Faithful to Tradition(aug15ftt.htm)

August 15
vol 19, no. 216-250
Annual Summer Hiatus Edition

Fourth Glorious Mystery:


The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven

    From the time of the Blessed Mother being lifted up into Heaven at her Assumption it was a dogma of the Church and yet never fully proclaimed as such until His Holiness Pius XII decreed it in his encyclical Munificentissimus Deus on November 1, 1950 which is the compendium of meditation on the Fourth Glorious Mystery.

      "But if giving us every last drop of His blood along with His mother to take as our own and the Holy Ghost is not enough we now consider how at the Last Supper Jesus made provisions to leave Himself behind when He said, 'This IS My body...this IS My blood." So we get it all - even Jesus Himself - when receiving Holy Communion every day if we wish. I have heard it said, that He wanted to stay but He had to go so He stayed and went. What a great mystery this is."

    The beautiful mystery of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary will be interspersed with Scripture verses that correlate to the mystery but not necessarily with the commentary provided. They are just good verses to have in mind when meditating on this mystery.

    On an interesting note I would like to share that while I was in the newchurch (conciliar church) I was led to believe that we do not necessarily have to believe that our Lady died before she was assumed but a reading of this encyclical as well as the commentary from Rheims seems to clarify the issue rather nicely.

    " Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, His mother and His mother's sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen. When Jesus therefore had seen His mother and the disciple standing whom He loved, He saith to his mother: 'Woman, behold thy son.' After that, He saith to the disciple: 'Behold thy mother.' And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own. Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: 'I thirst' (St. John 19:25-28).

    I find it interesting how in the above verses after Jesus gives the disciple whom He loved His mother, verse 28 states: Jesus knowing that all things were NOW accomplished. I believe this to be significant in that the faithful disciple whom He loves is anybody who hears the word of God and keeps His commands. We are all faithful disciples or at least we try to be and we all should take our Lord’s Mother to be our own for she is our Mother in the order of grace.

    The way I see it, Mary came and gave us her Son and then her Son left and gave us Mary. Jesus gave us EVERYTHING He had - every last drop of blood - and even His Own mother.

    This can be thought of in the light of the Holy Ghost as well in that the Holy Ghost descended upon the Virgin Mary at the incarnation to give us Jesus and when Jesus left He sent the Holy Ghost to come again at Pentecost.

    So with the assistance of Mary and the Holy Ghost we get Jesus at the Incarnation and with the Death and Ascension of Jesus and through His command we are given our Lady at the cross and the Holy Ghost at Pentecost the very same Two Who came together to give us our Lord at His Incarnation.

    But if giving us every last drop of His blood along with His mother to take as our own and the Holy Ghost is not enough we now consider how at the Last Supper Jesus made provisions to leave Himself behind when He said, "This IS My body...this IS My blood." So we get it all - even Jesus Himself - when receiving Holy Communion every day if we wish. I have heard it said, that He wanted to stay but He had to go so He stayed and went. What a great mystery this is.

    When meditating on the Assumption as well as the Fifth Glorious Mystery - the Coronation - we must first go to Church Authority that will be shown by the encyclical Munificentissimus Deus by Pope Pius XII (numbered paragraphs throughout these meditations) in this and our last meditation on the Coronation of our Lady.

    1. The most bountiful God, Who is almighty, the plan of whose providence rests upon wisdom and love, tempers, in the secret purpose of His Own mind, the sorrows of peoples and of individual men by means of joys that He interposes in their lives from time to time, in such a way that, under different conditions and in different ways, all things may work together unto good for those who love Him. And we know that to them that love God all things work together unto good: to such as, according to His purpose, are called to be saints. [1] [Romans 8: 28.]

    2. Now, just like the present age, Our pontificate is weighed down by ever so many cares, anxieties, and troubles, by reason of very severe calamities that have taken place and by reason of the fact that many have strayed away from truth and virtue. Nevertheless, we are greatly consoled to see that, while the Catholic faith is being professed publicly and vigorously, piety toward the Virgin Mother of God is flourishing and daily growing more fervent, and that almost everywhere on earth it is showing indications of a better and holier life. Thus, while the Blessed Virgin is fulfilling in the most affectionate manner her maternal duties on behalf of those redeemed by the blood of Christ, the minds and the hearts of her children are being vigorously aroused to a more assiduous consideration of her prerogatives.

