The Assumption – from the Patristic Rosary Project

Here is a resumption of my entry in the 2006 Patristic Rosary Project for the:

4th Glorious Mystery: The Assumption

We do not know for sure if the Blessed Virgin Mary died and was assumed body and soul into heaven or if she was assumed into heaven without having died.

Either way, it was fitting that the Mother of God, who had never known the stain of sin, while still requiring a Redeemer just like every other human being, should not experience the corruption of the grave.

Our humanity is seated at the right hand of the Father in the divine Person of our Lord, but now also in the human person of our Lady.

Christ is consubstantial with the Father. Christ is consubstantial with His mother. Mary is Mother of a divine Person with two natures. She is not Mother of part of Christ, but Mother of all of Christ in His integrity. And so, we can call her Mother of God and Mother of the Church. Her heavenly Assumption was fitting.

There are not elaborate reflections in the writings of the Fathers on the Assumption, because it was not a main point of reflection. Still, we can find their thoughts on some passages of Scripture which help us to understand Mary’s role in the plan of our salvation.

Mary Seat of WisdomAs a perfect model for our own Christian discipleship, we can consider, among many texts, Proverbs 8:

And now, my sons, listen to me: happy are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Happy is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD; but he who misses me injures himself; all who hate me love death.

While this concerns Wisdom, in a sense it also harks to Mary, Wisdom’s seat. Here is the reflection of Athenagoras on this section of Proverbs:

[The Son] is the first offspring of the Father, I do not mean that He was created, for, since God is eternal mind, He had His Word within Himself from the beginning, being eternally wise. Rather did the Son come forth from God to give form and actuality to all material things, which essentially have a sort of formless nature and inert quality, the heavier particles being mixed up with the lighter. The prophetic Spirit agrees with this opinion when He says, "The Lord created me as the first of His ways, for His works." Indeed we say that the Holy Spirit Himself, who inspires those who utter prophecies, is an effluence from God, flowing from Him, and returning like ray of the sun. Who, then, would not be astonished to hear those called atheists who admit God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and who teach their unity of power and their distinction in rank? … We affirm, too, a crowd of angels and ministers, whom God, the maker and creator of the world, appointed to their several tasks through His Word, He gave them charge over the good order of the universe, over the elements, the heavens, the world, and all it contains. [A plea regarding Christians 10]


Athenagorus sounds a bit like a subordinationist, but he is fascinating. This passage is interesting also for its hints at the cosmology and physics of late antiquity. Also, it aims at the spiritual hierarchy in which our wondrous Lady has a privileged place.

Consider that the reward of assumption into the beatific vision stems as well from her perfect act of free will when she gave her "Fiat" to God’s will as expressed by the angel. Here is St. Augustine speaking of the impact of free will:

Man in paradise was capable of self-destruction by abandoning justice by an act of will; yet if the life of justice was to be maintained, his will alone would not have sufficed, unless He who made Him glad had given him aid. But, after the fall, God’s mercy was even more abundant, for then the will itself had to be freed from the bondage in which sin and death are the masters. There is no way at all by which it can be freed by itself, but only though God’s grace, which is made effectual in the faith of Christ. Thus, as it is written, even the will by which "the will itself is prepared by the Lord" so that we may receive the other gifts of God through which we come to the Gift eternal – this too comes from God. [Enchiridion 28.106]


God’s grace and Mary’s "Fiat" which was by grace. Mary was drawn with love into God’s plan and, later, into God’s presence. The Fathers made frequent use of the Song of Songs.

St. Gregory the Great writes about the exchanges of heaven and earth which marked the plan of salvation:

The Church speaks through Solomon: "See how he comes leaping on the mountains, bounding over the hill!" … By coming for our redemption the Lord leaped! My friends, do you want to become acquainted with these leaps of His? From heaven He came to the womb, from the womb to the manger, from the manger to the Cross, from the Cross to the sepulcher, and from the sepulcher He returned to heaven. You see how Truth, having made Himself known in the flesh, leaped for us to make us run after Him. [Forty Gospel Homilies 29] 

Our Lady, who would feel Christ leap beneath her heart, would herself leap after Christ in her heart by her "Fiat". She leapt to begin His public ministry when she said at Cana "Do whatever He tell you." She leapt up Calvary with Him when the Blood and water flowed down. Her motherly and Christian heart leapt in joy in seeing Him gloriously risen. She leapt to Him in heaven when her earthly life was concluded.

