I realize that the painting above, that of Raphael, with Sixtus and Barbara, isn’t exactly precisely emphasizing the Assumption of the BVM into heaven, but I couldn’t resist putting up this picture, since I grew up with this painting hanging in our home in Minnesota. I used to stand in front of it in awe.
WDTPRS has a good overview of this 4th Glorious Mystery of the Rosary from a patristiblogger point of view. However…
I’d like to add some bits to that for the sake of understanding this mystery and for an even better relationship with our Orthodox brethren, who hold that our Blessed Mother did die a physical death.
I used to get upset with the Latin Rite knuckleheads who insisted that the Immaculate Conception had to die like everyone else, denying that she was, in fact, immaculately conceived and was, therefore, denying that she was free of the effects of original sin, including death. However, now I agree with such heretics about Mary dying, though for an entirely different reason.
I would now conjecture that it is precisely because she was conceived without original sin that she would surely have died in solidarity with her Son, making the intention not to remain alive, dying from her sundered heart, pierced right through with sorrow, as we read in the Gospel of Luke.
It was precisely because of her immaculate conception that she had such purity of vision, because of which, seeing truly the goodness of her Son, equally truly saw how evil we are in our sin, seeing this by looking upon her Son hanging upon the Cross in bleeding shreds of flesh, seeing all our evil from the first man to the last, and being able in this way to intercede for us perfectly as mediatrix of all graces, as co-redemptrix, a human who appropriately perfectly matches the gift of grace with the request for us.
In allowing herself to be in such solidarity with her Son, she was also allowing herself to die for us, to lay down her life for us.
However, I wasn’t there! But even if she was taken up in an instant to heaven in the twinkling of an eye, as Saint Paul puts it for those who are alive when Christ comes again, that twinkling demands a change in the body which, although perhaps like a flash of light – to use some image – is nevertheless a kind of death, a change allowing the body to take in the immediate vision of God, face to Face.