Assumption of MaryThis article is about the theological concept. For the works of art with this title, see Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Art. The Assumption has been a subject of Christian art for centuries. This painting is believed to be by Bartolome Murillo
According to Roman Catholic theology and Catechism, the Virgin Mary, "having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory." This means that Mary was transported into Heaven with her body and soul united. The feast day recognizing Mary's passage into Heaven is celebrated as The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Roman Catholics. This doctrine was dogmatically and infallibly defined by Pope Pius XII on 1 November 1950 in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus. The Assumption of Mary into heaven, (often also called the Dormition,) is also taught by the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Oriental and Coptic Orthodox Churches In those denominations that observe it, the Assumption is commonly celebrated on August 15.
In his August 15, 2004 homily given at Lourdes, Pope John Paul II quoted John 14:3 from the Bible as a scriptural basis for understanding the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, where Christ, in his Last Supper discourses, explained that "When I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also". According to Catholic theology, Mary is the pledge of the fulfillment of Christ's promise. However, many theologians disagree with this interpretation of Scripture, and believe that Christ was speaking about his preparation of Calvary and the crucifixion for the remission of sins. 
- 1 History
- 2 The Assumption in Catholic teaching
- 3 The Virgin Mary's heavenly birthday
- 4 Assumption and Dormition (Eastern Christianity) compared
- 5 Assumption in Anglicanism
- 6 Bibliography
- 7 External links
- 8 Famous paintings
- 9 See also
- 10 References
HistoryCoptic icon of the Dormition of Our Lady
Although the Assumption was only recently defined as dogma, and in spite of a statement by Epiphanius of Salamis in AD 377 that no one knew of the eventual fate of Mary, accounts of the assumption of Mary into heaven have circulated since at least the 5th century. The Roman Catholic Church itself interprets chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation as referring to it. The earliest narrative is the so-called Liber Requiei Mariae (The Book of Mary's Repose), a narrative which survives intact only in an Ethiopic translation. Probably composed by the 4th century, this early Christian apocryphal narrative may be as early as the 3rd century. Also quite early are the very different traditions of the "Six Books" Dormition narratives. The earliest versions of this apocryphon are preserved by several Syriac manuscripts of the 5th and 6th centuries, although the text itself probably belongs to the 4th century.
Later apocrypha based on these earlier texts include the De Obitu S. Dominae, attributed to St. John, a work probably from around the turn of the 6th century that is a summary of the "Six Books" narrative. The story also appears in De Transitu Virginis, a late 5th century work ascribed to St. Melito of Sardis that presents a theologically redacted summary of the traditions in the Liber Requiei Mariae. The Transitus Mariae tells the story of the apostles being transported by white clouds to the death-bed of Mary, each from the town where he was preaching at the hour. The Decretum Gelasianum in the 490s declared some transitus Mariae literature apocryphal.St Thomas receiving the Virgin Mary's girdle
An Armenian letter attributed to Dionysus the Areopagite also mentions the event, although this is a much later work, written sometime after the 6th century. Other saints of this period also provide accounts, notably St Gregory of Tours, St John Damascene, and St Modestus of Jerusalem.
In some versions of the story the event is said to have taken place in Ephesus, in the House of the Virgin Mary, although this is a much more recent and localized tradition. The earliest traditions all locate the end of Mary's life in Jerusalem (see "Mary's Tomb"). By the 7th century a variation emerged, according to which one of the apostles, often identified as St Thomas, was not present at the death of Mary, but his late arrival precipitates a reopening of Mary's tomb, which is found to be empty except for her grave clothes. In a later tradition, Mary drops her girdle down to the apostle from heaven as testament to the event. This incident is depicted in many later paintings of the Assumption.
The Assumption of Mary became an established teaching across the Eastern, Western, Coptic and Oriental churches from at least the 7th Century, the festival date settling at August 15th. Theological debate about the Assumption continued, following the Reformation, climaxing in 1950 when Pope Pius XII defined it as dogma for the Roman Catholic Church. It is important to note that the Roman Catholic Church does not recognise the apocryphal accounts as having any authority. It does not base its teaching about the Assumption on them but rather on the historic teaching of the Church down the centuries, and other theological reasons.[weasel words]
The Assumption in Catholic teaching
Dogmas and Doctrines
In Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma he states that "the fact of her death is almost generally accepted by the Fathers and Theologians, and is expressly affirmed in the Liturgy of the Church," to which he adduces a number of helpful citations, and concludes that "for Mary, death, in consequence of her freedom from original sin and from personal sin, was not a consequence of punishment of sin. However, it seems fitting that Mary's body, which was by nature mortal, should be, in conformity with that of her Divine Son, subject to the general law of death". The point of her bodily death has not been infallibly defined, and many believe that she did not die at all, but was assumed directly into Heaven. Indeed, the papal decree which infallibly proclaims the doctrine of the Assumption, the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, leaves open the question whether, in connection with her departure, Mary underwent bodily death; that is, it does not dogmatically define the point one way or the other, as shown by the words "having completed the course of her earthly life". 
On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII solemnly declared:
- 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
Since the 1870 solemn declaration of Papal Infallibility by Vatican I in 1870, this declaration by Pius XII has been the first and only ex cathedra use of Papal Infallibility. While Pope Pius XII deliberately left open the question of whether Mary died before her Assumption, the more common teaching of the early Fathers is that she did.
The Virgin Mary's heavenly birthdayPossibly the most famous rendition of the subject in Western art, Titian's Assunta (1516-18).
The Assumption is important to many Catholics as the Virgin Mary's heavenly birthday (the day that Mary was received into Heaven). Her acceptance into the glory of Heaven is seen by them as the symbol of the promise made by Jesus to all enduring Christians that they too will be received into paradise. The Assumption of Mary is symbolised in the Fleur-de-lys Madonna.