In heaven Mary shines with the glory God shares with her.

In the book of Revelation we have a description chapter 12 of the woman clothed with the sun. The Fathers speak about this image. They will mostly consider the woman as an image of the Church. We must never reduce the Church to Mary. Nor in talking of the Church as Christ’s Body reduce Christ to the Church. But the three, Christ, Mary and Church are intimately associated.

Hippolytus (+245) writes:

 By the "woman clothed with the sun", he meant most manifestly the Church, endued with the Father’s Word, whose brightness is above the sun. And by "the moon under her feet," he referred to [the Church] being adorned, like the moon, with heavenly glory. And the words "upon her head a crowd of twelve stars" refer to the twelve apostles by whom the Church was founded.

Of course Christ founded the Church on the Apostles, and chiefly upon the Rock who is Peter. The description of the woman, however, fits Mary the Mother of the Church as well as the Church herself.

Here is an extended piece by someone not too many in the West may have read, Oecumenius (6th c.) called the "Rhetor" who wrote the earliest Greek commentary on the Book of Revelation:

The vision intends to describe more completely to us the circumstances concerning the antichrist…. However, since the incarnation of the Lord, which made the world his possession and subjected it, provided a pretext for Satan to raise this one up and to choose him [as his instrument] – for the antichrist will be raised to cause the world again to fall from Christ and to persuade it to desert to Satan – and since moreover His fleshly conception and birth was the beginning of the incarnation of the Lord, the vision gives a certain order and sequence to the material that it is going to discuss and begins the discussion from the fleshly conception of the Lord by portraying for us the mother of God. What does he say? "And a sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sum and the moon was under her feet." As we said, it is peaking about the mother of our Savior. The vision appropriately depicts her as in heaven and not on the earth, for she is pure in soul and body, equal to an angel and a citizen of heaven. She possesses God who rests in heaven – "for heaven is my throne" – it says yet she is flesh, although she has nothing in common with the earth nor is there any evil in her. Rather, she is exalted, wholly worthy of heaven, even though she possesses our human nature and substance. For the Virgin is consubstantial with us. Let the impious teaching of Eutyches, which make the fanciful claim that the Virgin is of another substance than we, be excluded from the belief of the holy courts together with his other opinions. And what does it mean that she was clothed with the sun and the moon was under her feet? The holy prophet Habakkuk, prophesied concerning the Lord, saying, "The sun was lifted up, and the moon stood still in its place for light." calling Christ our Savior, or at least the proclamation of the gospel, the "sun of righteousness". When He was exalted and increased, the moon – that is, the law of Moses – "stood still" and no longer received any addition. For after the appearance of Christ, it no longer received proselytes from the nations as before but endured diminution and cessation. You will, therefore, observe this with me, that also the holy Virgin is covered by the spiritual sun. For this is what the prophet calls the Lord when concerning Israel he says, "Fire fell upon them, and they did not see the sun." But the moon, that is, the worship and citizenship according to the law, being subdued and become much less than itself, is under her feet, for it has been conquered by the brightness of the gospel. And rightly does he call the things of the law by the word "moon", for they have been given light by the sun, that is, Christ just as the physical moon is given its light by the physical sun. The point would have been better made had it said not that the woman was clothed with the sun but that the woman enclothed the sun, which was enclosed in her womb. However, that the vision might show that the Lord, who was being carried in the womb, was the shelter of His own mother and the whole creation, it says that He was enclothing the woman. Indeed, the holy angel said something similar to the holy Virgin: "The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you." For to overshadow is to protect, and to enclothe is the same according to power. [Commentary on the Apocalypse 12.1-2]

Take careful note of the image drawn on by the interesting Oecumenius, which also speaks to the cosmology of late antiquity. First, Oecumenius either knew that the sun gave light to the moon, as it does, or he extrapolates this from the glory that Christ gives to Mary.

All our Marian feasts, all our reflection, to keep the sunlight and moon theme going, always must draw us back to the Person of the Lord. We reflect on the face of the Lord who is reflected in the face of His Mother. Our recitation of the Rosary brings us to know the Lord more and more and, in turn, know ourselves better. We reflect His image and likeness and He came into the word to reveal us more fully to ourselves.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Supertradmum says:

    These are fantastic, Father. I have been working on a Rosary Meditation using the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the works of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. I hope you publish your meditations.

