Pope Paul VI to the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey

"(B)y entering into our house, you are entering your own house, we are happy to open our door and heart to you." - Pope Paul VI to Dr Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Church, East and West has long celebrated August 15 as the Assumption/Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Catholic Church has defined the belief as dogma in 1950 with Pope Pius IX's infallible definition in the Apostolic Constitution Municefentissimus Deus.

"By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory"

The Eastern Church celebrates the date as the Dormition of the Mother of God. Eastern Christians believed that Mary "fell asleep"  ("falling asleep" was how the Ancients referred to death) and was taken body and soul to heaven. The Orthodox Church teaches that Mary has undergone the bodily resurrection which all Christians will experience at the Second Coming of Christ. Mary is now glorified and is in heaven. The righteous will be like Mary after the Last Judgment. While the Dormition and the Assumption can be seen as two ways of emphasizing the same event, there are differences between the Orthodox and Catholic teaching. For starters, the Orthodox do not consider the teaching as infallible dogma as the Catholics do. The Orthodox teach that Mary was bodily assumed or translated to heaven while the Roman Catholic teaching is that she was assumed "body and soul" to heaven. Also the Orthodox teach that Mary died before being assumed into heaven. The Catholics leave that open to interpretation although Pope Pius IX alludes that she died first. Catholics may believe that Mary escaped death but personally I take the Orthodox view that she died first.

The Orthodox and Catholics agree on one point. Mary was assumed into heaven. The teaching emphasizes the Christian destiny of the Resurrection of the Body. We will share in Mary's glorification if we stand fast to the message of Christ.

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer omitted the Assumption from the Book of Common Prayer although the Prayer books of the various Anglican churches marks the date as either the feast of the Falling Asleep of the Virgin Mary, or simply Lady Day or the "Day of the Blessed Virgin Mary". The Anglo Catholic wing of Anglicanism celebrates it as the Assumption of Saint Mary the Virgin as the Catholics do.

The collect from the Book of Divine Worship is the same in revisions of the BCP where to make up for the lack of a collect to honor Mary, a new one was included by Anglo Catholics

"O God, who hast taken to thyself the blessed Virgin Mary,
mother of thy incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been
redeemed by his blood, may, through her intercession, share
with her the glory of thine eternal kingdom; through the
same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth
with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and
for ever. Amen

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