What is the Assumption, anyway?

Catholic News Agency
By Adelaide Mena/Catholic News Agency

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.

The belief in the Assumption of Mary was a widely-held tradition, and a frequent meditation in the writings of saints throughout the centuries. However it was not defined officially until the past century.

In 1950, Pope Pius XII made an infallible, ex-cathedra statement in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus deus officially defining the dogma of the Assumption.

“By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, 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 into heavenly glory,” the pope wrote.

The decree was seen as the formalizing of long-held Christian teaching.

“We have throughout the history of the Church an almost universal attestation of this,” Bunson said of the Assumption.

“We have this thread that runs throughout the whole of the history of the Church in support of the dogma. That’s significant because it supports the tradition of the Church, but it also supports a coming to a deeper understanding of the teachings of the Church of how we rely upon the reflections of some of the greatest minds of our Church.”

What’s also notable about the dogma, he added, is that it “uses the passive tense,” emphasizing that Mary did not ascend into heaven on her own power, as Christ did, but was raised into heaven by God’s grace.

Today, the Feast of the Assumption is marked as a major feast day and a public holiday in many countries. In most countries, including the United States, it is a Holy Day of Obligation, and Catholics are required to attend Mass.

Bunson explained that on major feast days, it’s important to mark the significance of the feast as especially vital by emphasizing the necessity of celebrating the Eucharist that day.

“What is more fitting than on the Assumption of the Blessed Mother to, once again, focus on her Son, on the Eucharist?” he asked.

A version of this article was originally published on CNA Aug. 15, 2017.

COMING UP: What will be your faith legacy?

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By Deacon Jim Parrilli

The Catholic Foundation invites you to experience the joy of giving now and beyond your lifetime.

When you choose to give, you choose to love and that creates profound joy. The Catholic Foundation is here to help you consider making gifts that will keep giving… gifts that will support the Kingdom of God.

In the sixth chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, he reminds us, “So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of the faith.”

The Archdiocese of Denver established The Catholic Foundation of Northern Colorado in 1998 to be legally separate and distinct from the archdiocese, with the intent and sole purpose of supporting our Catholic community financially for generations to come.

The Catholic Foundation gathers and grows assets to ensure that a strong, vibrant, and faithful Catholic community will always be right there at your parish and throughout the entire archdiocese.

What does this have to do with your end-of-year charitable gifting? Gifting into The Catholic Foundation gives you the ease and flexibility of opportunities that no other institution can match.

The Catholic Foundation facilitates giving to the Church using funds and opportunities, such as Donor Advised Funds and Planned Gifts from Your Estate. They accept stocks, insurance policies, IRAs, real estate and nearly any viable asset to promote the Gospel message, transform lives and give glory to God.

When you give through The Catholic Foundation, you can designate support to a specific Catholic entity, like parishes, schools, ministries, seminaries, or other charitable causes. Enjoy peace of mind knowing you will partner with a company that adheres to Catholic teachings, honors faith-based priorities, and upholds the standards of Morally-Responsible Investment Policy in accord with the USCCB.

Matthew 19:29 says: “And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.”

Each one of us is different with different circumstances, backgrounds, and financial responsibilities. And it is up to us to be good stewards of the gifts God has given us.

Popular asset vehicles that The Catholic Foundation clients consider include:
• Bequest: Simply include language in your Will to specify a gift to be made – either as a dollar amount or a percentage of assets.
• Special Gifts: Leave charitable gifts of real estate, stocks, bonds or other assets.
• Trust or Annuity: Create a Trust or Annuity to provide lifetime income for you or a loved one and then pass remaining assets to charity.
• Life Insurance: If you are maintaining coverage that you or your family no longer need, just change the beneficiary – or gift the paid-up policy now.
• Retirement Plan Assets, IRA: You may indicate a charitable organization as the beneficiary of your retirement account. Call if you want to hear how to avoid taxes on your IRA.

Another way to support Catholic causes is through a Donor Advised Account. Here’s how it works:
• Start your account at The Catholic Foundation with a simple agreement that can be completed in minutes.
• Add assets to your account as an individual, family or corporation – or transfer assets from another foundation or donor advised fund.
• Recommend charitable gift distributions to Catholic parishes, schools, seminaries, apostolates or other nonprofit organizations.
• Receive special tax advantages and an immediate charitable tax deduction for each contribution to your account.

Prudent planning starts with just a conversation. Please call 303-468-9885 and ask for Lisa, Jean or Deacon Steve to discuss the many investment options available to support what matters most to you or visit them at thecatholicfoundation.com.