Feast of the Assumption of Mary

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Mother clothed with light, plead for mercies, on the day of your Assumption, from that Fruit which dawned from your womb, for the assembly that has come to your banquet and extols on the day of your passing, that in unity and perfect love, it may magnify your name… — Basilica Hymn

In the mid 5th century, when the Roman Emperor Marcian and Empress Pulcheria wished to obtain the body of the Blessed Virgin, St. Juvenal of Jerusalem informed them that there was no body. When after she had been buried, St. Thomas, having arrived late, requested to see her but the grave was found empty and the Apostles concluded that she had been carried off to heaven by the angels.

The St. Andrew Missal explains: “Her life was spent in helping the Apostles and in praying for the conversion of the world. On the third day after Mary’s death, when the Apostles gathered around her tomb, they found it empty.” Apocryphal works would expand on the story of how St. Thomas had seen the Holy Mother being carried by angels, and thus wanted to open the grave to confirm what had been revealed to him on his way to west from India.

The dogma of Mary’s Assumption stands, as with so many other articles of our faith, as a stumbling block and nonsense to those outside of the Apostolic Christian faith, but to those who have been enlightened by the light of Christ’s teaching, it gives joy and hope. To Catholics, it is a reassurance of God’s faithfulness and a glimpse of the promise of eternal life.

Blessed are you, who, on the day of her assumption, caused a commotion among angels: they came and accompanied your soul in reverence with your resplendent body; — Basilica Hymn

Mary’s Assumption is the belief that Mary did not suffer the corruption of death, but having been delivered from it, she was carried, body and soul, to heaven, being the first human to experience the resurrection and eternal life. This article of faith, shared by all Apostolic denominations, was formally declared as a dogma of the Catholic faith by Pope Pius XII on November 1,1950. The Second Vatican Council, in Lumen Gentium, reaffirmed that she had been assumed into heaven and been installed, by our Lord Jesus, as Queen over all.

The belief in the Assumption of Mary proceeds exactly from the Church’s understanding of her purity. As Lumen Gentium rightfully points out, it is because she was preserved “free from all stain of original sin,” that she was taken up into heavenly glory. The Incarnation of our Lord in the womb of Mary presupposes her Immaculate Conception, which in turn leads to her Assumption. The Eastern Churches refer to her Dormition in that she did not experience the “sting of death” {1 Cor 15.55}, but went through death as one falling asleep. The Chaldean Church refers to her Departure (shunaya), because she crossed from this life into the next. Truly from all age, God had prepared Mary; the Servant of God Archbishop Fulton Sheen explains, “She existed in the Divine Mind as an Eternal Thought before there were any mothers.”

Blessed is Christ who honored you, O spring of purity, and brought your soul and your splendidly-clothed body to the land of life and the bedchamber of happiness. — Basilica Hymn

This is what our people declare in their Hymn on the Feast of Her Assumption. Our Church of the East tradition had Three Feast days associated with St. Mary, of which the third was associated with her Departure. This commemoration of her Assumption takes place in the Liturgical calendar on August 15th, a date that had been accepted universally by the Church back as early as the 6th century.

The Assumption of Mary is a matter of hope for the faithful of the Chaldean Church. As those familiar with the Church’s tradition will be quick to recognize, the bedchamber of the heavenly bridegroom is the location of the fulfillment of God’s promise to the saints. {cf. Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body and current teaching which places Marriage squarely as a Sacrament of the salvation story} St. Mary is the first who is admitted to that promised resurrected life. Christ is the bridegroom and so the bedchamber belongs to Him. He vanquished death, removing its sting, and His bodily resurrection is something accomplished by Himself as God. But Mary was saved from death and resurrected and taken body and soul, in an anticipation of what all the faithful will experience. It is a sign of her participation of Christ’s resurrection. They too will be raised up into the heavenly bedchamber.

Again, her Assumption is a matter of hope, in that she has been installed as the Queen of Heaven, being the Mother of Christ our Lord and savior. She is interceding on our behalf to her Son, as she did at the wedding at Cana. She can be implored to ask the Lord for mercy and the Church prays in the Basilica Hymn of her Feast Day: “Ask him on our behalf for mercies and the forgiveness of debts, that we may be worthy, with you and with the angels, to cry out and say: Hallelujah!”

The Assumption attests to God’s faithfulness. The promise of the eternal life to come, the destruction of death’s dominion over us has been realized. No matter how dreary the plight suffered by a Christian, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we have a mother who looks after her children, pleading to her Son, who has realized in her the promise He made to His Apostles, to His church. It is why Pope Benedict can proclaim “The luminous sign of Our Lady taken up into Heaven shines out even more brightly when sad shadows of suffering and violence seem to loom on the horizon.” {Pope Benedict XVI, 2006}

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One Response to “Feast of the Assumption of Mary”

  1. Ian Says:

    Thank you for the historical information, as well as the spiritual; and, as always, I love reading the Chaldean hymns.

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