13 Aug 2013

August 15th - Solemnity of the Assumption (Dormition) of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven

 
It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give You thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God,
through Christ our Lord.
For today the Virgin Mother of God
was assumed into heaven
as the beginning and image
of Your Church’s coming to perfection
and a sign of sure hope and comfort to Your pilgrim people;
rightly You would not allow her
to see the corruption of the tomb
since from her own body she marvelously brought forth
Your incarnate Son, the Author of all life.
 
(The 1973 version of the Preface for the Mass of the Solemnity)
 
August 15th is the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, commemorated by the Orthodox churches as the Dormition (of Falling asleep) of the Virgin Mary. The dogma was officially declared by Pope Pius XII in 1950 in the apostolic constitution  Munificentissimus Deus. The apostolic constitution traces out the ancient understanding of the dogma going back through the centuries and emphasises that its official declaration by Pope Pius XII was seen as only the official confirmation of a belief long held in the Tradition of the church rather than as something new. Rather than something imposed by Pius XII, consultation was made with the bishops and on May 1, 1946, a letter "Deiparae Virginis Mariae," was issued which asked "Do you, venerable brethren, in your outstanding wisdom and prudence, judge that the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin can be proposed and defined as a dogma of faith? Do you, with your clergy and people, desire it?" with a response very much in the affirmative.
 
So, Pius XII declared that:
 
"Hence the revered Mother of God, from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination,(47) immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendor at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages.......after we have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory......
 


 
 
The following reading on the Assumption (known by eastern Christians as the Dormition) of Mary is taken from the first homily of St. John Damascene on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“But even though, according to nature, your most holy and happy soul is separated from your most blessed and stainless body and the body as usual is delivered to the tomb, it will not remain in the power of death and is not subject to decay. For just as her virginity remained inviolate while giving birth, when she departed her body was preserved from destruction and only taken to a better and more divine tabernacle, which is not subject to any death . . . Hence I will call her holy passing not death, but falling asleep or departure, or better still, arrival. . . . 

 "Your stainless and wholly immaculate body has not been left on earth; the Queen, the Mistress, the Mother of God who has truly given birth to God has been translated to the royal palaces of heaven. .

 "Angels and archangels have borne you upwards, the impure spirits of the air have trembled at your ascension. The air is purified, the ether sanctified by your passing through them. . . the powers meet you with sacred hymns and much solemnity, saying something like this: Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, elect like the sun? [cf. Cant 6:9] How you have blossomed forth, how sweet you have become! You are the flower of the field, a lily among the thorns [Cant 2.1] . . . Not like Elijah have you entered heaven, not like Paul have you been rapt to the third heaven; no, you have penetrated even to the royal throne of your Son himself . . . a blessing for the world, a sanctification of the universe, refreshment for those who are tired, comfort for the sorrowing, healing for the sick, a port for those in danger, pardon for sinners, soothing balm for the oppressed, quick help for all who pray to you. . .
 
“Good Mistress, graciously look down on us; direct and guide our destinies wheresoever you will. Pacify the storm of our wicked passions, guide us into the quiet port of the divine will and grant us the blessedness to come.”


The gospel reading for the Mass of the day is taken from Luke 1:39-56
Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’ 
And Mary said: 
‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home
 
Reflections on the readings of the feast

Sunday Reflections
Word on Fire








From Fisheaters:

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the date of Mary's Assumption is placed from anywhere between 3 and 15 years after Our Lord's Ascension, and the place from which she was assumed is listed as Jerusalem, where her tomb has been placed since around the 6th century, though some claim Ephesus as the proper place. At any rate, St. John Damascene (John of Damascus, A.D. 676 - 754/787) writes:

St. Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451), made known to the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but 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.
According to tradition, however, Our Lady's tomb was not exactly found empty; lilies and roses were found where her body "should" have been. This Feast is associated with herbs and fruits, and the Roman Ritual includes a blessing for such. In some parishes and chapels, congregants will bring fresh flowers to adorn the church in Mary's honor, and will bring the same along with fruit and herbs -- especially healing herbs -- to be blessed and take home.
 
*******
 
The location of the "tomb of the virgin" is open to discussion!

Today of course is the patronal feast day of the Abbey of the Dormition of Our Lady on Mount Zion in Jerusalem which is in the custody of the Benedictines. According to local tradition, it was on this spot, near the site of the Last Supper, that the Blessed Virgin Mary died. In Orthodoxy and Catholicism, as in the language of scripture, death is often called a "sleeping" or "falling asleep", and this gave the original monastery its name, the church itself is called Basilica of the Assumption (or Dormition).




The Russian Orthodox Church have the care of a church in the Kedron Valley at the foot of the Mount of Olives (just around the corner from the Garden of Gethsemene) which they believe holds the empty tomb of the Virgin. While Catholic teaching is silent as to whether Mary actually died and was buried, Orthodox teaching is the Virgin Mary died a natural death (the Dormition of the Theotokos, the falling asleep), like any human being; that her soul was received by Christ upon death; and that her body was resurrected on the third day after her repose, at which time she was taken up, soul and body, into heaven in anticipation of the general resurrection. Her tomb, according to this teaching, was found empty on the third day.
 

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