August 15 – The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

My Dear Parishioners:

The Assumption of Mary is, according to the beliefs of the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Churches, Oriental Orthodoxy, Church of the East, and some Lutheran and Anglo-Catholic Churches, among others, the bodily taking up of Mary, the mother of Jesus, into Heaven at the end of her earthly life. The analogous feast in the Eastern Churches is known as the Dormition of the Theotokos. In Lutheranism and Anglicanism, the feast is celebrated in honor of St. Mary, Mother of our Lord.

In the churches that observe it, the Assumption is a major feast day, commonly celebrated on August 15. In many countries, the feast is also marked as a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic Church. The Assumption of the Virgin Mary in art has been a popular subject, especially since the 12th century.

The Catholic Church teaches as dogma that the Virgin Mary “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory”. This doctrine was dogmatically defined by Pope Pius XII on 1 November 1950, in the apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus by exercising papal infallibility.  While the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church believe in the Dormition of the Mother of God (Dormition of the Theotokos or “the Falling Asleep of the Mother of God”), whether Mary as the New Eve had a physical death has not been dogmatically defined. In Munificentissimus Deus (item 39) Pope Pius XII pointed to the Book of Genesis (3:15) as scriptural support for the dogma in terms of Mary’s victory over sin and death through her intimate association with “the new Adam” (Christ) as also reflected in 1 Corinthians 15:54: “then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory”.

The New Testament contains no explicit narrative about the death or dormition, nor of the Assumption of Mary, but several scriptural passages have been theologically interpreted to describe the ultimate fate in this and the afterworld of the Mother of Jesus. Various apocryphal documents do contain narrations of the event.

However we understand or view this event in the life of Our Mother it is always good for us to examine just how we imagine her to be . . then and now.

Mary. Virgin. Mother of Peace. Mother of God.

Her statues have always radiated sweetness.  She is always young and pink-cheeked and slender.  Her eyes are always clear and beautiful.  Her skin is soft and light.  Her hands small and tender.  A gentle figure with hair cascading down to her waist. 

But the Mary of the Gospels is neither fairy tale princess nor the romanticized “lovely lady dressed in blue.”  The flesh and blood Mary was an altogether human woman.

 – – In the gospel Mary is the pregnant adolescent, unmarried little girl who was painfully misunderstood by the man she loved;  She was an outcast;

 – – In the gospel Mary is the frantic parent searching for her lost child in the big city;

 – – In the gospel Mary is the caring woman who was not afraid to speak her mind or voice her questions;

 – – Mary is the grieving mother who stood by courageously as her son was beaten, abused and ultimately nailed to a cross.

The figure we venerate was a woman with her feet firmly planted on earth.  Mary of Nazareth knew the pain that only a mother could feel; she knew the joy that only a totally selfless and giving person could experience.

Father John Thomas