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The Feast of the Assumption

August 16, 2023

On November 1st, 1950, Pope Pius XII formally defined the dogma of the Assumption. In “Munificentissimus Deus” Pope Pius proclaimed that Mary, “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly gory.”

In addition to celebrating Mary’s special role in salvation history, the Feast of the Assumption affirms our belief in the bodily resurrection.  At the end of all time, believers will experience a bodily resurrection, similar to that of Christ. Mary’s assumption into Heaven is a precursor to our own, hopeful, resurrection.

Mary’s assumption, and our resurrection, underscore the sacredness of our earthly bodies. Our physical bodies are a gift. The Feast of the Assumption, along with our bodily resurrection, reaffirms the dignity of the human body and the human person as a whole.  God created humans as unique creatures. We are, at one time, corporeal (physical) beings as well as spiritual beings. Our souls and our bodies are intrinsically linked.  As ensouled physical creatures, we have a special place among God’s creation. As we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption, we are called to be mindful of our uniqueness in God’s creation and the dignity of the whole person, from the moment of life until natural death.

While the Feast of the Assumption was only proclaimed dogma in 1950, the celebration dates back to the earliest years of the Catholic Church. Early Christian text, including “Transitus Mariae” contain descriptions of Mary’s assumption into Heaven. Early Church Fathers, including St. John Damascene, St. Gregory of Tours and St. Andrew of Crete referred to Mary’s assumption.

The Eastern Church has celebrated the feast of the Dorminition (falling asleep) of the Theotokos since the 6th or 7th century. 

As devotions to Mary grew throughout the Medieval period, the Feast of the Assumption became increasingly popular throughout the Catholic Church. 

From the earliest days of Christianity, the faithful have recognized Mary’s special place in salvation history. The Feast of the Assumption, while only declared dogma in 1950, is the culmination of almost 2000 years of history, tradition and theology. The feast is particularly important today, as the fundamental dignity of the human person is questioned. As we reflect on Mary’s holiness and her immediate “yes” to God’s call, we pray:

Father in heaven,

All creation rightly gives you praise.

For all life and all holiness come from you.

In the plan of your wisdom, she who bore the Christ in her womb

Was raised body and soul in glory to be with Him in heaven.

May we follow her example in reflecting your holiness

And we join in her hymn of endless love and praise.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.


From Catholic Online

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