" And the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus also was invited, and His disciples, to the marriage. And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to Him: 'They have no wine.' And Jesus saith to her: 'Woman, what is that to Me and to thee? My hour is not yet come.' His mother saith to the waiters: 'Whatsoever He shall say to you, do ye.' Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three measures apiece. Jesus saith to them: 'Fill the waterpots with water.' And they filled them up to the brim. And Jesus saith to them: 'Draw out now and carry to the chief steward of the feast.' And they carried it. And when the chief steward had tasted the water made wine and knew not whence it was, but the waiters knew who had drawn the water: the chief steward calleth the bridegroom, And saith to him: Every man at first setteth forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse. But thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee and manifested His glory. And His disciples believed in Him" (St. John 1:1-11).

    We can definitely believe our Lady was a source of comfort, consolation and strength to the apostles. You can believe that the apostles were disheartened when their Lord left them - the One they spent their days and nights for three years with and Who loved them more than anyone ever loved them. The first person they would go to would be His mother for comfort, consolation and strength. It is believed that Saint Luke received the infancy narrative from Mary. You can bet Saint John picked her mind quite a bit while he lived with her as well. She quite probably did not want to be written about in her humility and may have requested that they write as little about her as possible. Whether this is true or not this would be a good idea because it is the Gospel of Jesus for one, and another reason why writing much about our Lady would not be prudent would be because of the possibility “Mary worship” people at this time were prone to worship almost anything they could not understand which is why Saint Paul goes to great lengths in Hebrews 1 & 2 to show the difference between Christ and the Angels for fear of the Angels being worshipped. That being said, for those with ears to hear and eyes to see, our Lady is sprinkled throughout the Old and New Testament - implicitly many times - as is her Son - more explicitly and rightfully so - because she is intimately linked with Him in salvation history - much as Eve is linked with Adam in the fall of mankind. What comes to mind here is how John begins (chapter 2) and ends (chapter 19) of his gospel with Mary.

    3. Actually God, who from all eternity regards Mary with a most favorable and unique affection, has "when the fullness of time came" But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent His Son, made of a woman, made under the law: [2] [Galatians 4:4.] put the plan of his providence into effect in such a way that all the privileges and prerogatives He had granted to her in His sovereign generosity were to shine forth in her in a kind of perfect harmony. And, although the Church has always recognized this supreme generosity and the perfect harmony of graces and has daily studied them more and more throughout the course of the centuries, still it is in our own age that the privilege of the bodily Assumption into Heaven of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, has certainly shone forth more clearly.

    4. That privilege has shone forth in new radiance since our predecessor of immortal memory, Pius IX, solemnly proclaimed the dogma of the loving Mother of God's Immaculate Conception. These two privileges are most closely bound to one another. Christ overcame sin and death by His own death, and one who through Baptism has been born again in a supernatural way has conquered sin and death through the same Christ. Yet, according to the general rule, God does not will to grant to the just the full effect of the victory over death until the end of time has come. And so it is that the bodies of even the just are corrupted after death, and only on the last day will they be joined, each to its own glorious soul.

    5. Now God has willed that the Blessed Virgin Mary should be exempted from this general rule. She, by an entirely unique privilege, completely overcame sin by her Immaculate Conception, and as a result she was not subject to the law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, and she did not have to wait until the end of time for the redemption of her body.

    Amen! If I could create my mommy I would not let her know corruption either. This brings to mind the several centuries-old saints whose bodies are still not corrupt along with those that are only partially corrupt. These miracles serve as reminders - first that there is a God – secondly of the eternal bliss that awaits us should we try to avoid sin during our lives and die in a state of grace.

    6. Thus, when it was solemnly proclaimed that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, was from the very beginning free from the taint of original sin, the minds of the faithful were filled with a stronger hope that the day might soon come when the dogma of the Virgin Mary's bodily Assumption into Heaven would also be defined by the Church's supreme teaching authority.
In Acts 1:13-14 we read, "And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James of Alpheus and Simon Zelotes and Jude the brother of James. All these were persevering with one mind in prayer with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren."

