We are approaching the season of the final Marian feast, the one which celebrates the end of the earthly life of the holy and immaculate Mother of God.
On August 15 the Church in the West celebrates the Feast of the Assumption, in the East the Feast of the Dormition. Catholics of the Eastern Rites (and separated Eastern Orthodox christians) begin the Dormition Fast on Sunday, August 1st if they are on the new calendar, August 28 if they are on the Julian calendar. You may read our article on the Dormition Fast right here.
The Christian belief that the body of the Mother of Our Lord was not left to corruption here on the earth, but was taken up into Heaven, is not new or innovative, it has been held by Christians since the Apostolic era. One of our books, from our Patristics section, in fact collects many early writings on this topic from the Church Fathers:
Epiphanius, (died 403 A.D.) wrote “How will holy Mary not possess the kingdom of heaven with her flesh, since she was not unchaste, nor dissolute, nor did she ever commit adultery, and since she never did anything wrong as far as fleshly actions are concerned, but remained stainless?”
Gregory of Tours (died 594 A.D.) wrote “Finally, when blessed Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was about to be called from this world, all the Apostles, coming from the different regions, gathered together in her house. When they heard that she was about to be taken up out of the world, they kept watch together with her.
And behold, the Lord Jesus came with his angels and, taking her soul, handed it over to the archangel Michael and withdrew. At dawn, the Apostles lifted up her body on a pallet, laid it in a tomb, and kept watch over it, awaiting the coming of the Lord. And behold, again the Lord presented himself to them and ordered that her holy body be taken and carried up to heaven. There she is now, joined once more to her soul; she exults with the elect, rejoicing in the eternal blessing that will have no end.”
Germanus of Constantinople (died 733 A.D.) wrote “Her body, being human, was adapted and conformed to the supreme life of immortality; however, it remained whole and glorious, gifted with perfect vitality and not subject to the sleep of death, precisely because it was not possible that the vessel that had contained God, the living Temple of the most holy Divinity of the Only-begotten, should be held by a tomb made for the dead.
The writings of these Fathers on the Mother of God, joined by many more, can be found in the wonderful book Mary and the Fathers of the Church:
“For thirty years out of the thirty-three years of His mortal life, Jesus lived with the holiest creature that ever this world saw or heard of. During these years, the deep and supernatural love of Jesus for His sweet Mother was developed and perfected, and He gave her a willing and perfect obedience. Surely she, who had the privilege to command God Himself, is worthy of special honor and devotion. Her example must be worth following when the Son of God lived with her during the greater part of His life. And as she then only had to express a wish in order for it to be carried out by her Divine Son, so now her power in Heaven is not lessened, but rather increased. Devotion to Mary has always been regarded by the saints as a sure sign of predestination. The chief object of the cultivation of the love and veneration of Our Lady is to develop within our souls the interior life of grace. Mary is the model of the interior life, and this is after all the important life. Worldly success is passing, but the acquisition of grace is lasting and is really the only thing in this world that is worth troubling about. Devotion to Mary means the development of this interior life of grace. In vain will we search for a single soul which is truly interior or which has reached great sanctity which has not had a deep love for Mary and which has not had experience of her sweet protection and assistance. In vain will we search for one who has been devout to Mary and yet has not reached great heights of sanctity before death. Mary will never allow one of her children to perish, nor will she fail them in their hour of need.
The great and glorious feasts of Mary are too often forgotten or neglected. Her dolors are not sufficiently meditated upon, nor are they appreciated by the majority of the faithful. It is much better not to separate Jesus from Mary. During life they were together, and they are together in heaven. In the Holy Eucharist the Body and Blood of Jesus which we receive is the same which Jesus took from Mary. Without Mary, we would have no Redemption.” – from the remarkable and inspiring book The Mother of God and Her Glorious Feasts:
As the Feast of the Assumption approaches, take some time to reflect on the life of the Virgin Mary and let her lead you to a more profound life in her Son, Our Lord and Savior.
We fly to thy patronage, O Holy Mother of God. Despise not our prayers in our necessities, but ever deliver us from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin.
O Holy Mother of God, we magnify thee.