Celebrating the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady Mother of God

on us all
as we
of the
of the
Blessed Virgin Mary
 Mother of God.

 This lovely Mural of the Assumption of Our Lady is positioned at the left of the altar in the Lady Chapel in St Mary’s Catholic Church in Derby; it is balanced on the right side of the Altar by the Crowning of Mary in Heaven.
The celebration of these feast like all feasts of the blessed Virgin is embedded in the central, fundament doctrines of our faith namely, that God created our Universe and God entered His Universe on planet Earth, when the Second Person of the Holy Trinity took on our human nature, in the person of Jesus, the Christ, true God and true Man.

We are deeply grateful to St. Luke for the details surrounding the birth of Jesus, though we would dearly love to have more information. Sadly, no such verifiable information exists regarding Mary’s death and Assumption into Heaven.

Pondering on concepts such as, God becoming human, Mary’s Immaculate Conception, her Virgin birth, Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead and Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, one of the readings in Mass recently came to my mind.

“And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 18:2-4

The precious gift of Faith enables us to hold the rational and irrational in tandem; to hold the natural and supernatural in harmony. Like little children we believe and trust the adult. who for us is God.

Sadly, in our part of the world faith is in decline. Our world is so noisy, glitzy, fast and affluent that there is no space or quiet for deep thought. Atheism and agnosticism is deemed clever and sophisticated by the celebrity cult which through the media has a strong influence.

Should we despair? That would be betrayal.

We believe that God is in control and that our great energy source is prayer. We are called to pray for a deepening of Faith for ourselves and all peoples. In the meantime we use our God given rational minds to further our understanding of the doctrine of the Assumption!

In both Orthodox and Catholic, Scriptures, death is often called a "sleeping" or "falling asleep" The feast of the Assumption in some traditions is called the ‘the Dormition of Mary.’

Across the centuries there has been much speculation as to how, when and if Mary died. However, that she has been taken up to heaven has never been in doubt, yet strangely up until 5th Century her death, place or time of death or place of burial did not feature in any writings of the early church fathers and it was only in the 6th century that her assumption to heaven began to be celebrated as a Holy Day.

 Two traditions from both Catholic and Orthodox have been handed down to us, firstly that Mary died a natural death, like any human being; that her soul was received by Christ upon death; and that her body was resurrected on the third day after her repose, at which time she was taken up, bodily only, into heaven.

The second tradition holds that she did not experience death and she was "assumed" into heaven in bodily form, just as her son Jesus ascended into heaven.
In 1950 Pope Pius X11 defined the dogma of the Assumption as an article of faith but although he mentions Mary’s death five times in his Apostolic constitution “Munificentissimus,“ he left open the question of whether or not Mary actually underwent death in connection with her departure, into heaven.

 On 25 June 1997 during a General Audience Pope John Paul II affirmed that Mary did indeed experience natural death prior to her assumption into Heaven, stating:

“It is true that in Revelation death is presented as a punishment for sin. However, the fact that the Church proclaims Mary free from original sin by a unique divine privilege does not lead to the conclusion that she also received physical immortality. The Mother is not superior to the Son who underwent death, giving it a new meaning and changing it into a means of salvation. Involved in Christ’s redemptive work and associated in his saving sacrifice, Mary was able to share in his suffering and death for the sake of humanity’s Redemption. What Severus of Antioch says about Christ also applies to her:

“Without a preliminary death, how could the Resurrection have taken place?” (Antijulianistica, Beirut 1931, 194f.).

To share in Christ’s Resurrection, Mary had first to share in his death...  Whatever, from the physical point of view, was the organic, biological cause of the end of her bodily life, it can be said that for Mary, the passage from this life to the next was the full development of grace in glory, so that no death can ever be so fittingly described as a “Dormition” as hers."

Unfortunately for us St. Luke does not appear to be around at the end of Mary’s life so we have to be satisfied with what tradition gives us. It is enough to know in faith that she enjoys the bliss of heaven in the company of her son Jesus, the Father,  Holy Spirit and all the Angels.

It is good to imagine her smiling down with love and pleasure on all of us who celebrate with her on earth her Assumption into heaven and willing us to pray with her for faith, hope, love and peace on earth.

 Sr. Camilla