12 Timelessness of the Assumption - Marcellus D’Souza

posted Aug 10, 2017, 9:31 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 10, 2017, 9:31 AM ]
On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary to be a dogma of faith in Munificentissimus Deus: "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 to heavenly glory."

What the Pope solemnly declared was already a common belief in the Church, although Pope Pius XII, in the text explaining his definition of the dogma of the Assumption, refers repeatedly to the Blessed Virgin's death before her Assumption.

Records indicate that the festival was celebrated in the third century. The feast was celebrated under various names – The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary; The Assumption of Mary Into Heaven; The Dormition of the Theotokos or The Falling Asleep of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Finally, by the 13th century, there was universal agreement on the solemnity.

Scripture does not give an account of Mary's Assumption into heaven. Though Revelation 12 speaks of a woman who is caught up in the battle between good and evil, and in 1 Corinthians 15:20, Saint Paul speaks of Christ's Resurrection as the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

St Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon (451), made known to 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, whereby the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven. Thus, the Assumption was the last major Mariological step that was established.

The earliest known literary reference to the Assumption is found in the Greek work De Obitu S. Dominae, which bears the name of St John, to whom Christ on the Cross had entrusted the care of His mother. In the document, St John recounts the death, laying in the tomb and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. The Assumption finds mention in the book De Transitu Virginis, which was falsely ascribed to St Melito of Sardis, and a spurious letter attributed to St Denis the Areopagite.