Tag Archives: Assumption

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Dormition Solesmes AbbeyWe have the great Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary today! We honor the transitus of the Mother of God because what happened to her, is also the gift God wants to give to us. The commemoration of the death of the Blessed Virgin Mary is known as the Assumption because of the tradition that her body did not decay but that she was raised up, body and soul, into heaven. The Eastern Churches call today’s commemoration the Dormition, or falling asleep. The Assumption tradition was already present among right-believing/worshipping Christians in the sixth century. It was thought at the beginning of the 20th century that since that this doctrine so widespread and after consulting the views of the world’s bishops, Pope Pius XII formally and infallibly declared the doctrine of the Assumption to be part of the authentic and ancient dogma of the universal Church on 1 November 1950.

Saint Robert Bellarmino reflects: “And who, I ask, could believe that the ark of holiness, the dwelling place of the Word of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit, could be reduced to ruin? My soul is filled with horror at the thought that this virginal flesh which had begotten God, had brought him into the world, had nourished and carried him, could have been turned into ashes or given over to be the food of worms.”

I think Father David Petras gives an important sum of the feast in this way: This is the mystery the ends of the earth celebrate today, for it has transformed the meaning of human life, and “through he holy Dormition, the world is given new life.”

Mary’s transitus to heaven

AssumptionThe perfect union of the Blessed Virgin Mary with God
Mid-August finds a good many of the Eastern and Western churches commemorating the move of Mary to heaven. In the East the feast is called the Dormition (koímesis); in the West it is called the Assumption (assumptio). This is a favorite feast for me.

St. Germanus of Constantinople preached: “You, O Mother, are close to all and protect all, and though our eyes cannot see you, we know, O Most Holy One, that you dwell among us and make yourself present in the most varied ways… Your virginal body is entirely holy, entirely chaste, entirely God’s dwelling place so for this reason it is absolutely incorruptible. It is unchangeable since what was human in it has been taken up in incorruptibility, remaining alive and absolutely glorious, undamaged, and sharing in perfect life. Indeed, it was impossible that the one who had become the vase of God and the living temple of the most holy divinity of the Only Begotten One be enclosed in a tomb of the dead. Rather, we certainly believe you continue to walk with us.”

The observance of the feast dates back to the first millennium and defined in the 20th century. Mary is a figure of the heavenly Jerusalem!

We know from liturgical historical scholarship that Several Armenian lectionaries found in Jerusalem witness to a celebration of Mary as Theotókos on August 15; the documents tell us this feast arose in the fifth century, probably after the Council of Ephesus in 431. The Eastern feast was imposed on the entire Byzantine Empire by the Emperor Mauritius at the end of the sixth century. It spread to the West and since the eighth century it has been known as the “assumption” of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In comparison, the Coptic Church liturgically commemorates the Virgin’s death and assumption on two different days. You will recall that the Catholic official teaching –definitely defined– happened not in the early centuries of Church history, but on November 1, 1950. Pope Pius XII taught that according to the tradition Mary was raised body and soul to the glory of heaven was proclaimed a dogma.

The 4 canonical Gospels do not speak of Mary’s later years. But it’s the apocryphal Gospels which speak  of Mary dying with the apostles gathered around her, and of her later appearing to them as they celebrate the Eucharistic sacrifice. What do we have about Mary’s ultimate existence on earth? The Church uses the apocryphal Gospels together with the fact that no certain relic of Mary’s body exists thus giving the Church room to contemplate the last moments of Mary’s life on earth in the light of Christ’s victory over death. Hence, we bless flowers and herbs on this feast (indicating no mortal remains was left in the tomb carved for Mary) and we teach that what was gifted to Mary is gifted by the Savior to us who believe in Him.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Assumuption Bartolomeo della GattaThe summer feast of Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary is known also as Marymass. The feast is about the fulfillment of the promise God made to us: to live fully and wholly with Him in heaven, to be united with Him body and soul. Neither sin nor death would grasp her being.

So, we believe that Mary, the Mother of the Incarnate Word, Jesus, did not suffer the indignity of the decomposition of the human body. In defining the dogma of the Assumption in 1950, Pope Pius XII left as an open question as to whether or not Mary died. The Greek Church calls this feast the Falling Asleep –the Dormition of Mary– pointing to the notion that Mary died and yet at that very moment she was called by her Son to the fullness of Life Eternal without delay and decay. Here is reflection by Saint John Damascene:

“It was fitting that she who had preserved her virginity inviolate in childbirth should also have her body kept free from all corruption after death. It was fitting that she who had carried the Creator as a child on her breast should dwell in the tabernacles of God. It was fitting that the bride espoused by the Father should make her home in the bridal chambers of heaven. It was fitting that she, who had gazed on her crucified Son and been pierced in the heart by the sword of sorrow which she had escaped in giving him birth, should contemplate him seated with the Father. It was fitting that the Mother of God should share the possessions of her Son, and be venerated by every creature as the Mother and handmaid of God.”

May we enter into deeper communion with the Holy Trinity so that we, like the great Mother of God, live body and soul at the end of time. Our Lady of the Assumption, pray for us.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Inspired from on high by God’s Spirit,
the apostles convened from all over the world,
in honor of you, O Mother of light!

And all heaven’s powers stood by the Master,
filled with awe and love,
as they prepared to welcome you,
in whom the Word of God had dwelt.

With joyful voices they sang forth their hymns of praise:
Today, all creation rejoices,
for the Queen of all,
the very handmaid of the Lord, is nigh!

Open wide, all your portals on high:
Make way for the Mother of light to enter in,
for through her all the world received salvation,
from this Maid who exceeds all praise,
for her greatness is beyond all understanding.

So the, O fairest Lady,
we, too, celebrate your holy Dormition.
Now that you dwell in everlasting glory with your divine Son,
we give you thanks on this glorious day and we bless you,
for you never cease praying for us!

The above text from Vespers sung by Byzantine Church which celebrates a vigil of the Dormition, as they call the feast. They use the term for the vigil as the “foretaste” of the Dormition of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. Hymn texts are very great communicators of what the Church believes to be beautiful, good and true. Like music, sacred art has an interesting way to move a believer to know a truth. In the image I placed with the text was painted by the Dominican Fra Angelico (Blessed John of Fiesole). You’ll notice the dormition (the falling asleep) of Mary and her Assumption, an act seemingly happening at the same moment. From a dogmatic point of view, the Catholic Church never definitively taught whether Mary experienced death, or not. Pope Pius XII left it an open question. Perhaps it is a both/and point.

Today is a day to Bless Herbs. This is the blessing used by the Byzantines. More info: the Blessing of Herbs AND another Blessing.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary


OL of Assumption with angels.jpg“those He justified, He also glorified” (Rom
8:30)


Almighty ever-living God, who assumed the Immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of your Son, body and soul into heavenly glory, grant we pray, that always attentive to the things that are above, we may merit to be sharers of her glory.

What was given to Mary, is offered to us: to share in the glory of the Most Holy Trinity. Unlike the Gaga song of “being on the edge of glory,” we Christians are offered the possibility of being in the center of glory. But do we believe it?

Eastern and Western Christians observe on the same day the glorious move
of Mary from this world to the next. The Eastern Christians call today’s feast
the “Dormition,” the falling asleep of the Theotokos and the assumption to
heaven. In the West, we refer to this feast as the Assumption. That Mary,
without decay of the human, was called to heaven body and soul, by God.

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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