Monday, May 5, 2014

Did Enoch and Elijah Receive the Grace of Bodily Assumption?

A former Catechism Revisited Program participant asked me the following question:

In the Bible, both Enoch (Gen 5:21) and Elijah (2 Kgs 2:11) appear to have been taken up in bodily form by God. Were they also assumed into heaven like Mary?

My answer is as follows:

In the Bible, it appears that three OT figures have been assumed into heaven in bodily form:

ENOCH - Related scriptural references: Gen 5:21; Sir 44:16, 49:14; Heb 11:5
ELIJAH - Related scriptural references: 2 Kgs 2:11; 1 Mac 2:58
MOSES - According to Deut 34:6, nobody knows the whereabouts of his buried body. Jude 9 depicts a mysterious rivalry between Satan and the Archangel Michelangelo, battling for Moses' body.

What added to the possibility of the bodily assumption of Elijah and Moses is their bodily appearance in Jesus' Transfiguration in Mt. 17:3.

Some people dispute the possibility of bodily assumption of these OT figures on the ground that they couldn't possibly have been received into heaven when heaven, according to Church teaching, was not opened up until the completion of Jesus' economy of salvation. According to Catholic Answer, this can only be explained as "a special grace" that God accorded these OT individuals.

You are quite correct in saying that the assumptions of Enoch, Elijah, and Moses - if true, proven, and scripturally established - means that the Assumption of Mary cannot be seen as a mere imagination of the Catholic mind. In fact, the belief in Mary's Assumption dates back to the apostolic age, and the celebration of the Feast of Assumption had been a common practice as far back as the 4th century. Incidentally Martin Luther made the observance of this feast mandatory on his liturgical calendar.

Scripturally speaking, references to Mary's Assumption are understandably lacking due to the fact that the event did not occur until most of the NT books had been written. But the cosmic "woman" in Rev 12, who "gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod"; who was clothed with glory and appeared in bodily form in heaven; does speak volume about this doctrine.

It is only fitting that the Bible begins with a "woman" who in her virginity put on leaves of shame, and ends with a "woman" who in her virginity put on the garment of glory (cf. St. Ephrem of Syria, Mathews and Amar, op.cit., 278-279).

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