Washington D.C., Aug 15, 2020 / 02:30 am
On Aug. 15, Catholics around the world mark the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, commemorating the end of her earthly life and assumption into Heaven.
But while the feast day is a relatively new one, the history of the holiday – and the mystery behind it – has its roots in the earliest centuries of Christian belief.
The Catholic Church teaches that when Mary ended her earthly life, God assumed her, body and soul into heaven.
The dogma of the Assumption of Mary – also called the “Dormition of Mary” in the Eastern Churches – has its roots in the early centuries of the Church.
While a site outside of Jerusalem was recognized as the tomb of Mary, the earliest Christians maintained that “no one was there,” theologian and EWTN senior contributor Matthew Bunson told CNA.
According to St. John of Damascus, the Roman emperor Marcian requested the body of Mary, Mother of God at the Council of Chalcedon, in 451.
St. Juvenal, who was Bishop of Jerusalem told the emperor “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,” the saint recorded.
By the 8th century, around the time of Pope Adrian, the Church began to change its terminology, renaming the feast day of the Memorial of Mary to the Assumption of Mary, Bunson noted.