August 15th is a holiday known as the Assumption of Mary.
Wikipedia made the following observations:
According to the belief…of the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Catholic Churches, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, and the Anglican Communion, the Assumption of Mary was the bodily taking up of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her life. The Roman Catholic Church teaches as dogma that the Virgin Mary, “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” This doctrine was dogmatically and infallibly defined by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950, in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus. This belief is known as the Dormition by the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches. In the churches which observe it, the Assumption is a major festival, commonly celebrated on August 15. In many countries it is a Catholic Holy Day of Obligation…In East Orthodox churches following the Julian Calendar, the feast day of Assumption of Mary falls on August 28, and is also a public holiday in the Republic of Macedonia.
I would like to add that many take devotion to “Mary” quite seriously. Below is a photo my wife Joyce took of prayer notes to “Mary” next to where her final home in Ephesus was supposed to be:
Now it is possible that Mary did live in Ephesus. Basically, the Bible records that Jesus asked the Apostle John to take care of His mother while He was being crucified, and John accepted (John 19:26-27). As far as John being in Ephesus, Polycrates sent a letter to Pope Victor towards the end of the second century and stated that John died in Ephesus (Eusebius. Church History. Book V, Chapter 25). Hence, it is logical that Mary could have as well. The fact that Mary was not mentioned in that letter from Polycrates (and many were) indicates that she may not have gone to Ephesus–she may, for one possibility, simply have died in the Jerusalem area before John moved to Ephesus (which was likely the mid-late 60s A.D.).
But this belief in the “Assumption of Mary”–the teaching that she did perhaps did not die but went directly to heaven–is based on assumption and mysticism.
The Catholic Encyclopedia admits:
Regarding the day, year, and manner of Our Lady’s death, nothing certain is known…The dates assigned for it vary between three and fifteen years after Christ’s Ascension. Two cities claim to be the place of her departure: Jerusalem and Ephesus. Common consent favours Jerusalem, where her tomb is shown; but some argue in favour of Ephesus. The first six centuries did not know of the tomb of Mary at Jerusalem. The belief in the corporeal assumption of Mary is founded on the apocryphal treatise De Obitu S. Dominae, bearing the name of St. John, which belongs however to the fourth or fifth century. It is also found in the book De Transitu Virginis, falsely ascribed to St. Melito of Sardis, and in a spurious letter attributed to St. Denis the Areopagite.(“The Feast of the Assumption.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 14 Aug. 2010 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02006b.htm>)
So, according to The Catholic Encyclopedia the basis for the “belief in the corporeal assumption of Mary is founded on the apocryphal” texts which were claimed to be written by people (like the Apostle John and Melito of Sardis) who did not write them. This makes no sense as a source for any dogma people would hold to be true. The Catholic writer Epiphanius, in the late fourth century, wrote:
Perhaps this [Rev. 12:13-14] can be applied to her; I cannot decide for certain, and I am not saying that she remained immortal. But neither am I saying that she died. (Panarion of Epiphanius, 78.11.4. As cited in Shoemaker S. The Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary’s Dormition and Assumption. Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 12)
Notice what the scripture Epiphanius referred to actually states:
13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman, who brought forth the man child: 14 And there were given to the woman two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the desert unto her place, where she is nourished for a time and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. (Revelation 12:13-14, Douay-Rheims).
Notice that “the woman” goes to “the desert” and “here she is nourished for a time and times, and half a time”. Heaven is NOT a desert. Also understand that Catholic scholars tend to correctly believe that the expression “a time and times, and half a time” refers to 3 1/2 years (and even if that was in error, this is a finite period of time, not nearly two thousand years). Thus, it makes no sense that Revelation 12:13-14 could possibly apply to Mary. Epiphanius should have been able to decide for certain that it did not, around 400 years after she was born. It should be clear that the idea of Mary’s “assumption” was not a dogmatic belief centuries after she would likely have been expected to have died. Of course, the Bible was clear in the mid-late 1st century that only Jesus had immortality:
13 I charge thee before God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate, a good confession, 14 That thou keep the commandment without spot, blameless, unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Which in his times he shall shew who is the Blessed and only Mighty, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; 16 Who only hath immortality, and inhabiteth light inaccessible, whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and empire everlasting. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:13-16, Douay-Rheims)
Note that I used the Catholic-approved Douay-Rheims translation in this article to show that these ideas have support even within Catholic-approved writings. If Mary was immortal then, then the Apostle Paul would not have been inspired to write that. The Catholic Saint Augustine wrote of “her death” (Augustine. Tractates on the Gospel of John (Augustine) > Tractate 8, Chapter 9. Translated by John Gibb. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 7. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1701008.htm>), thus the idea of Mary dying was an old concept. Dr. Douglas Winnail made the following observation:
The Bible never refers to Mary’s “Immaculate Conception”—the doctrine that she was born without sin. Nor does it teach the “Assumption”—the doctrine that Mary was bodily transported to heaven. Rather, Scripture clearly states that “no one has ascended to heaven” except Jesus (John 3:13). (Winnail DS. The Lady of Nations. Tomorrow’s World, LCG Magazine. Nov-Dec 2003).
