In this week’s bulletin:
The Holy Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Holy Mary, Mother of God, we believe in your triumphant assumption into heaven where the angels and the saints praise you and bless the Lord who raised you above all creatures. With them we offer you our devotion and love.
Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for us.
Celebrated every year on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary commemorates the death of Mary and her bodily assumption into Heaven ---- a foretaste of our own bodily resurrection at the end of time. Because it signifies the Blessed Virgin’s passing into eternal life, this feast is the most important of all Marian feasts.
This feast was originally celebrated in the Eastern Church, where it is known as the Feast of the Dormition, a word which means “the falling asleep.”
The earliest printed reference to the belief that Mary’s body was assumed into Heaven dates form the fourth century, in a document entitled “The Falling Asleep of the Holy Mother of God.” This document is written in the voice of the Apostle John, to whom Christ on the Cross had entrusted the care of His Mother, and recounts the death, the lying in the tomb, and the assumption of the Blessed Virgin. In the Eastern Church, the Assumption was mentioned in sermons of St. Andrew of Crete, St. John Damascene,
St. Modestus of Jerusalem,and others.In the West, St. Gregory of Tours was the first to mention it.
During the Council of Chalcedon in the year 451, Emperor Marcian and his wife Pulcheria requested that they be given the relics of the Mother of God. St. Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, told them that Mary had died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened at the request of St. Thomas three days after her burial, was found empty. The Apostles then concluded that the Virgin’s body had been assumed into heaven.
According to the life of St. Theodosius, who died in the year 529, Mary’s Assumption was celebrated in Palestine before the year 500. Lutheran scholar Charles Dickson writes that “the feast (of the Assumption) celebrated by the Church on August 15, dates from the fourth century, when numerous festivals honoring our Lady were common practice.” He adds, "Interestingly enough, the sixteenth-century Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, included this feast on a list of liturgical celebrations that should, in his words, ‘be observed among Evangelical Catholics as a sign of continuity and order.’ "