    If you can, picture the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament and how God would fill it with fire and cloud - symbols of the Holy Ghost - and then picture in the New Testament how the Holy Ghost will “overshadow” our Lady in much the same way He overshadowed the Ark of the Covenant and filled it with His glory. So we, being the mystical body of Christ - the family of God, have a Father Who is God and a mother who is Immaculate to care for us, as she cared for the Apostles in the early Church.

    Now let us delve into some beautiful commentary in my original Rheims Bible on the Assumption of our Lady:

    This is the last mention that is made in holy scripture, of our Blessed Lady, for though she were full of all divine wisdom, and opened (no doubt) unto the Evangelists and other writers of holy scriptures, diverse of Christ’s actions, speeches, and mysteries, whereof she had both experimental and revealed knowledge: Yet for that she was a woman, and the humblest creature living, and the pattern of all order and obedience, it pleased not God that there should be a further note of her life, doings, or death, in the scriptures. She lived the rest of her time with the Christians (as here she is peculiarly named and noted among them) and specially with St. John the Apostle, to whom our Lord recommended her. Who provided for her all necessities, her spouse Joseph (as it may be thought) being deceased before. The common opinion is that she lived 63 years in all. At the time of her death (as St. Dennis first, & after him St. Damascene De dormit, Deipara, Writeth,) all the Apostles then dispersed into diverse nations to preach the Gospel, were miraculously brought together (saving St. Thomas who came the third day after) to Jerusalem, to honour her divine departure and funeral, as the said St. Dennis witnesseth, who saith that himself, St. Timothy, and St. Hierotheus were present: testifying also of his own hearing, that both before her death and after for three days, not only the Apostles and other holy men present, but the Angels also and Powers of Heaven did sing most melodious Hymns. They buried her sacred body in Gethsemane, but for S. Thomas sake, who desired to see and to reverence it, they opened the sepulcher the third day, and finding it void of the holy body, but exceedingly fragrant, they returned, assuredly deeming that her body was assumpted into Heaven, as the Church of God holdeth, being most agreeable to the singular privilege of the mother of God, and therefore celebrateth most solemnly the day of her Assumption. And that is consonant not only to the said St. Denis, and St. Damascene, but to holy Athanasius also, who anounceth thee same, Serm in Evang. de Deipara. of which Assumption of her body, St. Bernard also wrote five notable sermons extant in his works.

    But neither these holy fathers, nor the Church’s tradition and testimony, do bear any sway now-a-days with the protestants, that have abolished this her greatest feast of her Assumption. Who of reason should at the least celebrate it as the day of her death, as they do of other Saints. For though they believe not that her body is assumpted, yet they will not deny that she is dead, and her soul in glory: neither can they ask scriptures for that, no more then they require for the deaths of Peter, Paul, John, and other, which be not mentioned in scriptures and yet are still celebrated by the protestants. But concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary, they have blotted out also both her Nativity, and her Conception: so as it may be thought the Devil beareth a special malice to this woman whose seed break his head. For as for the other two days of her Purification & Annunciation, they be not proper to our Lady, but the one to Christ’s Conception, the other to His Presentation, so that she by this means shall have no festivity at all.

    But contra-wise, to consider how the ancient Church and fathers esteemed, spoke, and wrote of this excellent vessel of grace, may make us detest these men's impiety, that can not abide the praise of her whom all generations should call blessed, and that esteem her honours a derogatio to her Son. Some of their speeches we will set down, that all men may see, that we neither praise her, nor pray to her, more amply then they did. St. Athanasius in the place alleged, after he had declared how all the Angelical spirits and every order of them honoured and praised her with the Ave, wherewith St. Gabriel saluted her: We also, saith he, of all degrees upon the earth extol thee with loud voice, saying, Ave gratia plena & c. Hail Full of grace, our Lord is with thee pray for us o Mistress, and Lady, and Queen, and mother of God. Most holy and ancient Ephrem, also in a special oration made in praise of our Lady, faith thus in diverse place thereof, Intemerata Deipar & c. Mother of God undefiled, Queen of all, the hope of them that despair, my lady most glorious, higher than the heavenly spirits, more honorable than the Cherubims, holier than the Seraphims, and without comparison more glorious than the supernatural hosts, the hope of the fathers, the glory of the Prophets, the praise of the Apostles. And a little after. Virgo ante partum, in partu, & post partum. by thee we are reconciled to Christ my God, thy Son: thou art the helper of sinners, thou the haven for them that are tossed with storms, the solace of the world, the deliverer of the imprisoned, the help of orphans, the redemption of captives. And afterward, vouchsafe me thy servant to praise thee. Hail Lady MARIE full of grace, hail Virgin most blessed among women. And much more in that sense which were too long to repeat.