The Feast of the Assumption is a Public Holiday in many countries, including Austria, Belgium, Cameroon, Chile, France, some states of Germany, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malta, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and Vanuatu. In Guatemala it is observed in Guatemala City and in the town of Santa Maria Nebaj, both of which claim her as their patron saint. Also, this is the celebration of Mother's Day in Costa Rica. In many places, religious parades and popular festivals are held to celebrate this day. In Anglicanism and Lutheranism, the feast is kept, but without official use of the word "Assumption". Her feast day is Fête Nationale of the Acadians, of whom she is the patron saint. Businesses close on that day in heavily francophone parts of New Brunswick, Canada. The Virgin Assumed in Heaven is also patroness of the Maltese Islands and her feast, celebrated on 15 August, apart from being a public holiday in Malta is also celebrated with great solemnity in all the local churches. In New York City, alternate side of the street parking rules are suspended.
Assumption and Dormition (Eastern Christianity) comparedL'assunzione della Vergine Filippo Fortunato Ventui, Mqabba parish Church, Malta, 1896.
The Roman Catholic Feast of the Assumption is celebrated on August 15, and the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics celebrate the Dormition of the Theotokos (the falling asleep of the Mother of God) on the same date, preceded by a 14-day fast period. Eastern Orthodox Christians believe that Mary died a natural death, that her soul was received by Christ upon death, and that her body was resurrected on the third day after her death and that she was taken up into heaven bodily in anticipation of the general resurrection. Her tomb was found empty on the third day. "...Orthodox tradition is clear and unwavering in regard to the central point [of the Dormition]: the Holy Virgin underwent, as did her Son, a physical death, but her body -- like His -- was afterwards raised from the dead and she was taken up into heaven, in her body as well as in her soul. She has passed beyond death and judgement, and lives wholly in the Age to Come. The Resurrection of the Body ... has in her case been anticipated and is already an accomplished fact. That does not mean, however, that she is dissociated from the rest of humanity and placed in a wholly different category: for we all hope to share one day in that same glory of the Resurrection of the Body which she enjoys even now." Many Catholics also believe that she first died before being assumed, but they add that she was miraculously resurrected before being assumed. Others believe she was assumed into Heaven without first passing through death; as mentioned earlier, this aspect of the Assumption is not authoritatively defined in Catholic theology. Eastern Catholics also observe the Feast of the Dormition. Many theologians note by way of comparison that in the Roman Catholic Church, the Assumption is dogmatically defined, while in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the Dormition is less dogmatically than liturgically and mystically defined. (Such differences spring from a larger pattern in the two traditions, wherein Roman Catholic teachings are often dogmatically and authoritatively defined - in part because of the more centralized structure of Roman Catholicism - while in Eastern Orthodoxy, many doctrines are less authoritative.)
Assumption in Anglicanism
The Prayer Books of the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada mark August 15 as the "Falling Asleep of the Blessed Virgin Mary". Anglo-Catholics often observe the feast day under the same name as Roman Catholics.
In the Episcopal Church, August 15 is observed as the commemoration "Of the Blessed Virgin Mary", and the recent Anglican-Roman Catholic agreed statement on the Virgin Mary assigns a place for both the Dormition and the Assumption in Anglican devotion.
- Shoemaker, Stephen J. (2002, 2006). Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption. Oxford University Press, Oxford. ISBN 0-19-921074-8
- Duggan, Paul E. (1989). The Assumption Dogma: Some Reactions and Ecumenical Implications in the Thought of English-speaking Theologians. Emerson Press, Cleveland, Ohio
- Early Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption a collection of early Dormition and Assumption narratives with introductions
- The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary based on Juniper Carol's Mariology
See alsoWikimedia Commons has media related to: Assumption of Mary
- Assumption Cathedral
- Black Madonna of Częstochowa
- Dormition of the Theotokos
- Fleur de lys
- Holy Trinity
- Munificentissimus Deus
- Resurrection of Jesus
- ^ Pope Pius XII: "Munificentissimus Deus - Defining the Dogma of the Assumption", par. 44. Vatican, November 1, 1950
- ^ Homily of the Holy Father John Paul II, August 15, 2004, Apostolic Pilgrimage to Lourdes, Women for Faith and Family,http://www.wf-f.org/JPII_LourdesHomily.html
- ^ Stephen J. Shoemaker, Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002, 2006). A complete translation of this earliest text appears at pp. 290-350
- ^ William Wright, "The Departure of my Lady Mary from this World," The Journal of Sacred Literature and Biblical Record, 6 (1865): 417-48 and 7 (1865): 108-60. See also Agnes Smith Lewis, ed., Apocrypha Syriaca, Studia Sinaitica, XI (London: C. J. Clay and Sons, 1902).MARY IS VERY RELIGIOUS .
- ^ Ante-Nicene Fathers - The Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325, vol. 8 page 594
- ^ a b Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, no 44 
- ^ Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Ludwig Ott, Book III, Pt. 3, Ch. 2, §6, ISBN 0-89555-009-1
- ^ Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, no 44
- ^ As the Virgin Mary remained an ever-virgin and sinless, it is viewed that the Virgin Mary could not thus suffer the consequences of Original Sin, which is chiefly Death. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3819.htm Nicea II Session 6 Decree
- ^ http://www.ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/NICAEA2.HTM#2 Nicaea II Definition, "without blemish"
- ^ New York City Department of Transportation: Alternate Side Parking Calendar, 2006
- ^ Bishop Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, in: Festal Menaion [London: Faber and Faber, 1969], p. 64.
- ^ See Three Sermons on the Dormition of the Virgin by John of Damascus, from the Medieval Sourcebook
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