What early church Father wrote that Mary at her death was bodily assumed to heaven?
[quote=gladtobe]What early church Father wrote that Mary at her death was bodily assumed to heaven?
I posted this on another thread but it’s relevent here, too:
**The teaching that Mary was assumed into Heaven was not new in the 20th century. It was there from the earliest days. It was until 1950 not a teaching that Catholics were required to believe. This is completely different from a new belief. “The Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter in such a way that, by his revelation, they might manifest new doctrine, but so that, by his assistance, they might guard as sacred and might faithfully propose the revelation delivered through the apostles, or the deposit of faith.”
"As for the Assumption, the strongest evidence for Mary’s Assumption is, oddly enough, a complete lack of evidence.**
That is to say, no early Christian ever claimed to have a bodily relic of Mary, and no city ever claimed to have Mary’s remains. And this is in STARK contrast to the early veneration of the tombs of the Apostles and the other saints of the early Church. For example, everyone knew that the graves of Peter and Paul were at Rome. Likewise, the graves of John and Timothy were at Ephesus. The grave of Luke was in Greece, whereas the grave of Mark was in Alexandria, Egypt; later being transported to Venice. Likewise, the grave of James was at Jerusalem; the grave of Mary Magdalene was at Marseille. And, even the graves of the Old Testament saints were similarly venerated – such as the graves of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at Hebron; the grave of Rachel at Bethlehem (Matt 2:18), and the grave of David in Jerusalem itself (Acts 2:29). So, why did NO early Christian ever speak about a grave of the Virgin Mary? Unless there never was one.
Indeed, in the time of St. Ignatius of Antioch (c. 107), we had the heresy of the Docetists, who claimed that Jesus did not have an earthly body. St. Ignatius, a disciple of Mary’s caretaker, the Apostle John himself, speaks out against these Docetists in his Epistle to the Ephesians, citing Jesus’ relationship to Mary to prove that the Lord had a true, human body. Yet, if Mary’s grave was available, it would have been used by both Ignatius and the Docetists to support their positions. Ignatius would have argued that Jesus’ body was real because His mother’s body is with us today; and the Docetists would have argued that Jesus’ body was not real because He was not subject to death, whereas His mother’s mortal body was. Yet, we have no mention of this. Why not?"
And, as with the Immaculate Conception, the earliest evidence that we have for the Assumption comes to us from the Eastern, non-Greek-speaking Church. Around 390 AD, we have the writings of St. Epiphanius of Salamis. Now, St. Epiphanius was a native of Palestine (so he would have been familiar with all the Sacred Traditions of the original Jewish Church in Jerusalem). Yet, in around 390, St. Epiphanius moved to the Greek island of Cyprus, where he was elected to be the Bishop of Salamis. Thus, around this time, we have this Palestinian bishop writing to his Greek flock about the end of Mary’s earthly life. And, speaking very diplomatically, he writes:
“Say she died a natural death. In that case she fell asleep in glory, and departed in purity and received the crown of her virginity. Or say she was slain with the sword according to Simeon’s prophecy. There her glory is with the martyrs, and she through WHOM THE DIVINE LIGHT SHONE UPON THE WORLD IS IN THE PLACE OF BLISS WITH HER SACRED BODY. Or say she left this world without dying for God can do what He wills. Then she was simply transferred to eternal glory.” (Haer. lxxix, 11).
**So, St. Ephiphanis is speaking to his Greek, Cypriot flock – a flock which apparently had no established Tradition about the Assumption. Yet, even so, Epiphanius mentions his own, Palestinian Tradition of the Assumption; and, while he does not force it upon the Greeks since, at this time, it was not a dogma and one did not have to accept it to be in the Church, he does present it to the Greek-speaking world. **
Indeed, a similar case comes to us from St. John Damascene. Although he wrote in the 700’s, he tells us a Tradition from his own, Jerusalem city-church about its bishop Juvenal, who represented the Church of Jerusalem at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, about 50 years after St. Epiphanius was writing. And St. John tells us …
**“Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem at the Council of Chalcedon (451) made known to the Emperor Marcian and [his Empress] Pulcharia, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles and that her tomb, when opened upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to Heaven.” (Homily on the Dormition, PG 96)
So, this shows us that as late as 451 the Tradition of the Assumption was not widely known within the Greek-speaking world. Indeed, the Emperor and Empresses (who would not have been the most devout of Christians anyway) didn’t know about it, and had to be informed by the Bishop of Jerusalem. So, as I’ve said, it seems that the Assumption of Mary was understood by the Church in a relatively “private” way.**
Yet, by the late 5th century, all this changed. The feast of “The Dormition and Assumption of Mary” began to be widely celebrated in the East; and this feast was moved to the West in the 700’s by one of the aforementioned Syrian Popes, St. Sergius I. And, at this point, the Assumption begins to be widely publicized for the first time. Thus, we begin to see the following quotes from the Fathers:
The Pseudo-Augustine (c. 500):
"This venerable day has dawned, the day that surpasses all the festivals of the saints, this most exalted and solemn day on which the Blessed Virgin was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. On this day the queenly Virgin was exalted to the very throne of God the Father, and elevated to such a height that the angelic spirits are in admiration."
