Life and Soul

Omnium Gatherum

The feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is celebrated this coming week. From the earliest years, Holy Church believed that at the end of her earthly life the Mother of God was assumed bodily into heaven by God’s power and, hence, we acknowledge her as Heaven’s Queen.

According to tradition, all the Apostles except Thomas were present at the end of her life. When Thomas joined them, late, they opened her tomb at his request and found, not her body, but roses and lilies. For this reason they believed she was bodily assumed into heaven. Pius XII infallibly defined this as a dogma of the Church in 1950.

Many believe that, because of her role in the economy of salvation it was not fitting that death should touch Mary and, therefore, she did not die at the end of her life, but rather slept. In the Eastern Churches the feast of the Dormition is celebrated, Mary’s “Falling Asleep”.

Others believe that, even as her divine Son died, so did she. Doctor of the Church St John Damascene (d 749), who believed Mary died, wrote:

But even though, according to nature, your most holy and happy soul is separated from your most blessed and stainless body and the body as usual is delivered to the tomb, it will not remain in the power of death and is not subject to decay. For just as her virginity remained inviolate while giving birth, when she departed her body was preserved from destruction and only taken to a better and more divine tabernacle, which is not subject to any death… Hence I will call her holy passing not death, but falling asleep or departure, or better still, arrival…

Speaking of flowers, on the feast of the Assumption in the Latin Church there is a customary blessing of flowers and herbs, the end of which prays: “O God, who upon this day raised unto the heights of heaven the rod of Jesse, the mother of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, so that through her prayers and patronage Thou mightest communicate to our mortality the Fruit of her womb, Thy same Son: we humbly implore Thee that by the power of Thy Son and the glorious patronage of His Mother, we may be so affected by the aid of these fruits of the earth as to proceed through temporal well-being to eternal salvation.”