Skip to comments.The Assumption Of Mary
Posted on 08/15/2002 6:35:35 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
"The immaculate mother of God," announced Pope Pius XII in his Munificentissimus Deus in 1950, "when the course of her earthly life was run, was assumed in body and soul to heavenly glory." The proclamation of the Assumption of Mary as "divinely revealed dogma," while a modern event, was consistent with beliefs that date back at least to the 3rd century, and perhaps even before. Are those beliefs inconsistent with the Bible, as some critics suggest, or are they in truth a fulfillment of the Bible's deepest themes?
The first known analysis of the Assumption was produced by Theoteknos, a 6th century Bishop of Jericho. He argued that since Elijah ascended and since a place in heaven had been prepared for the apostles, so the much the more must Mary have ascended to a place prepared for her.
The wedding music of Psalm 45, reasoned Pope Pius, prefigures the Assumption, as the singers rejoice, "All glorious is the princess within her chamber; her gown is interwoven with gold. In embroidered garments she is led to the king."
Mary has often been seen as symbolic of the people of Israel, and in Exodus, God describes the liberation from Egyptian bondage in terms that foreshadow the Assumption: "You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself." (Exodus 19:4)
The literal significance the Assumption, of Mary's body rising from the earth toward the heavens, should not be underestimated. The morning prayer on the day of the Assumption asks us to "See the beauty of the daughter of Jerusalem, who ascended to heaven like the rising sun at dawn." "Whither goest thou, bright as the morn?" the antiphons of the Assumption ask Mary, "All beautiful and sweet art thou, O daughter of Zion, fair as the moon elect as the sun." She "is taken up into the bridal chamber of heaven, where the King of Kings sit on his starry throne."
This celestial imagery of the Assumption feast in turn prefigures Mary's role in the apocalyptic battles between good and evil described in Revelation. There, Mary (representing both the Church and the messianic populace) pregnant and "clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head" is attacked by "an enormous red dragon" (representing the Roman Empire in particular, and evil and persecution in general).
And then history repeats (or will repeat) itself, as Mary (and messianic community) is "given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach." (Rev. 12: 1-14).
On another level, the Assumption epitomizes the reconciliation of the material and spiritual world, as the human Mary enters "body and soul to heavenly glory." Carl Jung, the transpersonal psychologist, concluded that the doctrine of the Assumption reflected an acceptance of the physical world. A similar thought was expressed by the Russian Orthodox theologian Sergius Bulgakov, who described Mary as "the creature glorified and deified. In her is realized the idea of Divine Wisdom in the creation of the world; she is Divine Wisdom in the created world."
From time immemorial Orthodox and Eastern churches have recognized the Assumption; Orthodox Russia celebrates a special feast honoring the Assumption with Holy Wisdom. And while the Anglican Church does not make the Assumption an article of faith, since "it is not read in Holy Scripture, 'nor may be proved thereby'," many Anglicans do choose to believe it. Whatever scriptural interpretation can or cannot prove, the decision to believe in the Assumption has always been, for many people, intuitively easy, for the Assumption is in its own way the fulfillment of the gospel.
Since Mary was, on one level at least, an ordinary human being, her assumption suggests the future that is open to every human: the entry into glory through and after a life of walking with God. Like Israel, like the Church, like the messianic community, and like Mary, the individual who travels with God will, in spite of all earthly persecutions, be taken up to a place of security and sanctity in the wilderness. Or as Pope Paul VI put it: The Assumption "is a feast that set before the eyes of the Church and all mankind the image and consoling proof of the fulfillment of their final hope."
For more: Bulgakov's remarks after his pilgrimage to Lourdes. You can buy Fr. Bulkagov's book, Sophia, the Wisdom of God : An Outline of Sophiology at Amazon.com.
Discourse: "Of the Assumption of Mary," by St. Alphonsus de Liguori
Catholic Answers, defense of the Assumption (and of the Immaculate Conception).
History of the Doctrine of the Assumption.
Painting of The Assumption of the Virgin, by Peter Paul Rubens.
Painting by El Greco.
Even more medieval art on the Assumption.
Catholic Encylopedia on the Feast of the Assumption.
Thoughts of Brother Christian Moe:
| "Assumption of the Blessed Virgin (Mantegna)
nd therefore she died in private. It became Him who died for the world, to die in the world's sight; it became the Great Sacrifice to be lifted up on high, as a light that could not be hid. But she, the lily of Eden, who had always dwelt out of the sight of man, fittingly did she die in the garden's shade, and amid the sweet flowers in which she had lived. Her departure made no noise in the world. The Church went about her common duties, preaching, converting, suffering; there were persecutions, there was fleeing from place to place, there were martyrs, there were triumphs: at length the rumour spread abroad that the Mother of God was no longer upon earth. Pilgrims went to and fro; they sought for her relics, but they found them not; did she die at Ephesus? or did she die at Jerusalem? reports varied; but her tomb could not be pointed out, or if it was found, it was open; and instead of her pure and fragrant body, there was a growth of lilies from the earth which she had touched. So, inquirers went home marvelling, and waiting for further light. And then it was said how that when her dissolution was at hand, and her soul was to pass in triumph before the judgment seat of her Son, the Apostles were suddenly gathered together in one place, even in the Holy City, to bear part in the joyful ceremonial; how that they buried her with fitting rites; how that the third day, when they came to the tomb, they found it empty, and angelic choirs with their glad voices were heard singing day and night the glories of their risen Queen. But, however we feel towards the details of this history (nor is there anything in it which will be unwelcome or difficult to piety), so much cannot be doubted, from the consent of the whole Catholic world and the revelations made to holy souls, that as is befitting, she is, soul and body, with her Son and God in heaven, and that we are enabled to celebrate not only her death, but her Assumption."
(John Henry Cardinal Newman, Discourses to Mixed Congregations, pp. 375-8; cited in J. Regina, ed., The Mystical Rose, St. Pauls Editions, 1960, pp. 91-94.)
Brother Christian Moe, FSC is a lecturer at the Centre for Thomistic Studies, in Sydney, Australia.
This article posted November 1997. It was published in Universitas, Vol 1 (1997), No. 2.
Permission is granted to copy or quote from this article, provided that full credit is given to the author and to the
Centre for Thomistic Studies, Sydney, Australia.
We would be grateful to receive a copy of any republication.
Mary, Queen of all saints, pray for us.
Mary, Queen and Mother of God, pray for our children to the Lord our God.
Mary, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us.
O Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, thou didst promise to abide with us always. Thou dost call all Christians to draw near and partake of Thy Body and Blood, But our sin has divided us and we have no power to partake of Thy Holy Eucharist together. We confess this our sin and we pray Thee, forgive us and help us to serve the ways of reconciliation, according to Thy Will. Kindle our hearts with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Give us the spirit of Wisdom and faith, of daring and of patience, of humility and of firmness, of love and of repentance, through the prayers of the most blessed Mother of God and of all the saints. Amen.
The post is quite right--the Orthodox have always taught that the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven after her death.
How I wish your Pope hadn't waffled on this question of whether the Theotokos died! Although this particular recently proclaimed dogma is not per se a new obstacle to reunion, the fact that may proponents of it held (and perhaps still hold) that the Virgin Mary was assumed before death may be.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.