    St. Cyril hath the like wonder speeches of her honour, hom. 6. contra Nestorium. Praise and glory be to thee o holy Trinity thee also be praised, holy mother of God, for thou art the precious pearl of the world, thou the candle of unquenchable light, the crown of virginity, the scepter of the Catholic faith. By thee the Trinity is glorified and adored in the world; by thee Heaven rejoiceth, Angels and Archangels are glad, devils are put to flight, and man is called again to Heaven, and every creature that was with the error of idols, is turned to the knowledge of the truth: by thee Churches are founded through the World: thee being their helper, the Gentiles come to penance. and much more which we omit. Likewise the Greek Liturgies or Masses of St. James, St. Basil, and St. Chrysostom, make most honorable mention of our Blessed Lady, praying unto her, saluting her with the Angelical hymn, Ave Maria, and their speeches, Most holy, undefiled blessed above all, our Queen, our Lady, the mother of God, MARIE, a virgin forever, the sacred ark of Christ's Incarnation, broader than the heavens that didst bear thy creator, holy mother, of unspeakable light, we magnify thee with Angelical hymns, all things pass understanding, all things are glorious in thee o mother of God. By thee the mysteries before unknown to the Angels, is made manifest and revealed to them on the earth, thou art more honorable than the Cherubims, and more glorious than the Seraphims, to thee, O full of grace, all creatures, both men and Angels do gratulate and rejoice, glory be the thee, Which art a sanctified temple, a spiritual paradise, the glory of virgins, of whom God took flesh and made thy womb to be his throne. & c.

    And St. Augustine Serm. de Santisto or (as some think) St. Fulgentius: O blessed MARIE, who can be able worthily to praise or thank thee, receive our praises, obtain us our requests, for thou art the special hope of sinners, by thee we hope for pardon of our sins & in thee o most blessed the expectation of our rewards. And then follow these words now said in the Church’s service: Sancta Maria succurre misers, iuua pusillanimes, refoue slebiles, ora pro populo, interumi pro clero, interced pro devoto soemineo sexu. Sentiant omnes tuum inuamen, quicunque celebrant tuam commemorationen. Pray thou continually for the people of God, which didst desire to bear the redeemer of the world, Who liveth and reigneth for ever.

    S. Damascene also Ser.de dorunitione Deiparae. Let us cry with Gabriel, Ave gratia plena, Hail full of grace, Hail sea of joy that can not be emptied, hail the only ease of griefs, hail holy virgin, by whom death was expelled, and life brought in. See St. Irenaeus li. 3 c. 33. and li. 5 circa medium, & St. Augustine de fide & Symbolo. & de agone Christiano. Where they declare how both the sexes concur to our salvation, the man and the woman, Christ and our Lady, as Adam and Eve both were the cause of our fall. Though Adam far more then his wife, and so Christ far more excellently and in an other sort then our Lady: Who (though his mother) yet is but his creature and handmaid, himself being truly both God and man. In all which places alleged & many other like to these, if it please the reader to see and read, and make his own eyes witnesses, he shall perceive that there is much more said of her, and to her, then we have here recited, and that the very same or the like speeches and terms were used then, that the Church useth now, in the honour and invocation of the B. Virgin: to the confusion of all those that willfully will not understand in what sense all such speeches are applied unto her. To wit, either because of her prayer and intercession for us, whereby she is our hope, our refuge, our advocate & c. or because she brought forth the author of our redemption and salvation, whereby she is the mother of mercy, and grace, and life, and whatsoever goodness we receive by Christ. (Rheims Commentary, translated from old English to less old English by me)

    Now we continue with the encyclical Munificentissimus Deus.

