Ceiling of the Assumption of Mary in Santa Maria Immacolata, Rome

MARY: “HAND MADE” by God – Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Solemnities are of the highest degree in the liturgy of the Church and are usually reserved for the most important mysteries of faith.  The word comes from Latin sollemnitas, derived from sollus (whole) and annus (year), indicating an annual celebration. There are 17 solemnities inscribed in the General Roman Calendar  which are observed throughout the Latin Church . The Assumption of the BVM, is one of the seventeen.

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII formally defined and promulgated the dogma of the Assumption in his encyclical Munificentissimus Deus. The world was living in a post-World War II era and the Pope clearly wanted to express his hope that meditation on Mary’s assumption would lead the faithful to a greater awareness of our common dignity as the human family. 

Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary to be a dogma of faith: “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, (note the silence regarding her death) was assumed body and soul to heavenly glory.”  The Church never explicitly says Mary did not die.

Make no mistake; Pope Pius XII did not just wake up one day to pronounce this definition as claimed by the Pentecostals.   The tradition of the Assumption goes back to as early as the sixth century when we find homilies on the Assumption.  In 749 St. John Damascene recorded an interesting story concerning the Assumption:  “St. Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon (451), made known to the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven” (Second Homily on the Dormition of Mary)

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