St. Gregory, Bishop of Tours in France (594 AD)
"The Lord . . . commanded the body of Mary be taken in a cloud into paradise; where now, rejoined to the soul, Mary dwells with the chosen ones."
St. Germaine I, Patriarch of Constantinople (c. 732 AD speaking of Mary)
"Thou art . . . the dwelling place of God . . . exempt from all dissolution into dust."
St. John Damascene [of Damascus] (c. 700)
“He who had been pleased to become Incarnate (of) her . . . was pleased . . . to honor her immaculate and undefiled body with incorruption . . . prior to the common and universal resurrection.”
**The Assumption was celebrated all of these centuries as Tradition until it was declared dogma in 1950 meaning Catholics are required to believe in the Assumption. **
Pseudo – Melito
If therefore it might come to pass by the power of your grace, it has appeared right to us your servants that, as you, having overcome death, do reign in glory, so you should raise up the body of your Mother and take her with you, rejoicing, into heaven. Then said the Savior [Jesus]: “Be it done according to your will” (The Passing of the Virgin 16:2-17 A.D. 300]).
**Timothy of Jerusalem
**Therefore the Virgin is immortal to this day, seeing that he who had dwelt in her transported her to the regions of her assumption (Homily on Simeon and Anna A.D. 400]).
**John the Theologian
**The Lord said to his Mother, “Let your heart rejoice and be glad. For every favor and every gift has been given to you from my Father in heaven and from me and from the Holy Spirit. Every soul that calls upon your name shall not be ashamed, but shall find mercy and comfort and support and confidence, both in the world that now is and in that which is to come, in the presence of my Father in the heavens”. . . And from that time forth all knew that the spotless and precious body had been transferred to paradise (The Dormition of Mary A.D. 400]).
**Gregory of Tours
**[T]he Apostles took up her body on a bier and placed it in a tomb; and they guarded it, expecting the Lord to come. And behold, again the Lord stood by them; and the holy body having been received, He commanded that it be taken in a cloud into paradise: where now, rejoined to the soul, [Mary] rejoices with the Lord’s chosen ones. . . (Eight Books of Miracles 1:4 A.D. 575]).
**Theoteknos of Livias
**It was fitting … that the most holy-body of Mary, God-bearing body, receptacle of God, divinised, incorruptible, illuminated by divine grace and full glory … should be entrusted to the earth for a little while and raised up to heaven in glory, with her soul pleasing to God (*Homily on the Assumption *[ca. **A.D. 600]).
**Modestus of Jerusalem
**As the most glorious Mother of Christ, our Savior and God and the giver of life and immortality, has been endowed with life by him, she has received an eternal incorruptibility of the body together with him who has raised her up from the tomb and has taken her up to himself in a way known only to him (*Encomium in dormitionnem Sanctissimae Dominae nostrae Deiparae semperque Virginis Mariae *[ante **A.D. 634]).
**Germanus of Constantinople
**You are she who, as it is written, appears in beauty, and your virginal body is all holy, all chaste, entirely the dwelling place of God, so that it is henceforth completely exempt from dissolution into dust. Though still human, it is changed into the heavenly life of incorruptibility, truly living and glorious, undamaged and sharing in perfect life (Sermon I A.D. 683]).
**It was fitting that the she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped when giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father, It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God (Dormition of Mary A.D. 697])
**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 Thy Son our Lord incarnate from herself (Gregorian Sacramentary, Veneranda [ante **A.D. 795]).
Here’s an interesting historical account of the Assumption - The Dormition… You might say this is a case of knowing how to keep a secret. The history of the end of Mary’s life was genuinely new to most of the Church when it was made public in the fifth century. The facts of the matter were kept private among the clergy of the Jerusalem Church, and only became public during the Council of Chalcedon. This was a case where there was a Tradition - a passing-along of knowledge - that was intentionally kept private. I personally suspect the remarkable near-silence of Scripture about the Mother of God was deliberate on the part of the Apostles; St John (her guardian) and the rest of the Evangelists kept her privacy.