  2. Geremia says:

    As an aside, why are there two totally different assumption masses in my pre-Vatican II missal? E.g., one’s epistle is from Judith and the other’s is from Ecclesiasticus. Thanks

  3. idatom says:

    Fr. Z.;

    How can we get our Protestant friends to accept this beautiful truth, which the Church teaches about Mary. I tried for years to explain to my co-workers our attachment to her. After years of no luck in convincing them I came up with this ditty.

    You have just died and are standing before Jesus for your particular judgment because you need to know if you are going to Heaven, Purgatory, or Hell.

    Jesus opens the book of life and goes down the list of names; Smith / Thomas, James, Peter, John, O here you are Otto Smith. You didn’t like my mother did you?

    Tom Lanter

  4. Sleepyhead says:

    Fr Z wrote, “I have added to the playlist an entirely Latin chaplet of the Rosary – I’ll change the mysteries each day if I can.” Anyone know where the link to the playlist is so I can listen…


  5. Lurker 59 says:

    idatom / Tom Lanter ~

    For Protestants (who are theologically Protestant of the Lutheran/Calvinist traditions and actually know their belief system), it is not really about “disliking Mary” for the issue is multi-layered and the view is typically that the Catholic understanding of Mary is insulting to Christ because it is perceived violation of 1.) the uniqueness of scripture 2.) the uniqueness of the cross 3.) eschatology. Trying to address things from “Oh Mary is an awesome mother” vantage point is almost always a non-starter especially as there is usually an underlying notion that Jesus had a bit of contempt for Mary (for example see how Matt 12:47-50 is treated in Protestant commentary).

    Two things are rather important in Protestant soteriology and how Christ interacts with people. 1.) all, and that does mean all, humans are rank sinners 2.) salvation is effected by the punishments due to individuals being imputed to Christ and Christ’s righteousness (that he gained after sacrificing himself and receiving the punishment due to the elect on the cross) being imputed to sinful man. An individual can only be saved if Christ suffered the punishments due to them. Ergo in order for Mary to be saved, the punishments that were due to Mary’s own personal sins had to be imputed to Christ. It is not enough to say that Christ suffered on her behalf but rather it is necessary to say that Christ was punished and received the full cup of wrath that was due to Mary. That is what is understood and any change/challenge to that structure is considered violating scripture and violating the uniqueness of the cross. As far as eschatology goes, there is no co-operation in grace / synergistic communion of the saints and heaven is much more so about being ruled by God’s sovereignty and obeying rather than having a participation in the divine life of God. There really is a different concept of love going on and Deus Caritas Est when linked with works such as Pieper’s book LOVE really is a challenge to the loss of love in the modern world which does in fact spring forth out of Protestantism. Protestantism did away with Catholicism’s focus on charity as Protestantism condemns the whole salvation by “grace through faith which worketh in charity” as Pelagianism. A good example of this war on charity is 1 Cor 13:1 was altered in Tyndale’s translation and the Geneva Bible from saying “but have not charity” to say “but have not love” in order to switch the focus away from an act to an affect so as not to lend credence to the Catholic view of salvation as having a place for our participatory action.

    Anyway in order to rehabilitate Mary in the eyes of a Protestant, what is needed is to rehabilitate the Father interaction with the Son on the cross. How can a Protestant have a place for the Mother of God in his life if the Father of the Son is viewed as having punished His Son? As long as salvation remains this monergistic imputed penal justification there is no room for Mary’s participation in the lives of God’s family (nor even you nor me). The more a Protestant is moved away from this to correct and sound biblical principles on love and sanctification and union and participation in Christ, the easier it is for a Protestant to start to view Mary as their Queen Mother as well as to see their brothers and sisters and even themselves as part of a kingdom of God where we interact as priests, prophets, and kings all bound together in Christ. (the “priesthood of all believers” is a good toe hold to begin and develop how God actually interacts with His people).

  6. Dear Fr. Z (Father, bless!):

    Thank you for this rich Mariological feast, which not only gives a more nuanced answer to the question of whether our Blessed Lady fell asleep in the Lord before she was taken up into Heaven, but gives a very interesting and informative take on the proper veneration which is properly to be given to the Mother of our Lord.

    I had thought that I was enriched by the Orthodox vigil and liturgy that I helped to serve at St. Andrew Church, my Eastern Catholic parish. I am confirmed in that thought. But I find that I am also enriched by your heavenly theology. Again, thank you.