So where did the idea of Mary’s assumption come from? Basically, from apocryphal literature in the fourth century (or possibly as early as the late third century)–but mainly even later than that. Although Epiphanius tried to investigate it, he was uncertain. Mary’s “assumption” became more of an issue after the death of Mohammed. Wikipedia notes:
John of Damascus, from this period, is the first church authority to advocate the doctrine under his own name; he had been brought up in an environment in which a corporeal ascent of Muhammed into heaven was official policy, since he, and his father before him, held the post of imperial chancellor of the Islamic empire of the Umayyads, and Muhammed’s ascent into heaven is the subject of the Night Journey, a Surah in the Quran. His contemporaries, Gregory of Tours and Modestus of Jerusalem, helped promote the concept to the wider church.
So, since the Muslims claimed that Muhammed went to directly to heaven, certain Catholics began to promote the idea. However, it should be pointed out that the place of the “assumption” changed. Wikipedia reports:
In some versions of the story the event is said to have taken place in Ephesus, in the House of the Virgin Mary, although this is a much more recent and localized tradition. The earliest traditions all locate the end of Mary’s life in Jerusalem…
So, the earliest accounts claimed Jerusalem, but that was later changed to Ephesus by some. If Mary died 3-15 years after Jesus, then she likely did not die in the area near Ephesus. Another article in The Catholic Encyclopedia mentions:
As to tradition, there is some testimony for Mary’s temporary residence in or near Ephesus, but the evidence for her permanent home in Jerusalem is much stronger… In Panaghia Kapoli, on a hill about nine or ten miles distant from Ephesus, was discovered a house, or rather its remains, in which Mary is supposed to have lived. The house was found, as it had been sought, according to the indications given by Catherine Emmerich in her life of the Blessed Virgin… In 451 Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, testified to the presence of Mary’s tomb in Jerusalem…Another witness for the existence of a tradition placing the tomb of Mary in Gethsemani is the basilica erected above the sacred spot, about the end of the fourth or the beginning of the fifth century… It has been seen that we have no absolute certainty as to the place in which Mary lived after the day of Pentecost. Though it is more probable that she remained uninterruptedly in or near Jerusalem, she may have resided for a while in the vicinity of Ephesus, and this may have given rise to the tradition of her Ephesian death and burial. There is still less historical information concerning the particular incidents of her life. (“The Blessed Virgin Mary.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 14 Aug. 2010 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15464b.htm>)
Of course, the presence of a tomb suggests that one was buried within it, not assumed directly to heaven. Others have claimed her body left the tomb:
In the eighth century, St. John Damascene was known for giving sermons at the holy places in Jerusalem. At the Tomb of Mary, he expressed the belief of the Church on the meaning of the feast: “Although the body was duly buried, it did not remain in the state of death, neither was it dissolved by decay. . . . You were transferred to your heavenly home, O Lady, Queen and Mother of God in truth.” (Stevens C, Priest. Assumption of Mary. Catholic Heritage, July-August 1996. http://www.ewtn.com/library/answers/aofmary.htm)
S. Shoemaker also claims that the earliest accounts of the assumption state it occurred in Jerusalem, but later Ephesus:
Nevertheless, the earliest evidence of any such belief appears only in the ninth century, in a Syriac manuscript, copied in 874 which reports that Mary accompanied John to Ephesus, where she died and was buried. (Shoemaker S. The Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary’s Dormition and Assumption. Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 75)
Anne Catherine Emmerich
By the way, there is a plaque outside of Ephesus near the house that Mary allegedly lived in from the Church of Rome which basically declares that this is Mary’s house (I read the plaque when I was last there). Pope Pius XII declared it a Holy Place as did Pope John XXIII (it is an important religious site for Muslims too); Wikipedia reports “Pope Paul VI visited the shrine on July 26, 1967, and ‘unofficially’ confirmed its authenticity.” The idea that Mary’s house was specifically there was allegedly developed because of visions that the mystic nun Anne Catherine Emmerich claimed to have had in the early 19th century. Because of her visions,one or more priests went to Ephesus and found a house apparently matching her descriptions (Shoemaker, p. 76). Some in the local area confirmed the location as Mary’s last house. And while some may claim that is proof it was Mary’s home, I should also add that Anne Catherine Emmerich claimed to have seen Limbo in her visions, yet the current Pontiff (Benedict XVI) has indicated that there is no such place as Limbo (What is Limbo? Is There Such a Place as Limbo? What Happens to Babies When They Die?). Despite this, on October 3, 2004 Anne Catherine Emmerich was beatified by Pope John Paul II.
