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Woman Clothed with the Sun

Woman Clothed with the Sun

A Woman Clothed with the Sun

– Reverend Matthew R. Mauriello

Mary Immaculate, who from the first moment of her conception was privileged to escape the stain of original sin, also has been given the privilege of escaping the corruption of the tomb. It is her entry, body and soul into the splendor of heaven that the church celebrates on the triumphant and glorious Solemnity of the Assumption of our Lady.

It is generally held by Church historians that this feast originated in Jerusalem. The Emperor of Constantinople, Mauricius Flavius (d. 602) issued a decree stating that the feast of Mary's Dormition or falling asleep should be celebrated throughout the Byzantine Empire each year on August 15. This feast was introduced in Rome fifty years later and Pope St. Sergius I (687-701) decreed that it be celebrated with a solemn procession, thereby elevated it to the same status as the Annunciation on March 25, the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, February 2 and Mary's Nativity on September 8. By the year 740 it appears in the Roman Sacramentary called the "Solemnity of Mary's Resting."

Theoteknos (d. 650) bishop of Livas, on the bank of the Jordan River first speaks of the Assumption (Analepsis) and not the Dormition (Koimesis) of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Other early Church writers such as Modestus of Jerusalem and St. Germanus of Constantinople in the eighth century wrote and preached on Mary's Assumption. St. John Damascene at that same time wrote three homilies on the Feast of the Assumption. The following quote is from his second homily: " It is fitting that she, who in childbirth kept her virginity undamaged, should also after death keep her body free from all corruption."

Throughout the centuries, many theological treatises appeared regarding the Assumption of Mary. Petitions came from many parts of the world between 1849 and 1950 requesting the definition of the dogma. On May 1, 1946, Pope Pius XII (d. 1958) sent to the bishops of the world the encyclical Deiparae Virginis wherein he questioned them regarding the opportuneness of defining the Assumption as an dogma of faith. The vast majority of the 1181 residential bishops were in agreement with the Holy Father who interpreted this as the "universal, certain and firm consent of the Church's ordinary magisterium."

On November 1, the Solemnity of All Saints in the Holy Year 1950, Pope Pius XII solemnly defined the Dogma of the Assumption with the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, stating: " We pronounce, declare and define it to be an 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 to heavenly glory." (AAS 42 (1950) 770)

The dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the answer of the church to a materialistic world. It states that the perfection of our faculties and bodily skills will be fully exercised only in heaven, where they will attain fulfillment in contemplating God. It is the anticipation of God's plan for all human beings, that we are to be present, body and soul before God's throne. The first reading for the Mass of the Assumption is taken from the book of Revelation. Mary is the woman clothed with the sun (12:1), the first and fullest member of the Church, who already shares in its triumph.

The above article appeared in the Fairfield County Catholic January 1996. Reprinted with permission of the author and publisher.

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