The more picturesque details of the “transitus Mariae” literature had yet to be developed, but in the mid-400’s some basic information was revealed by the Jerusalem clergy. I’m attaching a quote from the “Euthymiac History” quoted by St John of Damascus, for details.
In his second homily on the Dormition of the Mother of God, Saint John of Damascus refers to events recounted in the 40th chapter of the Life of St Euthymios:
It was said above that Saint Pulcheria erected many churches for Christ in Constantinople. One of these is the church in Blachernae, built at the beginning of the reign of the divinely-appointed Emperor Marcian . When the two of them built a worthy house there for the all-glorious and all-holy Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, and adorned it with every sort of decoration, they hoped to find her holy body, which had been the dwelling-place of God. And summoning Juvenal, the Archbishop of Jerusalem, and those bishops from Palestine who were staying in the capital because of the synod then being held in Chalcedon , they said to them: We have heard that the first and most outstanding church of the all-holy Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, is in Jerusalem, in the place called Gethsemane, where her life-giving body was put in a coffin. We now wish to bring this relic here, to protect this royal city."
Juvenal answered on behalf of them all:
"There is nothing in the holy, inspired Scripture about the death of Mary, the holy Mother of God; but we know from ancient and wholly reliable tradition that at the time she so gloriously fell asleep, all the holy Apostles who were traveling the world for the salvation of the peoples were lifted up in a single instant of time and were gathered at Jerusalem. And as they stood by her, they saw a vision of angels, and heard the divine chanting of the higher powers. So it was that she gave her soul in an ineffable way into God’s hands, surrounded by the glory of God and all heaven.
“Her body, which had been God’s dwelling place, was brought for burial amidst the singing of the angels and the Apostles, and laid to rest in a coffin in Gethsemane; and the angelic dancing and singing continued without pause in that place for three days. But after three days the song of the angels ceased; the Apostles were there, and since one of them - Thomas - had not been present and came at he end of three days, and wished to reverence that body which had housed God, they opened the coffin. And they could not find her body, which had been the object of such praise; all that they found were her burial wrappings. And being overcome by the ineffable fragrance that came out of the wrappings, they closed the coffin again. Amazed by this miraculous discovery, they could only draw a single conclusion: The one who had deigned to become flesh in her own person and to take his humanity from her, the one who willed to be born in human flesh as God the Word, the Lord of glory, and who had preserved her virginity intact even after childbirth, now chose, after her departure from this world, to honour her pure and immaculate body with the gift of incorruptibility, and with a change of state even before the common, universal resurrection.”
When the imperial couple heard this, they asked Archbishop Juvenal to send them the holy coffin, properly sealed, with the funeral garments in it of the glorious, all-holy Mary, Mother of God. And when he had sent it, they placed it in the church of the holy Theotokos that had been built at Blachernae.
That one is going into the files. It was beautiful!
Is there any Tradition that states how many years after the events of the Passion, Death, Resurrection and Acension of the Lord that the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin took place or old old she was at that time?
Thanks much Fr. Ambrose. That was a most beautiful story.:blessyou:
I love this thread. No doubt the Church has taught throughout the ages that Mary was kept incorruptable.
Just as the bodies of several other saints have been kept incorruptible here on earth Mary was brought into Heaven incorruptible in body and soul.
It’s just common sense that Jesus would do for His mother what he had done for one or two others (Elijah and Himself). Why non-Catholics can’t accept that is beyond me. Folks who want to say that Mary is just like any other ordinary, every day, nobody, just don’t get it. :whacky:
When you are chosen to bear the God made man, you have to be someone very, very special. No other creature in all creation can hold a candle to Mary, the Mother of God, Tower of Ivory, Immaculate Mary, Holy Mary, Mother of the Most High, Mother of the Word Incarnate, QUeen of Heaven, Queen of the Universe, Queen of the angels. Is there any title which she does not deserve ???
IF you were God, would you deny your mother on earth, anything that her heart desired ?
To the folks who would criticize us for honoring Mary, turn sideways, so we can see if there really is a vacuum between your ears !!!
A poem in honour of Mary’s feast… 15 August
The kingdom is the Lord’s (Ps 22:28)
The two old women by the mother’s bed
Keened into silence and a swaying sleep.
It was not long until the dawn would break.
John, in the other room, was still awake,
Remembering the words her son had said.
At last they left him and his sleep was deep.
The mother had not stirred since afternoon;
She lay in the brief peace of those who rest
Between a sickbed and another bed;
A slight breeze brushed the unresponsive head;
The gray hair, faintly in the fading moon,
Stirred white; the rough hands rested on her breast.
The caller did not knock. He stooped and entered;
He did not close the door; he made no sound.
The weary women in their heavy rest
Slept on. He raised his giant hand and blessed
Them with a moment’s cross, and then he centred
His slow smile where the sleep was more profound.