But irrespective of what location may have been “Mary’s house”, the historical accuracy of the “assumption of Mary”, is at best an assumption that seems to contradict scripture. Although some have claimed that the apostles originally reported “the assumption” there do not appear to be any pre-fourth century documents that state this (and even the “apostolic claim” was from testimony in the mid-fifth century by Juvenal, see The Catholic Encyclopedia Assumption of Mary).
The assumption position mainly seems to be accepted because people want to believe it as opposed to basing it upon reliable historical documentation:
In view of the striking absence of early historical evidence, the Vatican proceeded to establish the Assumption dogma primarily on a dogmatic rather than a historical basis. It was determined that despite the complete lack of any historical evidence for early belief in the Virgin’s Assumption, the dogma should still be proclaimed…
(Shoemaker S. The Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary’s Dormition and Assumption. Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 15)
Wikipedia also noted:
Protestant theologians…cite the fact that the idea did not gain acceptance in the church until the sixth century, after Gregory of Tours accepted the apocryphal work “Transitus Beatae Mariae”…Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott stated, “The idea of the bodily assumption of Mary is first expressed in certain transitus-narratives of the fifth and sixth centuries…. The first Church author to speak of the bodily assumption of Mary, in association with an apocryphal transitus B.M.V., is St. Gregory of Tours.”…The Catholic writer Eamon Duffy goes further, conceding that “there is, clearly, no historical evidence whatever for it.”…
In Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma he states that “the fact of her death is almost generally accepted by the Fathers and Theologians, and is expressly affirmed in the Liturgy of the Church”, to which he adduces a number of helpful citations, and concludes that “for Mary, death, in consequence of her freedom from original sin and from personal sin, was not a consequence of punishment of sin. However, it seems fitting that Mary’s body, which was by nature mortal, should be, in conformity with that of her Divine Son, subject to the general law of death”…The point of her bodily death has not been infallibly defined, and many believe that she did not die at all, but was assumed directly into Heaven. The dogmatic definition within the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus which, according to Roman Catholic dogma, infallibly proclaims the doctrine of the Assumption leaves open the question whether, in connection with her departure, Mary underwent bodily death; that is, it does not dogmatically define the point one way or the other, as shown by the words “having completed the course of her earthly life”…Many Catholics also believe that Mary first died before being assumed, but they add that she was miraculously resurrected before being assumed…This doctrine was dogmatically and infallibly defined by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950, in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus.
The holiday, then, is an assumption based upon mystic literature like the Transitus Mariae, essentially combined with a dogmatic declaration in 1950.
Now, the Transitus Mary was allegedly an account from an apparition claiming to be Mary. Yet, Catholics need to realize that in the early 6th century, a papal decree, Decretum Gelasianum, classified the Transitus Mariae writings as apocryphal (The Transitus Mariae Non-canonical Account of Mary’s passing. http://www.bibleprobe.com/transitusmariae.htm). Anyway, the Transitus Mariae claims that John was in Ephesus and the Holy Spirit transported him to Mary in Bethlehem (Smith Lewis A. Apocrypha syriaca: the Protevangelium Jacobi and Transitus Mariae, with texts from the Septuagint, the Corân, the Peshiṭta, and from a Syriac hymm in a Syro-Arabic palimpsest of the fifth and other centuries. C.J. Clay and sons, 1902, p. 25) and that Mary was taken in to heaven from her house in Bethlehem (p. 33) and that was within the jurisdiction of the governor of Jerusalem (p. 36).
Now, having been to Ephesus a couple of times, I would like mention the Islamic Turks in that area actually do celebrate the “assumption of Mary” as well. Not because it is mentioned in the Quran (it does not seem to be), but because Mary is mentioned in the Quran more times than Jesus, Muslims tend to venerate her to a degree.
Perhaps I should add that August 15th is considered by certain Catholics to be Mary’s “heavenly birthday”. However, perhaps it should be pointed out that early Christians did not observe birthdays (Did Early Christians Celebrate Birthdays?), hence the “birthday into heaven” position also was not a position of early Christians.
Why the Assumption of Mary Dogma?
Notice what the Catholic news agency Zenit reported:
Why a…dogmatic pronouncement on the Assumption? Because the Vicar of Christ…was inspired to do so to bring forth a new outpouring of grace for the Church through the intercession of the Queen of Heaven — the Mediatrix of all graces who was newly honored by a solemn papal proclamation of her parting earthly prerogative…
One objection voiced during the months preceding the 1950 definition by a group of theologians was that the new Marian definition would wreak havoc to ecumenical efforts newly initiated with other Christians. The late Cardinal Edouard Gagnon who lived through the years preceding and proceeding the Assumption definition, repeatedly testified to the opposite — that immediately following the papal proclamation of Our Lady’s Assumption, the Church experienced its greatest ever advancement in ecumenism in Church history up to its time, which consequently led to its historic flourishing at the Second Vatican Council.
