found empty...the apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven."
John of Damascene, PG (96:1)(A.D. 747-751)
Catholics have no trouble believing Mary is in Heaven and that her Son Jesus brought her there. They think Jesus is quite capable of bringing Mary into Heaven. The doctrine of the Assumption stands on the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. If Mary was preserved from sin, at the instance of her conception, it follows that she would be preserved from the effects of sin, which is the deterioration of the body after death or at the instance of her death. Catholics believe it is Jesus who did this for her.
This is the inside of the Church of the Assumption (Jerusalem) where tradition says Mary was assumed into heaven
On the cross, Jesus says to the poor thief, "This day you will be with me in Paradise!"(Lk. 23:43). Catholics feel that if Jesus would take the thief to Paradise he would also take his beloved faithful mother.
"We must remember especially that, since the second century, the Virgin Mary has been designated by the holy Fathers as the new Eve, who, although subject to the new Adam, is most intimately associated with him in that struggle against the infernal foe which, as foretold in the protoevangelium, would finally result in that most complete victory over the sin and death which are always mentioned together in the writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles. Consequently, just as the glorious resurrection of Christ was an essential part and the final sign of this victory, so that struggle which was common to the Blessed Virgin and her divine Son should be brought to a close by the glorification of her virginal body, for the same Apostle says: "When this mortal thing hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory."
- Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, 1950
Many people wish that this thing about Mary would go away and that the Church would be in greater unity with other Christians if it would.
It appears that most of the closed feelings against Mary have crept into the reform movement in the last 100 years. Many great Protestants have had strong feelings for Mary including C.S. Lewis. Most early reformers had strong positive feelings for Mary including Calvin, Heinrich Bullinger, and John Wesley. Even Martin Luther spoke to her in the first person saying:
No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and sanctity.
(Sermon, Feast of the Visitation, 1537)
We are not apologists. Apart from all this doctrine and stuff, the reason we believe that Mary is in heaven helping us is because each of us had an experience with Mary that we cannot refute (Hugh's testimony here, Kirsten's testimony here). No one can tell us she is dead. We don't worship her. She is a friend who prays for us and has shown us very cool things about her Son, Jesus. We believe we are better Christians today because of Mary.
If you are afraid to talk to Mary, we invite you to:
Pray to Jesus about Mary.
Any Evangelical would say it is perfectly safe to pray to Jesus about anything. Ask Jesus what's up with Mary. Give him time to respond. We pray you have the same experience that has led to our powerful convictions about the validity of Mary as a helper for the helpless, and a great prayer warrior.
Sources: Martin Beckman
J. Roy MacIntyre, "My Soul Magnifies the Lord"
John Pacheco's refutation of James White's, "Mary: Another Redeemer?"
Other Topics on Mary
Mary in Scripture
Mary, mediatrix, co-redemptix
Is Mary a pagan goddess?
Martin Luther's quotes about Mary
Mary in the early Church and today
Do Catholics pray to Mary?
Hugh's experience with Mary
Did Mary have a bunch of kids?
Lord Jesus, let Your prayer of unity for Christians
become a reality, in Your way.
We have absolute confidence
that you can bring your people together,
we give you absolute permission to move.