The Feast of the Assumption is a very old feast of the Church, celebrated universally by the sixth century. The feast was originally celebrated in the East, where it is known as the Feast of the Dormition, a word which means “the falling asleep.”

The Assumption is the oldest feast day of Our Lady, but we don’t know how it first came to be celebrated.

For two centuries, under pagan rule, every memory of Jesus was obliterated from the city of Jerusalem,and the sites made holy by His life, death and Resurrection became pagan temples.

It wasn’t until the time of Roman Emperor Constantine (c. 285-337) that Jerusalem began to be restored as a sacred city.  After the building of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 336, the sacred sites began to be restored and memories of the life of Our Lord began to be celebrated by the people of Jerusalem.

One of the memories about his mother centered around the “Tomb of Mary,” where she was buried, close to Mount Zion. the highest point in ancient Jerusalem.  Also on the Mt. was the “Place of Dormition,” the spot of Mary’s “falling asleep,” where she had “died.”

When the tomb of Mary was rediscovered there were no remnants of a bodily corpse. There were no relics to display, just an empty tomb like her Son’s.  It is good to note here that Mary did not ascend into heaven like her Son did under His own power, but was taken up to heaven by God.  The Assumption completes God’s work in Mary since it was not fitting that the flesh that had given life to God himself should ever undergo corruption.


The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which we celebrate on August 15, is defined Church dogma. In 1950, Pope Pius XII defined the dogma (Munificentissimus Deus) of the Assumption by an ex cathedra pronouncement—that is, an authoritative teaching “from the chair” of Peter.  Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Assumption of Mary a dogma of the Catholic Church in these words: “The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven.

Pius XII recalled the close connection of the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception (the Blessed Virgin was conceived without original sin) and her Assumption (that she was taken up to Heaven, body and soul, without seeing corruption).

“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.”

Pope Pius XII expressed hope that the definition of this dogma of the Church would  inspire us in our own journey home, knowing more fully the rewards of faithful perseverance in God’s grace, hope in the promises of Christ.


PiusXII recognized numerous Scriptural allusions to the Assumption. Though the event of the Assumption is not explicit in Scripture, it is consistent with what Scripture teaches us about the effects of sin and Jesus’ love for his holy mother. ). Pius XII aquotes Psalm 132:8, which has often been read symbolically of Mary’s Assumption: “Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified”

In the First Reading for the Solemnity of the Assumption we read, “God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 11:19, 12:1).

Mary is not only the New Eve, but is also the new Ark of the Covenant as she carried God in her womb. Mary is associated with the Ark of the Covenant when she visits her cousin Elizabeth.  “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice, how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

These words are almost the same words David greeted the Ark of the Covenant when it was brought to him in the book of Samuel. “David became frightened of the LORD that day, and he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?”…..Then David came dancing before the LORD with abandon” (2 Samuel 6:9, 14)


The Assumption looks to eternity and gives us hope that we, too, will follow Our Lady when our life is ended.

The prayer for the feast reads: “All-powerful and ever-living God: You raised the sinless Virgin Mary, mother of your Son, body and soul, to the glory of heaven. May we see heaven as our final goal and come to share her glory.”

Mary’s assumption is the proof of how profitable it is to make sacrifices. Not the least of these sacrifices is the surrender of our bodily pleasures that are contrary to the will of God. The eternal reward is worth the temporal price we have to pay in self-control.

By giving up now on earth what we like but what is sinful, and enduring what is painful to us but pleasing to God, we shall enjoy Heaven with Jesus and Mary – in body and soul – in the world to come.

Life is like a voyage on the Sea, often dark and stormy.  We look for the light!, stars at night…  Mary is that light and hope, Star of the Sea, hope of salvation (Spe Salvi)  Let us turn to Mary and ask for her maternal intervention that we will find the way to heaven, our true and lasting home.

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