Weekly Reflections for August 14, 2022


FEAST OF THE ASSUMPTION

The Assumption is the principal feast of the Blessed Virgin which has a double object:(1) the happy departure of Mary from this life; (2) the assumption of her body into heaven. The doctrine states, at the end of her life on earth, Mary was assumed, body and soul, into heaven, just as Enoch, Elijah, and perhaps others had been before her (Mt 27:52-53). Mary was taken up into heaven or “assumed” by God and not “ascended” into heaven like her son because, unlike her son who had the power to do so, she didn’t. There exists written evidence of belief in the Assumption of Mary as far back as the third century. 

The Church has never formally defined whether she died or not, and the integrity of the doctrine of the Assumption would not be impaired if she did not in fact die, but the almost universal consensus is that she did die. Mary’s presence in heaven as the glorified and crowned Woman of Revelation 12 implies her entry into paradise as the New Eve and Queen Mother at the end of her earthly life, but nothing indicates her transition through death & resurrection. The Ordinary Magisterium does teach that Mary died. Pope Pius XII, in Munificentissimus Deus (1950).

Regarding the day, year, and manner of Our Lady’s death, nothing certain is known. Sacred Scripture is completely silent on the matter. The dates assigned for Mary’s death vary between three and fifteen years after Jesus’ Ascension. Two cities claim to have her tomb- Jerusalem, and Ephesus- but neither has anybody nor relics in them. After all, if Mary is Immaculately conceived, then it would follow that she would not suffer the corruption of the body in the grave, which is a consequence of sin. Gen. 3: 19.

At the Council of Chalcedon (451), St. Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, made known to the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of Mary, that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty (except the relics of her funeral robe and girdle); wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven.

The Solemnity of the Assumption called the Dormition in the Eastern (Byzantine) Tradition, states this transition of Mary to eternal life was preceded by what was called the Koimesis or “sleep” or Mary in death. The three events (her death, her resurrection, and her assumption into heaven) complete the mosaic of the holy end of Mary’s life.

– MAC AND MARCIA HICKEY

Resources: Catholic Answers and New Advent