  7. Fr. W says:

    It seems to me that many priests these days are teaching their flock that Mary DID fall asleep. I wonder if this is because our Ordo mentions this idea. Anyway, it disturbs me because I’ve had parishioners say ‘Father, I didn’t know that Mary fell asleep and did not die.’ When I explain that while this might be the case, there is also a tradition that she did die, so we really don’t know. – I’ve noticed that this falls on deaf ears because people seem to prefer certainty to a stated uncertainty. But it disturbs me that priests are teaching this wrongly.

  8. q7swallows says:

    Fr. Z,

    Speaking of reflections, I do appreciate so much the lovely art you chose for these even lovelier commentaries.   [sigh] To think those, too, are only pale reflections of The Real Thing . . .

    I was especially drawn to the commentary on God’s’ enclothing not only His mother but all of creation.  What a gentleman God is to not leave the slightest little thing unforeseen or unprotected!

    Fervent prayers for your rapid recovery . . .   


  9. AnAmericanMother says:

    Yes indeed, thanks for the beautiful art, perfect accompaniment to the text.

    I recognize the Murillo and the Poussin, but where is the lovely black and white engraving from? It looks as though it might have come from one of the old missals, it has a Kay Nielsen or Walter Crane-ish look about it.

  10. oldCatholigirl says:

    Dear Father Z,

    Missed you today in Kalamazoo, but even before the word went out had been prepared. Glad you didn’t come, if you’re not well. Am praying for you and your intentions.

    Thank you for the fascinating meditation on the Assumption–and the beautiful pictures.

    And thanks to AnAmericanMother for informing me that the one I liked best was by Poussin.

  11. oldCatholigirl: I really missed coming. But it would not have been a prudent decision to travel. I am, however, feeling a little better. The worst is definitely over.

  12. Athanasius says:

    We do not know for sure if the Blessed Virgin Mary died and was assumed body and soul into heaven or if she was assumed into heaven without having died.

    With respect Father, we do know, the common teaching of the Church, and the universal witness of patristics (with the exception of St. Epiphianus who did not affirm or deny) is that Mary did die, but did not suffer corruption. Any standard text on Mariology prior to the council and a text on dogmatic theology calls the opinion common teaching or Certissima. The fact that the dogmatic teaching of Pius XII does not declare explicitly does not mean we throw out the common teaching of the Church.

  13. Athanasius: Prove your point with texts.

  14. PaterAugustinus says:

    I find the discussion of the difference between “falling asleep” and “dying” interesting. In the Orthodox Church, we regard these as synonymous; when speaking of people who died in good memory – saints, men with a saintly reputation (but not yet canonized), and usually even clergy (especially bishops and higher), and often of any Christian, we tend to speak of the date of one’s “repose” or “falling asleep in the Lord.” It’s a euphemism for death, that emphasizes the impermanence of this first death for a Christian. When we hear Fathers and other writers speak of the Virgin’s “falling asleep,” we take that as an affirmation of her death, not an alternate tradition that teaches the Virgin merely fell asleep, in the most literal sense. We even call the Feast the “Falling Asleep” (“Dormition,” “Kimisis”), but we understand this to be a reference to her death.

    When it comes to the Virgin, the Orthodox Church regards it as a normative teaching of the Tradition that the Virgin truly died (i.e., suffered the separation of soul and body) before her bodily resurrection resulted in the reunion of soul and body in the heavens. The only point of debate amongst the Fathers seems to be a small matter, of wondering why the Virgin needed to die if she had led a life of such immense purity and had died in a state of sinless participation in incorruption. The usual counterpoint is that the Lord also died, since death is a part of (post-lapsarian) human nature (with “nature” understood in the technical sense of our actual nature, and not just the aggregate set of inevitable human exigencies post-fall, some of which are not natural at all). Thus, it was fitting for the Virgin to submit to death just as the Lord had – that is, a natural death, but one without corruption after dying. Indeed, the (Orthodox) Church would say that all those who attain unto a certain perfection in the ascetic and contemplative life are deified and participate in incorruption – which is why the Orthodox Church usually expects to find the relics of a candidate for canonization in an incorrupt state, at least at the time of the raising of the relics – but that this participation in incorruption and deification does not exempt the saints from natural death, either. Only the Christians alive at the Lord’s Parousia will be translated into their new bodies without the normal kind of death. In any case, the Fathers agree the Virgin died, but they do seem to discuss why this should have been… since the Virgin’s sinlessness and incorruptibility, as the Immaculate Tabernacle of our Lord’s Theandric Body, was so far beyond that of even the greatest saints. This is why an incorrupt branch from a Paradisiacal tree was borne before our Lady’s body in her funeral procession – as a witness to the incorruptibility and cleanness of her body, even in repose.