    7. Actually it was seen that not only individual Catholics, but also those who could speak for nations or ecclesiastical provinces, and even a considerable number of the Fathers of the Vatican Council, urgently petitioned the Apostolic See to this effect.

    8. During the course of time such postulations and petitions did not decrease but rather grew continually in number and in urgency. In this cause there were pious crusades of prayer. Many outstanding theologians eagerly and zealously carried out investigations on this subject either privately or in public ecclesiastical institutions and in other schools where the sacred disciplines are taught. Marian Congresses, both national and international in scope, have been held in many parts of the Catholic world. These studies and investigations have brought out into even clearer light the fact that the dogma of the Virgin Mary's Assumption into heaven is contained in the deposit of Christian faith entrusted to the Church. They have resulted in many more petitions, begging and urging the Apostolic See that this truth be solemnly defined.

    9. In this pious striving, the faithful have been associated in a wonderful way with their own holy bishops, who have sent petitions of this kind, truly remarkable in number, to this See of the Blessed Peter. Consequently, when we were elevated to the throne of the supreme pontificate, petitions of this sort had already been addressed by the thousands from every part of the world and from every class of people, from our beloved sons the Cardinals of the Sacred College, from our venerable brethren, archbishops and bishops, from dioceses and from parishes.

    10. Consequently, while we sent up earnest prayers to God that he might grant to our mind the light of the Holy Spirit, to enable us to make a decision on this most serious subject, we issued special orders in which we commanded that, by corporate effort, more advanced inquiries into this matter should be begun and that, in the meantime, all the petitions about the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven which had been sent to this Apostolic See from the time of Pius IX, our predecessor of happy memory, down to our own days should be gathered together and carefully evaluated.[3] [Cf. Hentrich-Von Moos, Petitiones de Assumptione Corporea B. Virginis Mariae in Caelum Definienda ad S. Sedem Delatae, 2 volumes (Vatican Polyglot Press, 1942)]

    11. And, since we were dealing with a matter of such great moment and of such importance, we considered it opportune to ask all our venerable brethren in the episcopate directly and authoritatively that each of them should make known to us his mind in a formal statement. Hence, on May 1, 1946, we gave them our letter "Deiparae Virginis Mariae," a letter in which these words are contained: "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?"

    12. But those whom "the Holy Spirit has placed as bishops to rule the Church of God" Take heed to yourselves and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops, to rule the Church of God which he hath purchased with His own blood. [4] [Acts 20:28.] gave an almost unanimous affirmative response to both these questions. This "outstanding agreement of the Catholic prelates and the faithful,"[5] [The Bull Ineffabilis Deus, in the Acta Pii IX, pars 1, Vol. 1, p. 615.] affirming that the bodily Assumption of God's Mother into Heaven can be defined as a dogma of faith, since it shows us the concordant teaching of the Church's ordinary doctrinal authority and the concordant faith of the Christian people which the same doctrinal authority sustains and directs, thus by itself and in an entirely certain and infallible way, manifests this privilege as a truth revealed by God and contained in that divine deposit which Christ has delivered to His Spouse to be guarded faithfully and to be taught infallibly.[6] [The Vatican Council, Constitution Dei filius, c. 4.] Certainly this teaching authority of the Church, not by any merely human effort but under the protection of the Spirit of Truth. But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you [7] [St. John 14:26], and therefore absolutely without error, carries out the commission entrusted to it, that of preserving the revealed truths pure and entire throughout every age, in such a way that it presents them undefiled, adding nothing to them and taking nothing away from them. For, as the Vatican Council teaches, "the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter in such a way that, by His revelation, they might manifest new doctrine, but so that, by His assistance, they might guard as sacred and might faithfully propose the revelation delivered through the apostles, or the deposit of faith."[8] [Vatican Council, Constitution Pastor Aeternus, c. 4.] Thus, from the universal agreement of the Church's ordinary teaching authority we have a certain and firm proof, demonstrating that the Blessed Virgin Mary's bodily Assumption into heaven-which surely no faculty of the human mind could know by its own natural powers, as far as the heavenly glorification of the virginal body of the loving Mother of God is concerned-is a truth that has been revealed by God and consequently something that must be firmly and faithfully believed by all children of the Church. For, as the Vatican Council asserts, "all those things are to be believed by divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the written Word of God or in Tradition, and which are proposed by the Church, either in solemn judgment or in its ordinary and universal teaching office, as divinely revealed truths which must be believed."[9] [Ibid., Dei Filius, c. 3.]

