The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – 19 August
The Solemnity of the Assumption is a day of joy. God has won . Love has won. It has won life. Love has shown that it is stronger than death, that God possesses the true strength and that His strength is goodness and love.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (974) states that the “Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Son’s Resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of His Body.”
St John Damascene (675-749) Father & Doctor of the Church, an outstanding herald of this traditional truth, spoke 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 honoured by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.”
Gathering together the testimonies of the Christians of earlier days, St Robert Bellarmine S.J. (1542-1621) Doctor of the Church exclaimed:
“And who, I ask, could believe that the ark of holiness, the dwelling place of the Word of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit, could be reduced to ruin? My soul is filled with horror at the thought that this virginal flesh which had begotten God, had brought Him into the world, had nourished and carried Him, could have been turned into ashes …”
Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890) expressed similar thoughts on the Assumption of Mary when he said “It was becoming, that she [Mary] should be taken up into heaven and not lie in the grave till Christ’s second coming, who had passed a life of sanctity and of miracle such as hers.”
He added, “If her body was not taken into heaven, where is it? Why are not pilgrimages made to it? Why are not relics producible of her, as of the saints in general? Plainly because that sacred body is in heaven, not on earth.”
It is important to note also that the Venerable Pope Pius XII in the official church document did not say specifically whether or not Mary actually died before being taken up to heaven, only that she “completed the course of her earthly life.” The important thing is that she did not experience the corruption of her body from death that we do as a result of our being born with Original Sin.
Dormition of the Virgin Mary
“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.””
“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.
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.”
Venerable Pope Pius XII (1876-1958) from the Apostolic Constitution ‘Munificentissimus Deus’ (The most bountiful God) which defined ex cathedra The Assumption as Dogma by the Catholic Church in 1950.
So what does the Dogma of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven mean for us on a more down-to-earth level? It gives us great hope that, as we strive to live in our Lord’s grace and to do His will, with Mary’s assistance, we might share in His resurrection someday!
Assumption Day on 15 August is a nationwide public holiday in Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chile, Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, East Timor, France, Gabon, Greece, Georgia, Republic of Guinea, Haiti, Italy, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Republic of Macedonia, Madagascar, Malta, Mauritius, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro (Albanian Catholics), Paraguay, Poland (Polish Army Day), Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Slovenia, Spain, Syria, Tahiti, Togo and Vanuatu and was also in Hungary until 1948. In India, 15 August also celebrates Independence Day.
It is also a public holiday in parts of Germany (Bavaria and Saarland) and Switzerland (in 14 of the 26 cantons). In Guatemala, it is observed in Guatemala City and in the town of Santa Maria Nebaj, both of which claim her as their patron saint. Also, this day is combined with Mother’s Day in Costa Rica and parts of Belgium.
Prominent Catholic and Orthodox countries in which Assumption Day is an important festival but is not recognized by the state as a public holiday include Brazil, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Ireland, Mexico, the Philippines and Russia.
In many places, religious parades and popular festivals are held to celebrate this day. In Canada, Assumption Day is the Fête Nationale of the Acadians, of whom she is the patron saint. Some businesses close on that day in heavily francophone parts of New Brunswick, Canada. The Virgin Assumed in Heaven is also patroness of the Maltese Islands and her feast, celebrated on 15 August, apart from being a public holiday in Malta is also celebrated with great solemnity in the local churches especially in the seven localities known as the Seba’ Santa Marijiet.
Below is an image of the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary at Novara di Sicilia.