Feast of the Assumption of Mary


#1

The Assumption of Our Lady was only defined as dogma in relatively recent times (roughly half a century a go)…yet contrary to what some claim, it is part of the ancient Tradition of the Universal Church. This morning, I was looking at a book in my school library on the Western Asian Christian nation of Armenia. Armenia has a very ancient Christian tradition, and was the first country to make Christianity the state religion, doing so in the fourth century. The Armenian Church has not been in communion with Rome since the 6th century, and is very independent (though there is an Armenian Catholic Church, the work of the Spirit through Jesuits I believe, that retains the ancient Armenian customs and liturgy, but is in union with the See of Peter), and is considered one of the six Oriental Orthodox Churches (along with the Coptic Church of Egypt, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Malankara or Indian Orthodox Church)—see cnewa.org/ecc-oriental-orthod.htm for info on this group of ancient apostolic churches. Anyway, I learned through this book that the Feast of the Assumption of Mary is a major festival of the Armenian people. I thought it was interesting that the Armenians, who have not been in communion with Rome for some 1400 years, and who I understand were quite removed from the West even before that, place significant emphasis on their own Tradition of our Lady’s assumption into heaven. (They even have a story to accompany it…according to this book, our Lady died 15 years after our Lord ascended into heaven. The Apostles burried her, but Batholomew was establishing the Church in Armenia, and was not present. He arrived later, and begged the other Apostles to let him see the body of our Lady. When they did, they found the tomb empty—our Lord had taken His Mother to be with Him).

I understand that the Eastern (Greek) Orthodox Churches also have a tradition of Our Lady’s Assumption. So what is the issue with this doctrine?

In Christ,
Tyler


#2

Hi Tyler

You wrote:"…I understand that the Eastern (Greek) Orthodox Churches also have a tradition of Our Lady’s Assumption. So what is the issue with this doctrine…"

First, the “Greek” Orthodox Church is just one of the Eastern Orthodox churches.

In the East, this Feast is called the Dormition or Falling Asleep of the Mother of God and is a Holy Day of Obligation.

Among the Slavic Eastern Christians, each family brings a bouquet of fresh flowers to be blessed.

In Churches dedicated to the Mother of God, a grave is errected and painting depicting the Mother of God falling asleep and surrounded by the Apostles and Disciples is displayed for veneration of the faithful.

Hope this helps…


#3

I guess the issue with the doctrine is that it specifically avoids stating that Mary died, which probably came from a belief that being free from “original sin” she would not die. Of course she did in fact die and this has been a feast day of the church from centuries before the Catholic doctrine of the Assumption of Mary was declared in Rome.

John


#4

[quote=prodromos]I guess the issue with the doctrine is that it specifically avoids stating that Mary died, which probably came from a belief that being free from “original sin” she would not die. Of course she did in fact die and this has been a feast day of the church from centuries before the Catholic doctrine of the Assumption of Mary was declared in Rome.

John
[/quote]

John,

I am beginning to see why it is that many modern American Orthodox do not understand the purpose of the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary.

I will concentrate on the Assumption because this is the topic. First of all, there is an unnatural distinction that is being made between the declaration of the dogma of the Assumption and that of the Feast of the Dormition. The error in what you are saying is the claim that according to the Catholic Church, Mary did not die. That is in fact not true. The Catholic Church has no teaching upon whether or not Mary did or did not die. Your comment suggests that you have been led to believe something that is not true.

Second, let me try and get it straight about what the Assumption of Mary means. According to the early Christian legends Mary fell asleep such that her soul was separated from her body. Then roughly three days after her death the angels came and gathered up her body so that body and soul were reunited in Heaven. Thus Mary became the first person to experience the resurrection of the body as promised by Jesus.

Marian dogma has at its root Christology. It is only ever necessary to declare something as dogma because of the need to settle a question that is causing heresy. Always the heresy involves people suggesting that Jesus is not the Messiah. That is the reason that Theotokos was declared as dogma. It is the same with the Immaculate Conception as well as the Assumption.

The dogma of the Assumption is recognition of the honour that God gives to Mary because of her assent to bear Jesus? You see, in order for Jesus to be God, He had to be born of a Woman who did not know sin, and that Woman, who dedicated her life to God is Mary. Did not Jesus say:

“Rather, blessed is she who hears the Word of God and keeps it”.

MaggieOH


#5

I thought I would send part of a very beautiful sermon of Saint Gregory Palamas on the Feast of the Dormition. It concerns the unique place of the Mother of God, standing at “the boundary of created and uncreated nature.”

Lossky speaks of it in the “Mystical Theology”…

"St. Gregory Palamas, in one of his homilies treating of the Virgin Mary, would see in the Mother of God a created person bringing together in herself all perfection, both created and uncreated, the complete realisation of the beauty of creation. ‘Wishing to create,’ he says, ‘an image of beauty, and to manifest clearly to men and to angels the power of His art, God truly created Mary all-beautiful. In her He has brought together all the partial beauties which he distributed amongst other creatures, and has made her the ornament of all beings, visible and invisible; or rather, He has made her a blending of all perfections – divine, angelic, and human; a sublime beauty adoring two worlds, lifted up from earth to heaven, and even transcending that.’

