On August 15, Catholics celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Most years (although not this year, since it falls on a Monday), the date is a holy day of obligation. The Church in her wisdom wants us to understand how important Mary is in our devotional life–and practicing Catholics are required to attend Mass.
“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 to heavenly glory.”
- Bishop St. Melito of Sardis (who died around 200 A.D.) wrote in an apocryphal story called the Transitus Mariae (The Passage of Mary) that Mary died in the presence of the apostles in Jerusalem and then, her body just disappeared–or was buried, and then disappeared.
- St. John Damascene (who died in 749 A.D.) recorded a story about 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.”
- Byzantine Rite Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Dormition on August 15. The feast was established by the Byzantine Emperor Mauritius (582-602) to celebrate our Lady’s death and assumption. Some historians believe that the feast was already celebrated before that, even before the Council of Ephesus in 431.