Do the Eastern Orthodox believe in the Assumption of Mary?

So I read somewhere that the Eastern Orthodox don’t believe in the Assumption. Is this true? and if it is, why not?

Thanks and God Bless

(Happy Feast of the Assumption!!! :D)

This question, or at least variants of it, has come up before in this forum. Have a look [thread=379048]here[/thread] for starters. A search (using either “Dormition” or “Assumption” as keywords) will bring up more. :slight_smile:

The Orthodox (and Eastern Catholic) counterpart to the Feast of the Assumption is the Feast of the Dormition. It is celebrated on the 15th of August. According to the Eastern tradition, the Theotokos did, in fact, die a natural death and was taken up to Heaven, without having undergone decay. It is basically the same feast as the Feast of the Assumption, except that the Eastern tradition does not leave open the question as to whether the Theotokos died. Also, some Orthodox have objected to making the teaching of the Assumption a matter of dogma. In spite of this, I don’t believe that you can find any Eastern Orthodox Church that does not celebrate the Feast of the Dormition.



Yes, they celebrate the Dormition of the Theotokos. :slight_smile:

Pope Pius XII taught in continuity with the Church Fathers that Mary did die and was resurrected and assumed into heaven in Munificentissimus Deus where he declared the Assumption of Mary as a dogma. Here are some snippets from it that illustrates Mary having died before her assumption:

  1. In the liturgical books which deal with the feast either of the dormition or of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin there are expressions that agree in testifying that, when the Virgin Mother of God passed from this earthly exile to heaven, what happened to her sacred body was, by the decree of divine Providence, in keeping with the dignity of the Mother of the Word Incarnate, and with the other privileges she had been accorded. Thus, to cite an illustrious example, this is set forth in that sacramentary which Adrian I, our predecessor of immortal memory, sent to the Emperor Charlemagne. These words are found in this volume: “Venerable to us, O Lord, is the festivity of this day on which the holy Mother of God suffered temporal death, but still could not be kept down by the bonds of death, who has begotten your Son our Lord incarnate from herself.”

  2. What is here indicated in that sobriety characteristic of the Roman liturgy is presented more clearly and completely in other ancient liturgical books. To take one as an example, the Gallican sacramentary designates this privilege of Mary’s as “an ineffable mystery all the more worthy of praise as the Virgin’s Assumption is something unique among men.” And, in the Byzantine liturgy, not only is the Virgin Mary’s bodily Assumption connected time and time again with the dignity of the Mother of God, but also with the other privileges, and in particular with the virginal motherhood granted her by a singular decree of God’s Providence. “God, the King of the universe, has granted you favors that surpass nature. As he kept you a virgin in childbirth, thus he has kept your body incorrupt in the tomb and has glorified it by his divine act of transferring it from the tomb.

Pope Pius XII sounds very Byzantine in this part:

  1. …] Finally it is our hope that belief in Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven will make our belief in our own resurrection stronger and render it more effective.

The Russian Orthodox Cathedral in London (which was a former Anglican Church* and which was passed on to the Orthodox for a very nominal ammount) is the Cathedral of the Dormition which shoukld indicate the importance of this in for the Orthodox.

*By chance the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral which is behind London’s busiest shopping street is also an ex-Anglican Church.

If Eastern Orthodox believe in the Assumption/Dormition, why do they object to it being taught as a matter of dogma?

I believe most believe that she died and her body was assumed into heaven.

I personally don’t know any who do.

The Greek part of the Church has a different mindset to the Latin half. At the risk of over-generalisation, the Latin Romans tend to be more juridical, seeking to define as much in logical terms as possible. Also, subsequent fall of the Empire and the coalescing of authority in the Bishop of Rome as the only remaining leader in a fragmenting civilisation, gave rise to a risk of different strands of Arianism & other heresies brought on by invaders to permeate into the Church. As a result, Latin Catholics in those days refined their definitions to exclude as much misunderstanding as possible. This probably explains the centralising tendency of the Catholic Church when faced with any alternative theology.

The Greek mindset preferred to allow the Spirit to imbue us with the understanding and thus finding words unnecessary or even a hindrance to the purpose. In some ways, you may say that the contrast is similar to what we in Asia find between the pragmatic Chinese and the philosophical Indian, with all the attendant goods and bads of each position. You will notice the majority of Christological debates in the early Church and subsequent defections of Nestorians and Monophysites over them took place in the Greek half. Just an observation, not making any value judgement on anything that happened in that distant past.