    13. Various testimonies, indications and signs of this common belief of the Church are evident from remote times down through the course of the centuries; and this same belief becomes more clearly manifest from day to day.

    14. Christ's faithful, through the teaching and the leadership of their pastors, have learned from the sacred books that the Virgin Mary, throughout the course of her earthly pilgrimage, led a life troubled by cares, hardships, and sorrows, and that, moreover, what the holy old man Simeon had foretold actually came to pass, that is, that a terribly sharp sword pierced her heart as she stood under the cross of her divine Son, our Redeemer. In the same way, it was not difficult for them to admit that the great Mother of God, like her only begotten Son, had actually passed from this life. But this in no way prevented them from believing and from professing openly that her sacred body had never been subject to the corruption of the tomb, and that the august tabernacle of the Divine Word had never been reduced to dust and ashes. Actually, enlightened by divine grace and moved by affection for her, God's Mother and our own dearest Mother, they have contemplated in an ever clearer light the wonderful harmony and order of those privileges which the most provident God has lavished upon this loving associate of our Redeemer, privileges which reach such an exalted plane that, except for her, nothing created by God other than the human nature of Jesus Christ has ever reached this level.

    15. The innumerable temples which have been dedicated to the Virgin Mary assumed into Heaven clearly attest this faith. So do those sacred images, exposed therein for the veneration of the faithful, which bring this unique triumph of the Blessed Virgin before the eyes of all men. Moreover, cities, dioceses, and individual regions have been placed under the special patronage and guardianship of the Virgin Mother of God assumed into Heaven. In the same way, religious institutes, with the approval of the Church, have been founded and have taken their name from this privilege. Nor can we pass over in silence the fact that in the Rosary of Mary, the recitation of which this Apostolic See so urgently recommends, there is one mystery proposed for pious meditation which, as all know, deals with the Blessed Virgin's Assumption into Heaven.

    16. This belief of the sacred pastors and of Christ's faithful is universally manifested still more splendidly by the fact that, since ancient times, there have been both in the East and in the West solemn liturgical offices commemorating this privilege. The holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church have never failed to draw enlightenment from this fact since, as everyone knows, the sacred liturgy, "because it is the profession, subject to the supreme teaching authority within the Church, of heavenly truths, can supply proofs and testimonies of no small value for deciding a particular point of Christian doctrine." [10] [The encyclical Mediator Dei (Acta Apostolicae Sedis, XXXIX, 541).]

    17. In the liturgical books which deal with the feast either of the dormition or of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin there are expressions that agree in testifying that, when the Virgin Mother of God passed from this earthly exile to Heaven, what happened to her sacred body was, by the decree of divine Providence, in keeping with the dignity of the Mother of the Word Incarnate, and with the other privileges she had been accorded. Thus, to cite an illustrious example, this is set forth in that sacramentary which Adrian I, Our predecessor of immortal memory, sent to the Emperor Charlemagne. These words are found in this volume: "Venerable to us, O Lord, is the festivity of this day on which the holy Mother of God suffered temporal death, but still could not be kept down by the bonds of death, who has begotten Your Son our Lord incarnate from herself."[11] [Sacramentarium Gregorianum. ]

    18. What is here indicated in that sobriety characteristic of the Roman liturgy is presented more clearly and completely in other ancient liturgical books. To take one as an example, the Gallican sacramentary designates this privilege of Mary's as "an ineffable mystery all the more worthy of praise as the Virgin's Assumption is something unique among men." And, in the Byzantine liturgy, not only is the Virgin Mary's bodily Assumption connected time and time again with the dignity of the Mother of God, but also with the other privileges, and in particular with the virginal motherhood granted her by a singular decree of God's Providence. "God, the King of the universe, has granted you favors that surpass nature. As He kept you a virgin in childbirth, thus He has kept your body incorrupt in the tomb and has glorified it by His divine act of transferring it from the tomb." [12] [Menaei Totius Anni.]