    Iconographic norms are also revered as a witness to Holy Tradition in the Orthodox Church (and in Catholicism, I would imagine); by far the most common icon of the feast in the Eastern Church – also much used in earlier times in the West – is the Icon of the “Kimisis” or “Falling Asleep” of the Virgin. Her soul is clearly depicted as separate from her body; her soul is shown resting in Christ’s hands in the form of a small child in swaddling clothes. St. Gregory (of Tours), who is the first Latin Father (so far as I know) to speak of the Dormition/Assumption of the Virgin, says:

    “Impleto a beata Maria huius vitae cursu, cum iam vocaretur a saeculo, congregati sunt omnes apostoli de singulis regionibus ad domum eius. Cumque audissent quia esset assumenda de mundo, vigilabant cum ea simul; et ecce, Dominus Iesus advenit cum angelis suis, et accipiens animam eius, tradidit Michaelo angelo et recessit. Diluculo autem levaverunt apostoli cum lectulo corpus eius, posueruntque illud in monumento, et custodienabt eum, adventum Domini praestolantes. Et ecce! Iterum adstetit eis Dominus, susceptumque corpus sanctum in nube deferri iussit in Paradiso, ubi nunc, resumpta anima, cum electis eius exsultans, aeternitatis bona, nullo occasura fine, perfruetur.”

    “Once the course of this life had been completed by Blessed Mary, after she had been called (away) from the world [lit. “when she had already been called from the world”], all the Apostles were gathered together from their several regions unto her home. And when they had heard that she was to be taken up from the world, they kept vigil with her together. And behold, the Lord Jesus came with His angels, and taking her soul, He handed it over to the angel Michael and departed. Now, on the morrow the Apostles took up her body with the bier, and placed it in the tomb, and guarded it, expecting the Lord’s coming. And behold! Again the Lord stood nigh at hand, and ordered that the holy body, after He had taken it up, should be borne into Paradise, where now, having recovered her soul, (the Virgin) is exulting with His elect, thoroughly enjoying the goods of eternity, with no end to come.”

    His take is essentially identical with that of all the Fathers who write on the topic.

    Perhaps my favorite reflection on the Assumption, is how the Virgin is the only (merely) human being to have been resurrected with the full inheritance of the Last Day’s Resurrection. The raising of Lazarus, the Widow of Nain’s son, etc., were all a mere return to earthly life. The Virgin has received our future reward as a “down payment,” so to speak… a tender of the reward which awaits the whole Church, represented so powerfully by the Blessed Virgin. As an ex-Protestant, the realization that the Virgin stands as a singularly powerful intercessor and representative of the Church in heaven, being the only one of our company to exist bodily in the heavens with our Lord, has been very potent fodder for theological and devotional reflection.

    A blessed Feast to all celebrating the Assumption today! If Catholics still celebrate the Octaves of Feasts, I wish you all a blessed week of celebrations (I know those using the 1962 Missal must celebrate Octaves, I just don’t know about the Novus Ordo). For most of us in the Orthodox Church, the Assumption is still about two weeks away… though we have just begun the “Dormition Fast,” a short fasting period which leads up to the festive occasion. It is the greatest of the feasts of the Virgin in the Orthodox Church, and a very joyful time… even the fast is a very happy one!

  15. About the best argument we can make is, I think, that because the Lord died, it was fitting that the “daughter of her Son” would die as well.

