Today the universal Church celebrates the great feast of the Assumption. This feast is so important that the Church maintains the day as a Holy Day of Obligation (all Catholics are required to go to Mass on this day just as if it were a Sunday.) But what is this feast of the Assumption? This short blog post aims to explain the Assumption, explain why it is logical and show a brief history of the teaching.
The Feast of the Assumption is the celebration of Mary, the Mother of God, “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” As Catholics we believe the Blessed Virgin, at the end of her life was not buried and left to corruption but rather was raised up body and soul into heaven. While at first glance this teaching may seem odd or even incorrect with a little thought it becomes clear that this teaching is perfectly logical. The corruption of the body after death is a result of sin, it is one of the affects of original sin that remains even after original sin has been washed away by baptism. Before the fall into sin by Adam and Eve there was no corruption of the body. Since all of us inherit original sin are bodies are subjected to decay at the end of our life. The Blessed Virgin however was born without original sin (the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception) and never sinned herself. Since there was no stain of sin on the soul of the Blessed Virgin she had none of the affects of sin and thus her body was not subject to decay.
Unfortunately most of our Protestant brothers and sisters see this teaching as a modern invention and do not hold it to be true. While the feast of the Assumption was not definitively by the Church until 1950 the teaching has been a part of the tradition of the Church from the beginning. The clearest evidence that the early Church believed Mary was assumed into heaven rests in the fact that there are no relics of the Blessed Virgin or a shrine at her burial site. The early Church collected the bones of holy people and held them as relics. The Blessed Virgin was held in the highest esteem and considered the model of holiness by the early Church. Certainly if the Blessed Virgin had been buried somewhere her relics would have been collected or at least her burial site would have become a place of pilgrimage. All of the Church Fathers held the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin to be true and the feast of the Assumption was first celebrated around the year 600 in the Eastern Churches and in 700’s in the Western Churches. While our Protestant brothers and sisters are correct that the feast of the Assumption was taught definitively as doctrine only recently the teaching has been a part of the tradition from the beginning.