Mothers unite. They do not divide. (Our Lady and Dogmas: Pondering the Assumption. ZE10081612 – 2010-08-16. Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-30069?l=english)
So, the dogma is for the eventual ecumenical plans of the Church of Rome.
Based upon visions of various mystics, current practices of the Church of Rome, and biblical prophecies associated with “signs and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9), it seems likely that apparitions claiming to be Mary may mislead others in the future in order to encourage ecumenical unification across church lines. And this view, is not unique to me.
…is it any wonder that contemporary “apparitions” of Mary are invariably accompanied by ecumenistic messages promoting the idea that all religions are equally valid and Orthodox Christianity is but one “path” among many? A recent issse of Orthodox Traidition (1966) contains the account of Matushka (wife of a Russian Orthodox priest) Katherine Swanson’s trip to Medjugorje, Croatia, to investigate the most famous of the recent cases of appartions of Mary in the Roman Catholic world. In it she recounts a telling episode:
Our guide took our group for an audience with the “seers.” During this audience, a pilgrim asked one of the children the following questions: “Does the Virgin say that the Catholic Church is the true church?” The response given by the child provides clear evidence of the ecumenical content and religious relativism which, oddly enough, increasingly mark the “revelations” at Medjugorje: “Our Blessed Mother says that all religions are equally pleasing to God.“…
To which Mary are Muslims and Protestants being drawn? …
Today, as heterodox Christians become more and more ecumenist and work toward creating a “One World Church,” the search has begun for a Mary of universal recognition, one who will appeal not only to those who bear the name Christian, but apprently to Muslims and others as well, just as attempts are likewise being made to identify the “new Christ” with the Muslim concept of their coming Mahdi and with the Messiah still awaited by the Jews. This, of course, will be no Christ at all but the antichrist.
(Jackson P. ORTHODOX LIFE., No. I, 1997., Brotherhood of Saint Job of Pochaev at Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, N.Y. pp. 18-22. http://fr-d-serfes.org/orthodox/theotokos.htm viewed 05/11/09)
The reality is that it is likely that false apparitions, claiming to be “Mary” may be among the signs and lying wonders that the Bible warns are coming (2 Thessalonians 2:9).
Hence, if people assume that Mary was “assumed” (taken up) to heaven, many people will likely also accept that she is current alive today (even though she, like others, is awaiting the resurrection, cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16). Thus, they may be favorably inclined to listen to one in the future who will claim to be her.
Don’t assume that Mary was assumed to heaven, nor assume that if in the future there are public apparitions claiming to be Mary, that they are in fact her. Mary is dead and awaiting the resurrection. And while the Bible does call her “blessed” (Luke 1:28,42), her veneration and assumption into heaven are not biblical doctrines, nor were they held by even the Church of Rome until after the start of the fourth century (or late third century).
The idea of an “assumption of Mary” is only an assertion, originally based upon literature declared to be apocryphal as well as mystic visions that were also faulty. It should not be dogma as it was not the position of the early Church. Sadly, it is expected to be an ecumenical tool that will not be good. Neither for the Orthodox or the Vatican (Revelation 17:15-17).
For more information, please check out the following:
Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Apparitions Do you know much about Mary? Are the apparitions real? What might they mean for the rise of the ecumenical religion of Antichrist? Are Protestants moving towards Mary? How do the Orthodox view Mary? How might Mary view her adorers?
Why Should American Catholics Should Fear Unity with the Orthodox? Are the current ecumenical meetings a good thing or will they result in disaster?
Orthodox Must Reject Unity with the Roman Catholics The talks for unification involve compromise and the apparent rising up of a changed religion that no one should accept.
Catholic Prophecies: Do They Mirror, Highlight, or Contradict Biblical Prophecies? People of all faiths may be surprised to see what various Roman and Orthodox Catholic prophets have been predicting as many of their predictions will be looked to in the 21st century.
Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Living Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity? This documented article answers those questions. Português: Qual é fiel: A igreja católica romana ou a igreja viva do deus? Tambien Español: Cuál es fiel: ¿La iglesia católica romana o La Iglesia del Dios Viviente? Auch: Deutsch: Welches zuverlässig ist: Die Römisch-katholische Kirche oder die lebende Kirche von Gott?
What Did Early Christians Understand About the Resurrection? Is there more than one future resurrection? Did early Christians teach a physical resurrection? Did early Christians teach three resurrections?