  16. gambletrainman says:


    I assume you have 2 pre-VII missals. One is an actual 1945 edition of St Andrew’s Daily Missal. The other one is either a re-print of the same missal (I think done around 1990), or a reprint of the 1945 Father Lasance Daily Missal. The dogma of the Assumption was proclaimed in 1950. Therefore, the original issue of the 1945 missal has the old Mass, Gaudeamus, where the reprint has the Mass that was promulgated in 1950, which is also the version in the 1962 missal, which is Signum Magnum. (Both of these are the opening words of the Introit)

  17. Athanasius says:

    From the Gregorian Missal:

    Veneranda nobis, Domine, hujus est diei festivitas in qua sancta Dei genitrix mortem subiit temporalem, nec tamen mortis nexibus deprimi potuit, quae Filium tuum Dominum nostrum de se genuit incarnatum.” (Migne, P.L., LXXVIII, 133)

    Also Merklbach:

    Christus voluntarie debebat se subiicere legi Dei mortem statuenti, atque passione sua et morte genus humanum a peccato redimere, Maria quoque, in opere redemptionis consociata, sicut Christus debebat pati et mori, atque mandato mortis se subiicere. Quod fecit consentiendo in hoc quod esset mater Dei-Redemptoris, Merklbach, Mariologia, pg. 267-268

    Moreover Merklbach states the thesis:

    “B. Virgo vere mortem subiit, non tamen ex debito et in poenam peccati, sed ex conditione et defectu suae naturae, atque in conformitate ad Dei legem et beneplacitum divinum. – Est certum (ibid, pg. 265)


    “[it] is immediately connected with the revealed truths concerning original sin and the general economy of the redemption of the human race. Therefore the question of the Virgin’s death is not a matter of opinion nor a pious belief which can be disputed freely; it is a firm and consistent teaching which should be venerated for its antiquity.” Alastruey, The Blessed Virgin Mary, vol. 1, pg. 253


    “Though some theologians have denied the reality of Our Lady’s death, it has been a matter of universal belief from primitive times.” (Pohle-Preuss, Mariology, pg. 105)

    Ott (after declaring it the common opinion of the Church, sent. communior)

    “The fact of her[Mary’s] death is almost generally accepted by the Fathers and Theologians, and is expressly affirmed in the Liturgy of the Church.” (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pg. 307)
    Some Fathers
    St. Gregory of Tours

    Dominus susceptum corpus sanctum in nube deferri jussit in paradisum, ubi nunc resumpta anima cum electis ejus exsultans aeternitatis bonis nullo occasuris fine perfruitur. Migne, P.L., LXXI, 708)

    St. Modestus of Jerusalem

    “Ever anguished by a mother’s yearning for her Son divine, she quit her holy body with her eyes upon Him, and into His hands she commended her all-blessed, all holy soul.”(PG, 86 3308)

    St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople:

    Give to the earth without distress [Our Lord says to Mary] what is the earth’s… Trust your body to me, seeing that I myself entrusted to your womb my divinity… Death will not vaunt itself over you for you have conceived Life, lie down in the tomb of Gethsemane and that for appearance alone. I will not leave you long an orphan therein. (PG 98,368)

    St. Andrew of Crete

    “She who has introduced into heaven that which is dust, strips off the dust and lays aside the veil she has carried from her birth, and restores to the earth what is kin to earth.” (PG. 97, 1080-1081)

    “Ut minime corruptus est parturientis uterus, ita nec periit defunctae caro. (Or. de Dormitio B. Mariae Virginis, 2, 5)

    St. John Damascene

    “There was need that the body of her who in childbirth had preserved her virginity without stain, be preserved incorrupt even after death.” (PG. 96, 740)


    Pius XI:

    “[In Mary] there was not the grace of creation but the grace of redemption, which did not confer on her a true and proper immortality.” (Solemn Alocution, L’Osservatore Romano, 16-17, quoted in Alastruey, Mariology pg. 252)

    Pius XII

    “In the same way, it was not difficult for them to admit that the great Mother of God, like her only begotten Son, had actually passed from this life (ex hac vita decesisse). But this in no way prevented them from believing and from professing openly that her sacred body had never been subject to the corruption of the tomb, and that the august tabernacle of the Divine Word had never been reduced to dust and ashes.” (Munificentissimus Deus, no 14)

    John Paul II:

    “Concerning the end of Mary’s earthly life, the Council uses the terms of the Bull defining the dogma of the Assumption and states: “The Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, when her earthly life was over” (Lumen gentium, n. 59). With this formula, the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, following my Venerable Predecessor Pius XII, made no pronouncement on the question of Mary’s death. Nevertheless, Pius XII did not intend to deny the fact of her death, but merely did not judge it opportune to affirm solemnly the death of the Mother of God as a truth to be accepted by all believers.” (L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, 2 July 1997, page 11 )

  18. asperges says:


    You write, “ was fitting that the Mother of God, who had never known the stain of sin, while still requiring a Redeemer just like every other human being, should not experience the corruption of the grave.”

