What happened during the Assumption of Mary

Assumption of the Virgin Mary

Maria asleep
Mary Assumption into Heaven

The solemn festival Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Assumption Day) is one of the oldest Marian festivals in the church. The solemn festival is traditionally celebrated in the Catholic and Orthodox Church on August 15th. The first witnesses for the feast of Our Lady go back to the middle of the 5th century.

Dogma of the bodily acceptance of Mary into heaven

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII formulated. in the Apostolic Constitution "Munificentissimus Deus" the dogma of bodily acceptance into heaven and thus confirmed what has been celebrated for a long time:

"In the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and also by virtue of our own, We proclaim, declare and define: It is a dogma revealed by God that the everlasting Virgin Mary, the immaculate Theotokos, as she led the course of the earthly life was completed, body and soul was taken up to heavenly glory. "

Before the proclamation of the dogma about the bodily acceptance of Mary into heaven, Pope Pius XII consulted. with all the bishops in the world. The result was a plebiscite for Marian dogma. Only 22 of 1181 senior shepherds spoke out against it.

Indirect passages of scriptures on dogma

  • Psalm 131: 8: "Rise, Yahweh, to your resting place, you and your mighty ark" (the ark of the covenant made of incorruptible wood is a type of the incorruptible body of Mary).
  • Hld 8,5: "Who is she who comes up out of the desert, leaning on her beloved?"
  • The sun-clad woman from the Apocalypse (Rev 12: 1), the Proto-Gospel (Gen 3:15) and the abundance of grace of Mary testified in Lk 1:28 are also an indication of the bodily reception and glorification of Mary.
  • Apk 11,19: "The temple of God in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was visible in his temple."

Conclusions of reason to justify the dogma

Since Mary was free from sin and the disintegration of the body is a consequence of sin, it can be concluded that her body was exempt from the general lot of dissolution. Also from the divine motherhood of Mary and the perpetual virginity it can be inferred that the body of Mary did not succumb to destruction.

Testimonies from scripture and tradition

Neither the date of death nor the year of death of the Blessed Mother Mary are known. It should have been between thirteen and fifteen years after the ascension of Christ. Two cities claim the event: Jerusalem and Ephesus. Jerusalem, where the tomb of Mary has been shown since the 5th century, is usually given preference; but some argue for Ephesus.

There are no direct and express statements of the Holy Scriptures for the assumption of Mary into heaven. A passage in the Gospel of Matthew suggests this fact:

"The tombs opened and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After the resurrection of Jesus they left their graves and came to the Holy City and appeared to many." (Mt 27, 52-53)

Even in the early days this passage was interpreted in such a way that the resurrection of the "saints" meant a final resurrection and transfiguration - because this is a sign of the effectiveness of the work of Christ. But since the righteous of the old covenant achieved perfect salvation immediately after the completion of Christ's work of redemption, it is possible and probable that this was also bestowed on the Lord's mother. In Mary, God put the archetype of the redeemed man before their eyes. At the beginning of the Church's path through time she received what the rest of the Church will only receive at the end.

The bodily reception of Mary is first attested by apocryphal transit reports of the 5th and 6th centuries, which are of little historical value, but express a theological idea that was already widespread at that time.

Gregory of Tours († 594) already speaks of the physical ascension of Mary. Sermons on the feast of Mary's death have been handed down from Theoteknos of Livias (550/650), Pseudo-Modestus of Jerusalem (around 700), Germanus of Constantinople († 733) and others.

St. John of Damascus († 749) formulates the tradition of the Church of Jerusalem:

"At the Council of Chalcedon, St. Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, announced to the imperial couple Markian and Pulcheria, who wanted to possess the body of Our Lady, that Mary had died in the presence of all the apostles, but that her tomb was empty when it was was opened at the request of St. Thomas. From this the apostles concluded that their bodies had been taken up into heaven. "

Many theologians take the view that "body" does not mean the physical corpse, but a philosophical term, just as the body of Christ does not actually consist of flesh in the Eucharist. The thelogical statement (only truths of faith, not historical events, can be the content of a dogma) consists in the resurrection of the dead, assumed for all people, who according to church doctrine are not pure soul beings in heaven, but have a body, whereby not the decayed (or burned) earthly corpse is meant. The empty tomb of Mary can therefore also be understood as a metaphor without questioning the dogma.

