The Glorious Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven

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To day we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven. I will get into the background, and various theological significances, as well as a bit of what the Early Church Fathers had to say regarding the Assumption. Although only fully declared a solemn Dogma in 1950, by His Holiness Pope Pius XII, it is by no means a novelty. In the other hand is it something that has been part of the Apostolic Tradition of the Catholic Church.

Although the Bible does not literally state the word Assumtion, it is something that has biblical roots, and thus is indirectly revealed by scripture. The Assumption of Mary into heaven is something that the Early Church Fathers took for granted.

Background

During his pontificate, His Holiness Pope Pius XII strived for declaring the Assumption of our Blessed Mother, body and soul into heaven, a dogma. He first published in 1946 a document to all the Catholic Bishops  called Deiparae Virginis Mariae. It was meant to be a formal survey of what the Bishops of the Catholic Church had to say regarding the idea of solemnly defining and making the Assumption a dogma.

Later in November 1, 1950, it is that His Holiness Pope Pius XII passed the Apostolic Constitution defining “ex cathedra” (from the chair of Peter) the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin)

1Yet, according to the general rule, God does not will to grant to the just the full effect of the victory over death until the end of time has come. And so it is that the bodies of even the just are corrupted after death, and only on the last day will they be joined, each to its own glorious soul.

Now God has willed that the Blessed Virgin Mary should be exempted from this general rule. She, by an entirely unique privilege, completely overcame sin by her Immaculate Conception, and as a result she was not subject to the law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, and she did not have to wait until the end of time for the redemption of her body.

By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. – Munificentissimus Deus

The Celebration of the Feast of the Assumption

2 Although we don’t know when and how the Assumption first came to be celebrated, Two cities claim to be the place of her departure: Jerusalem and Ephesus. Common consent favours Jerusalem, where her tomb is shown  3Its origin is lost in those days when Jerusalem was restored as a sacred city, at the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (c. 285-337). By then it had been a pagan city for two centuries, ever since Emperor Hadrian (76-138) had leveled it around the year 135 and rebuilt it as Aelia Capitolina in honor of Jupiter

In the Eastern Catholic tradition and thus that of the Orthodox as well, they hold on to the theological idea of the dormition ( The falling asleep)

The “Tomb of Mary” was where she was buried. In the seventh century, it began to be celebrated in Rome under the title of the “Falling Asleep” Then through some development 5 the name got changed to the “Assumption of Mary”, since there was more to the feast that her dying. It also proclaimed that she had been taken up, body, and soul into heaven.

Since the times of the Apostles themselves, their was a stern and strong belief that Mary the Mother of God (Theotokos), was taken body and soul into Heaven. This is most true as 6 That belief was ancient, dating back to the apostles themselves. What was clear from the beginning was that there were no relics of Mary to be venerated, and that an empty tomb stood on the edge of Jerusalem near the site of her death. That location also soon became a place of pilgrimage. (Today, the Benedictine Abbey of the Dormition of Mary stands on the spot.)

Finally the chief theological significance of Mary’s Assumption into heaven is that it shows the truthfulness of her Immaculate conception and 7 The Assumption completes God’s work in her since it was not fitting that the flesh that had given life to God himself should ever undergo corruption. The Assumption is God’s crowning of His work as Mary ends her earthly life and enters eternity. The feast turns our eyes in that direction, where we will follow when our earthly life is over .

Did Mary die?

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One aspect of the Incarnation is whether Mary died, or whether she was taken bodily and soul into heaven during her end of her Earthly life without having had died. The Orthodox and Eastern Catholics, specifically that of the Byzantines hold the belief of the Dormition, that of Mary having have died, as of having have fallen asleep, and then having been taken body and soul into heaven.

I myself am of the belief that Mary had experienced a mortal death. A couple of the Early Christians and Church Fathers give some of the insight

Venerable to us, O Lord, is the festivity of this day on which the holy Mother of God suffered temporal death, but still could not be kept down by the bonds of death, who has begotten your Son our Lord incarnate from herself.” – Pope Adrian I

As the most glorious Mother of Christ, our Savior and God and the giver of life and immortality, has been endowed with life by him, she has received an eternal incorruptibility of the body together with him who has raised her up from the tomb and has taken her up to himself in a way known only to him.”- Saint Modestus

We should also know what death is in the first place. Taylor Marshal does a good job explaining it ,8 Death is the separation of the body from the soul. When the soul leaves the body, you are dead.The common feature of the Dormition icon is Christ holding the tiny soul of Mary depicted as a baby wrapped in white clothes. It’s a “reverse Madonna.” The Mother of God’s body lies lifeless on a bier. The orthodox image shows that Mary did die. The Holy Apostles surround her demonstrating that the Dormition and Assumption had apostolic witness and are part of the deposit of Faith.

 

Whether you believe Mary was Assumed without experiencing death, or whether you believe that Mary was Assumed upon dying; as I do, it is vital to acknowledge that if Mary did die it could not be because of the consequence of original sin. Mary was born Immaculately and thus was not born with original sin. Rather Mary would have died as a means of perfectly conforming herself with the will of God, and of course of her Divine Son, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendor at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages

Novena Prayer to Our Lady of the Assumption

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To be said Aug 7-15 – Aug 16-24

Novena Prayer

O Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and Mother of men, we believe with all the fervor of our faith in your triumphal Assumption into Heaven, body and soul, where you are acclaimed as Queen of all the choirs of angels, and the countless multitude of saints. We unite with them in  praising God who has exalted you above all the heavenly hosts. In your mercy dearest Mother, look down upon our miseries and our sorrows, upon our struggles and our weaknesses. Help us to remain pure in mind and body, to bear the crosses of life, and to live and die in close union with your Divine Son. Intercede with Him on our behalf, and obtain the graces and facors we ask in this Novena. ( here mention your requests.) The Memorare Remember O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help or sought thy intercession, was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto thee, O virgin of Virgins, my Mother to thee I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful; O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

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photo credit: Lawrence OP via photopin cc

notes

1: Munificentissimus Deus
2: New Advent
3: Catholic Culture
4: ibid
5: ibid
6: ibid
7:ibid
8:Taylor Marshall

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