Vatican Corner 08-23-2020

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven (often shortened to The Assumption) is the taking of her body and soul to Heaven at the end of her life on earth. God assumed her body and soul into heavenly glory. It is a major feast day celebrated by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, among others. It is an important festival in the Czech Republic, Ireland, Mexico, the Philippines, Bulgaria and Russia. It is normally celebrated on August 15, and in the United State it is usually a holy day of obligation, except in years when it falls on Saturday or Monday. The new Testament of the Bible does not contain a description about Mary’s death or her dormition (falling asleep or transit) but several scriptural passages have been interpreted theologically to describe her ultimate fate on earth and in Heaven. The first trace of the belief in Mary’s Assumption is found in the second and third centuries in the apocryphal accounts entitled :”The Crossing Over of Mary.” In 1946, Pope Pius XII sent a letter to the bishops of the world asking what their clergy and people thought about the Assumption and whether, in their judgment it “can be proposed and defined as a dogma of faith” (a true belief). On November 1, 1950 Pope Pius XII said that for centuries the whole people recognized in belief and practice the Assumption of Mary and so by using his power of papal infallibility, he dogmatically defined the doctrine of Mary’s Assumption in the apostolic constitution. He noted that there was so much glorification of her body and soul that the “Church has never looked for the bodily relics of the Blessed Virgin nor proposed them for veneration of the people.” On August 15, 2020, Pope Francis said “this step of the little Virgin of Nazareth was the giant leap forward of mankind.” He said that in Mary’s assumption into Heaven, one sees life’s end goal: “not to gain the things here below, which are fleeting, but the patrimony above, which is forever.” Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 said about the Assumption, that “by contemplating Mary in heavenly glory, we understand that the earth is not the definitive homeland for us either, and that if we live with our gaze fixed on eternal goods we will one day share in this same glory and the earth will become more beautiful. Consequently, we must not lose our serenity and peace even amid the thousands of daily difficulties. The luminous sign of Our Lady taken up into Heaven shines out even more brightly when sad shadows of suffering and violence seem to loom on the horizon. We may be sure of it: from on high, Mary follows our footsteps with gentle concern, dispels the gloom in moments of darkness and distress, reassures us with her motherly hand. Supported by awareness of this, let us continue confidently on our path of Christian commitment wherever Providence may lead us. Let us forge ahead in our lives under Mary’s guidance.