    19. The fact that the Apostolic See, which has inherited the function entrusted to the Prince of the Apostles, the function of confirming the brethren in the faith, But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren. [13] [St. Luke 22:32.]has by its own authority, made the celebration of this feast ever more solemn, has certainly and effectively moved the attentive minds of the faithful to appreciate always more completely the magnitude of the mystery it commemorates. So it was that the Feast of the Assumption was elevated from the rank which it had occupied from the beginning among the other Marian feasts to be classed among the more solemn celebrations of the entire liturgical cycle. And, when Our predecessor St. Sergius I prescribed what is known as the litany, or the stational procession, to be held on four Marian feasts, he specified together the Feasts of the Nativity, the Annunciation, the Purification, and the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. [14] [Liber Pontificalis.] Again, St. Leo IV saw to it that the feast, which was already being celebrated under the title of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother of God, should be observed in even a more solemn way when he ordered a vigil to be held on the day before it and prescribed prayers to be recited after it until the octave day. When this had been done, he decided to take part himself in the celebration, in the midst of a great multitude of the faithful.[15] [Ibid.] Moreover, the fact that a holy fast had been ordered from ancient times for the day prior to the feast is made very evident by what our predecessor St. Nicholas I testifies in treating of the principal fasts which "the Holy Roman Church has observed for a long time, and still observes." [16] [Responsa Nicolai Papae I ad Consulta Bulgarorum.]

    20. However, since the liturgy of the Church does not engender the Catholic faith, but rather springs from it, in such a way that the practices of the sacred worship proceed from the faith as the fruit comes from the tree, it follows that the holy Fathers and the great Doctors, in the homilies and sermons they gave the people on this feast day, did not draw their teaching from the feast itself as from a primary source, but rather they spoke of this doctrine as something already known and accepted by Christ's faithful. They presented it more clearly. They offered more profound explanations of its meaning and nature, bringing out into sharper light the fact that this feast shows, not only that the dead body of the Blessed Virgin Mary remained incorrupt, but that she gained a triumph out of death, her heavenly glorification after the example of her only begotten Son, Jesus Christ - truths that the liturgical books had frequently touched upon concisely and briefly.

    21. Thus St. John Damascene, an outstanding herald of this traditional truth, spoke out with powerful eloquence when he compared the bodily Assumption of the loving Mother of God with her other prerogatives and privileges. "It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped in the act of giving birth to Him, should look upon Him as He sits with the Father. It was fitting that God's Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God."[17] [St. John Damascene, Encomium in Dormitionem Dei Genetricis Semperque Virginis Mariae, Hom. II, n. 14; cf. also ibid, n. 3.]

    22. These words of St. John Damascene agree perfectly with what others have taught on this same subject. Statements no less clear and accurate are to be found in sermons delivered by Fathers of an earlier time or of the same period, particularly on the occasion of this feast. And so, to cite some other examples, St. Germanus of Constantinople considered the fact that the body of Mary, the virgin Mother of God, was incorrupt and had been taken up into Heaven to be in keeping, not only with her divine motherhood, but also with the special holiness of her virginal body. "You are she who, as it is written, appears in beauty, and your virginal body is all holy, all chaste, entirely the dwelling place of God, so that it is henceforth completely exempt from dissolution into dust. Though still human, it is changed into the heavenly life of incorruptibility, truly living and glorious, undamaged and sharing in perfect life."[18] [St. Germanus of Constantinople, In Sanctae Dei Genetricis Dormitionem, Sermo I.] And another very ancient writer asserts: "As the most glorious Mother of Christ, our Savior and God and the giver of life and immortality, has been endowed with life by him, she has received an eternal incorruptibility of the body together with him who has raised her up from the tomb and has taken her up to himself in a way known only to him." [19] [The Encomium in Dormitionem Sanctissimae Dominae Nostrate Deiparae Semperque Virginis Mariae, attributed to St. Modestus of Jerusalem, n. 14.]

    I can think of no better way to meditate on the glorious Assumption of our Lady than to contemplate on His Holiness' beautiful, moving words of his encyclical.

John Gregory


        "Catholics who remain faithful to Tradition, even if they are reduced to but a handful, they are THE TRUE CHURCH"
        Saint Athanasius, "Apostle of Tradition" AD 373



    August 15, 2008
    vol 19, no. 216-250
    Faithful to Tradition