"The Mother of God, in the words of the same doctor, 'is the boundary of created and uncreated nature.'

"She has crossed the frontier which separates us from the age to come.  This is why, freed from the limitations of time, Mary can be the cause of that which is before her.  She obtains eternal benefits.  It is through her that men and angels receive grace.  No gift is received in the Church without the assistance of the Mother of God who is herself the first-fruits of the glorified Church.

"Thus, having attained to the limits of becoming, she necessarily watches over the destinies of the Church and of the universe, still unfolding in time."

N.B: Saint Gregory’s words are contained in single apostrophes ( ’ ).

Reference for patristic techies – “In Dormitionem”, P.G., CLI, 468 AB


#6

[quote=Fr Ambrose]I thought I would send part of a very beautiful sermon of Saint Gregory Palamas on the Feast of the Dormition. It concerns the unique place of the Mother of God, standing at “the boundary of created and uncreated nature.”

Lossky speaks of it in the “Mystical Theology”…

"St. Gregory Palamas, in one of his homilies treating of the Virgin Mary, would see in the Mother of God a created person bringing together in herself all perfection, both created and uncreated, the complete realisation of the beauty of creation. ‘Wishing to create,’ he says, ‘an image of beauty, and to manifest clearly to men and to angels the power of His art, God truly created Mary all-beautiful. In her He has brought together all the partial beauties which he distributed amongst other creatures, and has made her the ornament of all beings, visible and invisible; or rather, He has made her a blending of all perfections – divine, angelic, and human; a sublime beauty adoring two worlds, lifted up from earth to heaven, and even transcending that.’

"The Mother of God, in the words of the same doctor, ‘is the boundary of created and uncreated nature.’

"She has crossed the frontier which separates us from the age to come. This is why, freed from the limitations of time, Mary can be the cause of that which is before her. She obtains eternal benefits. It is through her that men and angels receive grace. No gift is received in the Church without the assistance of the Mother of God who is herself the first-fruits of the glorified Church.

“Thus, having attained to the limits of becoming, she necessarily watches over the destinies of the Church and of the universe, still unfolding in time.”

N.B: Saint Gregory’s words are contained in single apostrophes ( ’ ).

Reference for patristic techies – “In Dormitionem”, P.G., CLI, 468 AB
[/quote]

Thank you for posting this.

MaggieOH


#7

[quote=MaggieOH]The error in what you are saying is the claim that according to the Catholic Church, Mary did not die. That is in fact not true. The Catholic Church has no teaching upon whether or not Mary did or did not die.
[/quote]

Maggie, the Catholic church did and indeed does have teaching regarding whether or not Mary died. There is evidence of the feast of the Dormition (falling asleep, ie dying) being celebrated from before the 3rd Ecumenical council at Ephesus, and by the end of the 6th century, the feast of the Dormition on August 15 had been established by custom and was also decreed by emperor Mauricius to be observed throughout the Byzantine empire. This is long before the schism in the 11th century.

John


#8

i think most catholic scholars/theologians believe that she died. but that she didn’t have to die but out of humility chose to die because her son Jesus died on the cross. it is true that the church hasn’t defined if mary died or not

catholic.com/library/Immaculate_Conception_and_Assum.asp The Church has never formally defined whether she died or not, and the integrity of the doctrine of the Assumption would not be impaired if she did not in fact die, but the almost universal consensus is that she did die. Pope Pius XII, in Munificentissimus Deus (1950), defined that Mary, “after the completion of her earthly life” (note the silence regarding her death), “was assumed body and soul into the glory of heaven.”


#9

[quote=Patchunky]Hi Tyler

You wrote:"…I understand that the Eastern (Greek) Orthodox Churches also have a tradition of Our Lady’s Assumption. So what is the issue with this doctrine…"

First, the “Greek” Orthodox Church is just one of the Eastern Orthodox churches.

In the East, this Feast is called the Dormition or Falling Asleep of the Mother of God and is a Holy Day of Obligation.

Among the Slavic Eastern Christians, each family brings a bouquet of fresh flowers to be blessed.

In Churches dedicated to the Mother of God, a grave is errected and painting depicting the Mother of God falling asleep and surrounded by the Apostles and Disciples is displayed for veneration of the faithful.

Hope this helps…
[/quote]

Thanks for the info. Yes, I know that the Church of Greece is only one church in the Eastern Orthodox Communion. I used Greek in the Rite sense, not the national church sense. It would have been more clear if I had used Byzantine, in this case. I wanted to emphasize the Greek or Byzantine nature of the EOC to ensure that it was not confused with the Oriental Orthodox Churches of which I was speaking. (Not everyone knows the distinction between the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches).

In Christ through Mary,
Tyler


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