Therefore, the Orthodox objects not to the doctrine but the necessity to define the doctrine. They see such things are best left to the Spirit to guide us.

Also, the Orthodox believes in a form of conciliarism, where the ecumenical council is the highest decision-making body in the church, not the Pope acting alone. As such, such a doctrine could only be promulgated by an ecumenical council of the church as a whole, including the Orthodox bishops of course. At the very least, maybe a promulgation by the Pentarchy of the five patriarchs. Definitely not by the Pope by himself, as was done in 1950. In their eyes, another example of the unilateral actions of the very monarchical First among Equals.

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Because one who denies a dogma jeopardizes his salvation by believing in something heretical about the nature of God or of man, which makes salvation logically impossible (like Arianism, Adoptionism, Monophysitism, Nestorianism, Iconoclasm, Monotheletism, etc.) The Dormition does not fall into this category, although it is an important mystery which brings edification to those who contemplate it.

But the Orthodox church certainly teaches the Assumption. Denying something so clearly taught by the church is willfully wrong and surely jeopardizes salvation.

The idea that certain wrong beliefs make salvation impossible, is interesting, but I think most churches, including the Orthodox churches, are more circumspect in discussing who is beyond salvation. The idea that a belief makes salvation logically impossible in even more innovative. I think we would agree, however, that the Mystery of salvation cannot be constrained by the laws of logic.

It is entertaining that you should say that, considering that in your very own Church, denying it was something which would not jeopardize one’s salvation before the dogmatizing of the Assumption in the 20th century (being a probable opinion beforehand). Regardless, within Orthodoxy, it is not a dogma like Homoousianism, Dyophysitism, Dyotheletism, etc. are.

According to the all-holy gospel of Ecumenism, perhaps (and I notice that this false and heretical gospel has many followers these days). But the Fathers made it rather clear that heresy jeopardizes the salvation not only of those who preach it, but also those who accept it. This is why the Latin scholastics thought it better for the state to execute heretics who had fallen into heresy twice, rather than to allow them to propagate their heresies.

Nonsense. That was the charge which all of the saints made against the heretics. St. Cyril, for example, made the charge that Nestorianism dissolved the entire economy of our salvation (see his 12 anathematisms). St. Gregory the Theologian objected to Apollinarianism for the same reason, causing him to write his famous line that, “what is not assumed is not healed.” St. Athanasius similarly objected to Arianism because an Arian Savior was incapable of truly saving man from His fallen state.

But it can be expounded upon by the use of logic, and an incorrect exposition logically leads to incorrect conclusions about the economy of our salvation, which leads such incorrect expositions to be called heresies. The Fathers, in their wisdom recognized the need for formulae in order to rule out these incorrect expositions, and these formulae are what we call dogmas. The Dormition, in this sense is not a dogma, but rather a theological datum which we have passed down from the Tradition.

I’m curious about this line. If the Dormition was handed down from Tradition, why wouldn’t the Orthodox want to make it dogma? If you think about it, by leaving it as an option of belief this allows people to not have to celebrate something that has been carried down through Tradition. For example: let’s say the ROCOR decided that the Dormition was no longer allowed to be celebrated within that Church due to it’s lack of historical proof (this is an example i’m not actually saying that this would happen). Wouldn’t you think that this could contradict there salvation because they have outwardly denied a belief that was passed down for over thousands of years even though its not dogma?

Since we as Catholics and Orthodox believe in Tradition (big T) for most of our beliefs, one would think it would only make sense to make sure that everyone believes in Tradition in order to stabilize their course to salvation. That’s why Catholics have made most of these Traditions dogma so that the followers realize that these are beliefs that must be followed in order to partake in salvation.

Do you believe that those who do not believe in the Dormition of the Theotokos are damned to hell for their unbelief about this particular teaching?

IIRC the Venerable Pius XII published an infallible decree confirming the dogma of the Assumption. I think prior to that it was still a belief of the Latin Church; not a 20th century innovation.

If its dogma, yes. If it isn’t, it will still be sketchy for someone to not believe in the Assumption because it is needed in order to complete God’s full love for humanity. If we deny the Assumption, we basically deny God’s total love for us.

As someone who objects (but believes in it) I can answer this.

Whether or not the Theotokos was assumed into heaven is not something that reflects the teachings of Christ, or the nature of God. It is also something that could be a stumbling block for some. There is no need to anathematize those who can’t accept it. That the Church teaches it is enough.

I don’t think he was saying it was a 20th century innovation, after all we do believe in it as well. However the anathema on disagreement to it is something new last century.

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