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Did the Virgin Mary Die Before Getting Assumed to Heaven?


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Did the Virgin Mary die before getting assumed to Heaven?

The Assumption of Mary and the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos are celebrations that mark the end of Jesus' mother, Mary's life. In both eastern and western churches, this belief has dated back to the medieval centuries, and has been a source of devotion for centuries in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions. However, there has been speculation on whether or not Mary had actually physically died before being assumed into Heaven to be with Jesus because there is no written account of this in the Bible.

The Feast of the Assumption has been celebrated since the sixth century in the Christian East, where it was called the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos. Among Eastern Christians, Catholic and Orthodox, the traditions surrounding the Dormition are based on a fourth century document titled "The Account of St. John the Theologian of the Falling Asleep of the Holy Mother of God." Written in the voice of Saint John the Evangelist, who had been entrusted to take care of Jesus' Mother after his death, it speaks on how the Archangel Gabriel came to Mary as she prayed at the Holy Sepulchre. This was the tomb where Christ had been laid on Good Friday and from which he rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. Gabriel explained to the Blessed Virgin that her life on earth had reached its end. All of the apostles were transported to be with Mary in her last days. Together they carried her bed to her hometown, and the following Sunday Christ appeared to her and told her not to be afraid. Here are a few passages from this account.

"The face of the mother of the Lord shone brighter than the light, and she rose up and blessed each of the apostles with her own hand, and all gave glory to God; and the Lord stretched forth His undefiled hands, and received her holy and blameless soul. . . . And Peter, and I John, and Paul, and Thomas, ran and wrapped up her precious feet for the consecration; and the twelve apostles put her precious and holy body upon a couch, and carried it."

"And, behold, a perfume of sweet savour came forth out of the holy sepulchre of our Lady the mother of God; and for three days the voices of invisible angels were heard glorifying Christ our God, who had been born of her. And when the third day was ended, the voices were no longer heard; and from that time forth all knew that her spotless and precious body had been transferred to paradise."

Even though this part of faith was not recorded in the New Testament, these documents show what Christians in the East and West believed happened to the Mother of God at the end of her earthly life, her body not corrupted between death and Assumption.

Eastern Christians have long kept this tradition regarding the Assumption alive, but Western Christians have lost touch with it. Some incorrectly assume that the term Dormition means that Mary was assumed into Heaven before she could die. However, Pope Pius XII, in Munificentissimus Deus, his November 1, 1950 declaration of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, mentions ancient liturgical texts from both East and West, demonstrating that Mary had died before her body was assumed into Heaven. He says, "this feast shows, not only that the dead body of the Blessed Virgin Mary remained incorrupt, but that she gained a triumph out of death, her heavenly glorification after the example of her only begotten Son, Jesus Christ ... 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."
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