Arise, O Lord, into Thy resting place: Thou and the Ark, which Thou hast sanctified (Ps. 131.8). “The Ark of the Covenant (Ex. 25.10-22), built of incorruptible wood and placed in the Lord’s temple… a type of the most pure body of the Virgin Mary, preserved and exempted from all the corruption of the tomb and raised up to such glory in heaven.” (Pope Pius XII, in “Munificentissimus Deus” [the Dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary], Nov. 1, 1950)
Death being the punishment of sin, it would seem that the Divine Mother – all holy, and exempt as she was from its slightest stain – should also have been exempt from death, and from encountering the misfortunes to which the children of Adam, infected by the poison of sin, are subject. But God was pleased that Mary should in all things resemble Our Lord; and as the Son died, it was becoming that the Mother should also die; because, moreover, He wished to give the just an example of the precious death prepared for them. He willed that even the most Blessed Virgin Mary should die, but by a sweet and happy death.
There are three things which render death bitter: attachment to the world, remorse for sins, and the uncertainty of salvation. The death of Mary was entirely free from these causes of bitterness, and was accompanied by three special graces, which rendered it precious and joyful. She died as She had lived, entirely detached from the things of the world; She died in the most perfect peace; She died in the certainty of eternal glory.
And in the first place, there can be no doubt that attachment to earthly things renders the death of the worldly bitter and miserable, as the Holy Ghost says: O death, how bitter is the remembrance of thee to man who hath peace in his possessions! (Ecclus. 41.1) But because the Saints die detached from the things of the world, their death is not bitter… Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord (Apoc. 14.13). They are those happy souls who pass into eternity already detached, and, so to say, dead to all affection for terrestrial things; and who, like St. Francis of Assisi, found in God alone all their happiness, and with him could say, “My God and my all.”
Saint John saw Mary represented in that Woman, clothed with the sun, who held the moon under Her feet. And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under Her feet (Apoc. 12.1). Interpreters explain the moon to signify the goods of this world, which, like Her, are uncertain and changeable. Mary never had these goods in Her heart, but always despised them and trampled them under Her feet; living in this world as a solitary turtle-dove in any earthly thing; so that of Her it was said: The voice of the turtle is hear in our land (Cant. 2.12). And elsewhere: Who is She that goeth up by the desert? (Cant. 3.6) Whence the Abbot Rupert says, “Thus did you go up by the desert; that is, having a solitary soul.” Mary, then, having lived always and in all things detached from the earth, and united to God alone, death was not bitter, but, on the contrary, very sweet and dear to her; since it united Her more closely to God in heaven, by an eternal bond.
Secondly, peace of mind renders the death of the just precious. Sins committed during life are the worms which so cruelly torment and gnaw the hearts of poor dying sinners, who, about to appear before the Divine tribunal, see themselves at that moment surrounded by their sins, which terrify them, and cry out, according to St. Bernard, “We are thy works; we will not abandon thee.” Mary certainly could not be tormented at death by any remorse of conscience, for She was always pure, and always free from the least shade of actual or original sin; so much so, that of Her it was said: Thou are all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee (Cant. 4.7).
In the third place, the certainty of eternal salvation renders death sweet. Death is called a passage; for by death we pass from a short to an eternal life. And as the dread of those is indeed great who die in doubt of their salvation, and who approach the solemn moment with well-grounded fear of passing into eternal death; thus, on the other hand, the joy of the Saints is indeed great at the close of life, hoping with some security to go and possess God [their supreme Good] in heaven… But what joy must the Divine Mother have felt in receiving the new of Her approaching death! She who had the fullest certainty of the possession of Divine grace, especially after the Angel Gabriel had assured Her that She was full of it, and that She already possessed God. Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee… thou hast found grace (Luk. 1.28,30).
Of Mary, it had already been asked in the Sacred Canticle of Canticles, Who is She that goeth up the desert, as a pillar of smoke, of aromatical spices, of myrrh, and frankincense, and all the powders of the perfumers? (3.6). Her entire mortification typified by the myrrh, her fervent prayers signified by the incense, and all her holy virtues, united to Her perfect love for God, kindled in Her a flame so great that Her beautiful soul, wholly devoted to and consumed by Divine love, arose continually to God as a pillar of smoke breathing forth on every side a most sweet odor… “A pillar of smoke, because burning interiorly as a holocaust with the flame of Divine love, She sent forth a most sweet odor.” As the loving Virgin lived, so did She die. As Divine love gave Her life, so did it cause her death; for the Doctors and holy Fathers of the Church generally say She died of no other infirmity than pure love; St. Ildephonsus says that Mary either ought not to die, or only die of love. – St. Alphonsus Liguori