Festival secret

The preface of the solemn festival sums up the festive secrecy as follows:

“In truth, it is worthy and right to thank you, Almighty Father, and to extol the work of your grace. For today you lifted up the virgin Mother of God into heaven; she was the first to receive from Christ the glory that is promised to us all, and became the archetype of the Church in her eternal perfection. For the pilgrim people it is an unmistakable sign of hope and a source of consolation. For their body, which gave birth to the author of life, should not see corruption. That is why we praise your mercy now and forever and sing the praises of your glory with the choirs of the angels: Holy, Holy, Holy ...“

History of the festival

The origins of the festival are uncertain. At first it was probably more of a church consecration than a day of remembrance of the death of Our Lady. That it originated at the time of the Council of Ephesus or that St. Damasus introduced it in Rome are only hypotheses.

In the Holy Land, the feast was celebrated according to the life of St. Theodosius celebrated before the year 500, probably in August. It was held in Egypt and Arabia in January. And because the monks of Gaul took over many customs from the Egyptian monks, this festival was celebrated in Gaul in January from the 6th century onwards [mediante mense undecimo (Greg. Turon., De gloria mart., I, ix)]. This is how it remained in the Gallican liturgy until the introduction of the Roman rite.

In the Greek Church it seems that the festival was celebrated partly in accordance with the custom of the Egyptian monks in January and partly in accordance with the custom of the Holy Land in August. Therefore, the emperor Mauritius († 603) set the date, if the report of the "Liber Pontificalis" is reliable, for Ostrom on August 15th.

The church celebrated the feast of the passing of the Virgin Mary (lat. Dormition = sleep) in the east at least since the 6th century and in Rome certainly since the end of the 7th century. In the hourly prayer on September 15th it is said that Mary is "the crown of martyrdom received without dying. "[1] Soon, in addition to death, the incorruptibility of the body and its acceptance into heaven were emphasized and the festival was renamed "Assumptio". This recording (Assumptio) Mary is an image that is based on her example, the Ascension (Ascensio) Christ refers. In the liturgical texts of the 8th / 9th Century the idea of ​​bodily reception is clearly attested.

However, special emphasis is placed on the fact that Mary could not rise from death by her own strength and ascend to heaven. Christ took you to heaven! Therefore, the designation of Mary's acceptance into heaven as the Assumption of Mary through popular piety is misleading.

regional customs

Thirty women

In some areas of Bavaria and Austria, the month from the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary (August 15) (as the Marian month) is still called the so-called r Thirty women (Woman = Mary: cf.Rev 12 EU) committed. In a recent Roman indulgence document (dated October 28, 2003, for the Upper Bavarian pilgrimage site Buchenhüll in D-85072 Eichstätt), this special time of grace for the veneration of Mary is dated from the first Vespers of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary to the setting of the sun on the memory of Mary's pain on September 15th. In between are the Marian feasts of Mary Queen (August 22nd), the Birth of Mary (September 8th) and the Name of Mary (September 12th).[2]

Herbal Consecration

In the Catholic Church traditionally on the day of the Glorification of Mary and in some places during the entire woman's thirties, herb consecrations with herb procession take place. This custom goes back to a legend that says that the apostles found only flowers in Mary's tomb when they opened it. Flowers thus symbolize Mary, this is often expressed in the prefaces of the Marian feasts, but also in numerous Marian songs and prayers in which “the flower of the field and the lily of the valleys” is remembered in a special way.

As a rule, seven different herbs are tied together in a bouquet, on the one hand they illustrate the seven sacraments and on the other hand those seven sorrows of Mary (so.). In addition to the herbs, stalks of grain are used. On the one hand, this expresses the image of the transience of everything earthly ("The grain of wheat must die ..."), and on the other hand our request for daily bread.

The custom of the herb consecration probably originated in the 10th century to ward off or Christianize pagan customs. Basically, however, they should protect against dangers such as fire, thunderstorms and other natural events as well as any diseases.

Herbs are said to have their full aroma and peak flowering from mid-August to mid-September. The particularly great healing power of herbs and the blessing of Our Lady who was taken into heaven mean double protection.


Papal pronouncement

Pius XII.

Web links


  1. ↑ Book of Hours, Proprium of the Saints on September 15, Vespers, Responsory.
  2. ↑ Earlier farming practice: Eggs that were collected during this time could easily be kept for the whole year. Eggs collected outside of this time had to be placed in slaked lime in order to be durable all year round.