This week in the Catholic Church we celebrate a major solemnity in the liturgical calendar. For Catholics, it’s a Holy Day of Obligation. In the East, we have the Dormition of the Theotokos on August 14. In the West or Latin Church, we have the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15.
Like most of the Marian feasts, they were first established in the East and then adopted by the West at a later date. The feast of the Dormition dates back to the 4th century. The earliest celebration of the feast in the West is dated in the mid 7th century with the Gospel Lectionary of Wurzburg on August 15.
On November 1, 1950, Blessed Pope Pius XII, solemnly pronounced, declared, and defined that the Immaculate Mother of God and ever-Virgin Mary, was assumed into Heaven body and soul. This is a dogma of the Church and should be believed by all (come back Thursday for a more detailed post on this topic).
Although the Assumption was not declared dogmatic till 1950, the Church always believed and taught for centuries that the Theotokos (God-Bearer) was assumed into Heaven at the end of her earthly life. Below are quotes from four Saints and one Blessed on the Assumption. Two of the Saints descend from the East and three descend from the West.
“It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles…it was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and the Handmaid of God.” – St. John Damascene (East)
“When finally the Blessed Virgin had fulfilled the course of this life, and was now to be called out of this world, all the apostles were gathered together from each region to her house…and behold the Lord Jesus came with his angels and, receiving her soul…at the break of day the apostles lifted the body with the couch and laid it in the sepulcher, and they guarded it awaiting the coming of the Lord. And behold the Lord again stood by them, and commanded that the holy body be taken up and borne on a cloud into paradise, where now, reunited with (her) soul…” – St. Gregory of Tours (West)
“And with regard to ourselves, how deservedly do we keep the feast of the Assumption with all solemnity. What reasons for rejoicing, what motives for exultation have we on this most beautiful day! The presence of Mary illumines the entire world so that even the holy city above has now a more dazzling splendor from the light of this virginal Lamp. With good reason thanksgiving and the voice of praise resound today throughout the courts of Heaven…let us not complain for here we do not have a lasting city, but we seek one that is to come, the same which the blessed Mary entered today.” – St. Bernard of Clairvaux (West)
“As the most glorious Mother of Christ, our Savior and our 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.” – St. Modestus of Jerusalem (East)
“Today the liturgy invites us to contemplate Mary, taken up body and soul into heaven. By a special privilege, she was enriched by divine grace from the moment of her conception, and Christ, who ascended to the right hand of the Father, opened the doors of his kingdom to her, first among human creatures. Now from heaven, where the Queen of the angels and saints is crowned, the Mother of God and of the Church is close to the Christian people before whom she shines as the “new and immaculate woman (who) mediated for the guilt of the first woman.” – Pope St. John Paul II (West)
As we approach the Dormition of the Theotokos and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, let us enter this week in deep prayer to Our Blessed Mother, who serves us with her motherly mediation and advocacy. She is as our Queen Mother.