Friday, 22 August 2008

Assumption of Our Lady and the Dormition of Our Lady revisited...

Thanks to Sentire Cum Ecclesia for alerting me to some comments of the Pope on the Feast of the Assumption that are relevant to the question of the degree of certainty on the physical death of Our Lady. Pope Benedict XVI said (translation and photos from the Papa Ratzinger Forum):

"In the Bible, the last reference to her earthly life is found at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, which presents Mary gathered in prayer together with the disciples in the upper room, waiting for the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14).

Following this, a twofold tradition - in Jerusalem and in Ephesus - attests to her 'dormition', as the Eastern [Christians] call it, her 'falling asleep' in God. This was the event that preceded her passage from earth into Heaven, which is the confession of the uninterrupted faith of the Church.

In the eighth century, for example, John Damascene, establishing a direct relationship between the 'dormition' of Mary and the death of Jesus, explicitly affirms the truth of her bodily assumption. In a famous homily, he writes: 'It was necessary that she who had carried the Creator as a child in her womb should live together with Him in the tabernacles of heaven' (Homily II on the Dormition, PG 96, 741 B).

As Vatican Council II teaches, the Most Holy Virgin Mary must always be part of the mystery of Christ and of the Church. In this perspective, 'just as the Mother of Jesus, glorified in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected is the world to come, so too does she shine forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come (cf. 2 Pt. 3:10), as a sign of sure hope and solace to the people of God during its sojourn on earth' (Const. Lumen Gentium, 68).

From Paradise, the Virgin Mary, especially in their difficult times of trial, continues always to watch over the children that Jesus himself entrusted to Her before dying on the cross.

Assumed into heaven points out to us the ultimate destination of our earthly pilgrimage. She reminds us that our entire being - spirit, soul, and body - is destined for the fullness of life; that those who live and die in the love of God and of neighbor will be transfigured in the image of the glorious body of the risen Christ; that the Lord humbles the proud and raises up the lowly (cf. Lk. 1:51-52). This is what the Virgin Mary proclaims eternally with the mystery of her Assumption. May You be always praised, O Virgin Mary! Pray to the Lord for us."

I think the degrees of certainty over this issue just jumped up a step or two!

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