    Could you elaborate on this slightly, please? I do not doubt it is correct, but if Mary was conceived immaculately, which of course she was, and remained free from sin, did she require a Redeemer only because she was part of the human race? Had Eve not disobeyed and there had been no original sin, then there would have been no “felix culpa” to redeem. Or is all this too Jesuitical?

  19. Fr. Basil says:

    \\We do not know for sure if the Blessed Virgin Mary died and was assumed body and soul into heaven or if she was assumed into heaven without having died. \\

    Oh, yes, we do know.

    The revised Roman Office for the Assumption that was promulgated when the Assumption was Dogmatized says in one of the Matins lessons (from St. John of Damascus) that the Theotokos suffered the penalty of all mankind–namely physical death.

    Lex orandi, lex credendi.

    Other fathers have taught that she passed away, not because she was subject to death, but that she wished to be conformed in all ways possible to her Divine Son.

    And beloved John Paul II said the idea that the Theotokos never died was unheard of in the West until the 1600’s or so. He said on the subject (quoting St. Alphonsus, I think), that the Holy Virgin died not in pain, but in a transport of love for God, and thus her soul passed from her body.

    The Offices for the Eastern Churches for this Feast (usually called the Dormition or Falling Asleep of the Virgin) are all unambiguous. She died a physical death, but at some unspecified point–traditionally, within three days–her body was likewise taken to heaven.

    FWIW, the Byzantine offices of the Post-feast (corresponding to the Western Octave) refer to her bodily Assumption.

  20. pyrosapien says:

    @Lurker 59,

    Thanks for the commentary. I sojourned through Protestant land for a while. I learned a lot about the very ecclectic and diverse collection of Protestant teaching. I will have to re-read your post but… I find your explanation of things pretty familiar to what I used to hear at the several different Protestant Churches I attended (LCMS, METHodist, non-denom “evangelical”, etc…). I think there are some important tools for the apologists in your post.

  21. irishgirl says:

    Geremia and gambletrainman-I have the St. Andrew Daily Missal, which I use when I attend the EF Mass-and so I recognized the engraving of Our Lady’s Assumption that Father Z put in his post!

    The Mass that was said in the TLM chapel yesterday was the ‘older’ Mass-I got so confused at the start of Mass and couldn’t find the Mass that was being used. I finally did find it, and was able to follow what the priest was saying at the altar. It drove me nuts!

    Hope you’re feeling better, Father Z….

  22. wmeyer says:

    Fr. Z, thank you for this, and I hope you are feeling better.

    Our priest gave his homily on the Rosary, and the catechist at dismissal “regretted” (in a tsk-tsk fashion) that he had not given a homily on the Gospel. Then she went on at length about the pre-Vatican II heresies which elevated the importance of Mary.

    For my part, I would have thought the homily should have been on the Assumption generally, and with due attention to an understanding of the reading from Revelation, the one book with which many of us struggle.

  23. AnAmericanMother says:

    Fr. Z,
    Glad the worst is over.
    Take care of yourself, please.

  24. q7swallows says:

    About the best argument we can make is, I think, that because the Lord died, it was fitting that the “daughter of her Son” would die as well.

    I have always reasoned it this way also!  But I have extended it further and I have long been of the opinion that Mary also may have experienced not only the pain of childbirth but the greatest pain of childbirth.  Not out of necessity but out of love–so that she could, like her Son, be the mother of all mothers.  Although she was the most deserving of a pain-free childbirth, it just seems that sher would opt for the most painful and solitary one so that she could scoop up in her supremely empathetic arms every single beleaguered daughter of Eve.    

  25. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Belated thanks, not only for this ‘entry’ (which I have read with delight and instruction) but also for the whole Patristic Rosary Project (which I have not yet studied in its entirety)!

    Thanks, too, to the commentators for all the further Patristic (and other) enrichment, here!

    It might interest my fellow readers to note that the St. Willibrord Church in Utrecht, The Netherlands, which is reputed to be the only Church in Western Europe with only Latin-language services (except for the lessons, intercessions, and sermon), has recently added praying the Rosary in Latin prior to the weekly EF Mass, and has produced a downloadable booklet for it (including a Dutch translation: perhaps also of use to German- and Afrikaans-speakers…).

