It is possible to speak of Mary's return at the end of time? Some painters of icons and other artists (such as Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel) represented the Blessed Virgin at the right hand of the eschatological Judge where she intercedes for sinners. Can this intuition have a basis in Catholic theology?
An analogy between the Ascension of Christ and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin
In my opinion this is the case, if we consider the dogma of the Assumption of Mary in the light of certain perspectives of biblical theology concerning the Ascension of Jesus. There is undeniably an analogy between the Ascension of Christ and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, to the point that it is reasonable to believe that a theological understanding of the first will shed light on the other. In doing this we are simply following a solidly established principle of Mariology according to which, within proportion of course, Mary's mission is closely associated to that of her Son.
Let us first look at the passage of Acts 1:6-12 relating the Ascension. Anyone who is familiar with the Old Testament, when reading or listening to that passage, will automatically think of another person who was taken up to heaven. That person was Elijah, whose assumption, in 2 Kings 2: 1-18, forms the backdrop of Acts. In the latter Jesus is presented as a new Elijah. We have to remember that the Jews at the time of Jesus believed that Elijah would return to earth to prepare the people of God for the last day. This expectation is expressed in Malachi 3: 23-24: "Lo, I will send you Elijah, the prophet, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and terrible day, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with doom."
The Second Coming of Mary, to prepare the return of her Son?
It is therefore highly significant that in the story of the Ascension in Acts 1: 10-11, two men dressed in white garments (angels) tell the Apostles who are looking at the sky: "This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven." (Acts 1 : 11). In other words, Jesus is taken up to heaven, whence he will return to prepare the people of God for the Day of the Lord. The implication of this understanding of the Ascension for the Assumption of the Virgin is clear: if Mary was taken up into heaven, it was to allow her to come back from heaven at the end of time.
When Mary comes back, what will she do? Let us remember that, according to Malachi, Elijah-the prototype of Jesus ascended to heaven and of Mary taken up to heaven-will return before the day of the Lord. To prepare the people for the coming of God and to deflect the divine curse, Elijah will reconcile fathers with their sons. We could infer that Mary's role will be to prepare God's people for the divine coming, and that her role will consist in reconciling men with God and with each other, so that they might truly belong to God's family. Seen in this perspective all the Marian apparitions seem to already anticipate this return of Mary at the end of time.
Bibliography: "Marie et la fin des temps," Bulletin de la Société Française d'Etudes Mariales, 1984-86. Justin Taylor, "Marie dans l'église naissante et à la fin des temps," in Forum novum (Centre d'études maristes, Via A. Poerio, 63, 00152 Roma, Italy), vol. 3, n. 4, September 1996.
Father Justin Taylor