Stooping again, as lightly as a child
Takes in his arms a kitten from the floor
He knelt and pressed his heavy arms around
The silent mother, and he made no sound;
He rose as tall as the room would let; he smiled
Downward to her and tiptoed to the door.
The sun was rising as he stepped outside.
His warm arms warded off the morning chill.
The moon was the balloon a playful child
Drops from the top window. The planets filed
In circles all about. From high the guide
Of golden light (not sunlight) reached to fill
The lower blue with gold. Soon all was gold.
The sleeping mother in his arms was set
In gold. “Do you not hear the songs that guide
Us through and to the light?” he asked. She tried
To speak, so it seemed. She was not old.
Her eyes opened. “Joseph,” she said. “Not yet,”
He said, “but soon.” She saw and smiled. “I told
Them you would come for me.” She closed her eyes.
He met her at the singing of the gold.
#34, The Psalm of Christ: Forty Poems on the Twenty Second Psalm, by Chad Walsh
Here are some excerpts from the John the Theologian account, which sets the events during the reign of Tiberius.
The whole thing can be found at:
AS THE ALL-HOLY glorious Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary, as was her wont, was going to the holy tomb of our Lord to burn incense, and bending her holy knees, she was importunate that Christ our God who had been born of her should return to her. And the Jews, seeing her lingering by the divine sepulchre, came to the chief priests, saying: Mary goes every day to the tomb. And the chief priests, having summoned the guards set by them not to allow any one to pray at the holy sepulchre, inquired about her, whether in truth it were so. And the guards answered and said that they had seen no such thing, God having not allowed them to see her when there. And on one of the days, it being the preparation, the holy Mary, as was her wont, came to the sepulchre; and while she was praying, it came to pass that the heavens were opened, and the archangel Gabriel came down to her and said: Hail, thou that didst bring forth Christ our God! Thy prayer having come through to the heavens to Him who was born of thee, has been accepted; and from this time, according to thy request, thou having left the world, shall go to the heavenly places to thy Son, into the true and everlasting life.
And having heard this from the holy archangel, she returned to holy Bethlehem, having along with her three virgins who ministered unto her. And after having rested a short time, she sat up and said to the virgins: Bring me a censer, that I may pray. And they brought it, as they had been commanded. And she prayed, saying: My Lord Jesus Christ, who didst deign through Thy supreme goodness to be born of me, hear my voice, and send me Thy apostle John, in order that, seeing him, I may partake of joy; and send me also the rest of Thy apostles, both those who have already gone to Thee, and those in the world that now is, in whatever country they may be, through Thy holy commandment, in order that, having beheld them, I may bless Thy name much to be praised; for I am confident that Thou hearest Thy servant in everything…
And while we were all praying, there appeared innumerable multitudes of angels, and the Lord mounted upon cherubim in great power; and, behold, a stream of light coming to the holy virgin, because of the presence of her only-begotten Son, and all the powers of the heavens fell down and adored Him. And the Lord, speaking to His mother, said: Mary. And she answered and said: Here am I, Lord. And the Lord said to her: Grieve not, but let thy heart rejoice and be glad; for thou hast found grace to behold the glory given to me by my Father. And the holy mother of God looked up, and saw in Him a glory which it is impossible for the mouth of man to speak of, or to apprehend. And the Lord remained beside her, saying: Behold, from the present time thy precious body will be transferred to paradise, and thy holy soul to the heavens to the treasures of my Father in exceeding brightness, where there is peace and joy of the holy angels,–and other things besides. And the mother of the Lord answered and said to him: Lay Thy right hand upon me, O Lord, and bless me. And the Lord stretched forth His undefiled right hand, and blessed her. And she laid hold of His undefiled right hand, and kissed it, saying: I adore this right hand, which created the heaven and the earth; and I call upon Thy much to be praised name Christ, O God, the King of the ages, the only-begotten of the Father, to receive Thine handmaid, Thou who didst deign to be brought forth by me, in a low estate, to save the race of men through Thine ineffable dispensation; do Thou bestow Thine aid upon every man calling upon, or praying to, or naming the the name of, Thine handmaid. And while she is saying this, the apostles, having gone up to her feet and adored, say: O mother of the Lord, leave a blessing to the world, since thou art going away from it. For thou hast blessed it, and raised it up when it was ruined, by bringing forth the Light of the world. And the mother of the Lord prayed, and in her prayer spoke thus: O God, who through Thy great goodness hast sent from the heavens Thine only-begotten Son to dwell in my humble body, who hast deigned to be born of me, humble as I am, have mercy upon the world, and every soul that calls upon Thy name…