    I have not yet tried reading along in Latin while listening to Fr. Z.’s Latin Rosary, so I do not know if there are any differences.

    You can have a look here: (‘Rosary’ in Dutch is ‘Rozenkrans’, which sounds like Hamlet’s old fellow- student in Shakespeare and Stoppard.)

    (One of their OF services has recently been broadcast live on Dutch national television and two more are scheduled to be – including on the Feast of St. Willibrord.

    Brick by Brick, via ‘the ether’ and internet archive as well?)

    Dear PaterAugustinus,

    You refer to the Theotokos as “being the only one of our company to exist bodily in the heavens with our Lord”. What of Enoch and Elijah (whom I would take to be part of an exemplary argument for many Protestants as to at least the possibility of the Assumption: or is there a strong case (to be) made for their being so far ‘merely not dead bodily, yet’, if I may so express it)?

    You also say, “Perhaps my favorite reflection on the Assumption, is how the Virgin is the only (merely) human being to have been resurrected with the full inheritance of the Last Day’s Resurrection. The raising of Lazarus, the Widow of Nain’s son, etc., were all a mere return to earthly life.” Daniélou has an interesting discussion in the Enoch chapter of ‘Les saints païens de l’ancient testament’ (1956) of Matthew 27:52 in this context. He describes it as the general opinion of the Fathers that this refers to the resurrection and eschatological assumption of the saints of the Old Testament, though he only specifically cites the ‘Recognitiones clementinae’ (1, 52). I would add Origen ‘On Matthew’ (XII.43) and St. Clement of Alexandria, ‘Stromata'( (I have also encountered references to the ‘receptio Johanni’ being in St. Willibrord’s calendar for 24 June and in the Monologium of Constntinople and the Calendar of Naples (for 26 September).) Daniélou expresses it in the form of saying that the Church has defined and declared that, in any event, this anticipation of the resurrection at the end of time applies to the Blessed Virgin.

  26. Fr. Basil says:

    Here is the quote from Lesson V of Matins in the Roman office of the Assumption promulgated at the same time as Munificentimus Deus.

    It is from the writings of St. John of Damascus:

    “But she yielded obedience to the law established by Him to whom she had given birth, and, as the daughter of the old Adam, underwent the old sentence, which even her Son, who is the very Life Itself, had not refused.”

    What is this law? Physical death.

    Her soul was separated from her body, howsoever briefly.

    But the tomb had no power to contain her virginal body, which was assumed to heaven and reunited with her most pure soul. She has passed beyond death and judgement. The Resurrection of the Body has in her case been anticipated, and she lives totally in the World to Come, where she forever beholds the face of her Divine Son in the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

    Most Holy Theotokos, save us!

  27. q7swallows says:

    I do like your input here on this post, Fr. Basil! It is so affirming!

  28. Fr. Basil: Those are great texts! But I think I will stick to my previous position. I am not sure that those texts remove all the questions about whether or not the Blessed Virgin physically died. The writings of the Fathers are good and sound references, but I don’t believe there has been a definitive teaching on this matter from Holy Church. I know that in the West there is a strong vector toward accepting that she physically died. Perhaps one day the Church will address this and give us a definitive teaching.

  29. Athanasius says:

    The writings of the Fathers are good and sound references, but I don’t believe there has been a definitive teaching on this matter from Holy Church.


    A moral unanimity in the tradition is sufficient to make the doctrine more binding than a pious tradition, it actually attains ordinary magisterial infallibility as Bl. Pius IX taught in Tuas Libenter (cf. Franzelin de Traditione), unless or until the magisterium could correct it and show why the prior teaching was mistaken, such as the case with Sacramentum Ordinis and the teaching of Florence on the sacrament or order. Not to mention that Mary’s death is attested to in the liturgy of both Eastern and Western Churches (Lex orandi, lex credendi).

    The most convincing text for me is from the Mariologist Gregorio Alastruey, who wrote (also quoted above)

    “[It] is immediately connected with the revealed truths concerning original sin and the general economy of the redemption of the human race. Therefore the question of the Virgin’s death is not a matter of opinion nor a pious belief which can be disputed freely; it is a firm and consistent teaching which should be venerated for its antiquity.” Alastruey, The Blessed Virgin Mary, vol. 1, pg. 253

    We’re a Church of Tradition, we need to follow the tradition unless a more perfect teaching of the Magisterium replaces it.

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