The Feast of the Dormition

Luke 1: 39-56
Rev 11:19;12:1-6,10/Ps 45/1Cor 15: 20-27

Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep… The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.
(1 Cor.15:20,26-27)

With Mary’s praise we’re in accord,
And by God’s grace pray in one voice:
“Lord, You have given us Your Word,
With her in heaven, we rejoice!”

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is His name. His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as He said to our fathers.” Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home. (Luke 1:39-56)

Reflection

Today, August 15, our Church celebrates the Feast of our Lady’s Assumption into heaven. Although Catholics have been observing the feast for hundreds of years, it was only in 1950 that Rome finally declared the bodily Assumption of Mary into heaven as dogma of the Catholic Church. On November 1, 1950, the Feast of All Saints, Pope Pius XII declared that by the grace of God, “Mary, the immaculate perpetually Virgin Mother of God, after the completion of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into the glory of Heaven.”

There is no biblical account depicting the Assumption of our Mother Mary into heaven, unlike the Ascension of our Lord Jesus which is related in the Gospels of Mark and Luke. The Feast of the Assumption was first celebrated in the 6th century in the Christian East, where it was known as the “Dormition (falling asleep) of the Most Holy Mother of God.” Among Eastern Christians, both Catholic and Orthodox, this tradition of the Dormition is based on a 4th-century document called “The Account of St. John the Theologian of the Falling Asleep of the Holy Mother of God.” It recounts how the Archangel Gabriel came to Mary as she prayed at the tomb in which Jesus, her son, had been laid, and told the Blessed Virgin that her earthly life was at its end, and she decided to return to Bethlehem to meet her death. All of the apostles, by the power of the Holy Spirit, were transported to Bethlehem to be with Mary in her final days. According to the account, before her death, Christ appeared to her and told her not to fear. “The apostles took the couch bearing Mary’s body to the Garden of Gethsemane, where they placed her body in a new tomb: And, behold, a perfume of sweet savour came forth out of the holy sepulchre of our Lady the mother of God; and for three days the voices of invisible angels were heard glorifying Christ our God, who had been born of her. And when the third day was ended, the voices were no longer heard; and from that time forth all knew that her spotless and precious body had been transferred to paradise.”

Today, we are inspired by the masterpieces of paintings from the late 16th century onwards depicting Mary’s assumption into heaven, appearing as “a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, with twelve stars on her head for a crown” (Rev.12:1). These art pieces attest to a great devotion, and are manifestations of the divine grace bestowed on the Mother of God. We believe that if Christ the firstfruits, Who ascended into heaven would raise at His coming those who belong to Him, (1 Cor.15) surely He would bestow upon His earthly mother this priority above all of His disciples. After all, we have it on record in the Bible that two Old Testament prophets were bodily taken up into heaven (Enoch and Elijah).

Heavenly Father, we celebrate the feast of the Assumption of Mary into heaven today. It gives us great hope that someday we too will “glorify You, Lord, and our spirit will rejoice in You, dear God, our Savior” in Your heavenly kingdom. Mother Mary, most beloved of Jesus, our Lord, pray for us that our lives may always be focused on Jesus, your Son. Amen.

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