I have a lovely memory of the Feast of the Assumption. I was staying with friends in France and we went to Mass in a small town and then walked into the square afterwards where there was a great festival atmosphere with many food and drink stalls available and people dresses in medieval costumes on horseback. The Virgin Mary is patron of France and the 15th August is a public holiday.
Since the Reformation of the 16th century public expressions of devotion to Mary in England have largely disappeared. Devotion to Mary is still strong within the Catholic Church. There is a great love for Mary within the Anglican Church, although some Protestant denominations find devotion to Mary abhorrent. In 2005, an agreed statement on Mary by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission was published. It was titled: “Mary; Grace and Hope in Christ.”
In this document it recognised that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (1854) and Assumption (1950) have caused problems in the past. The agreed statement says: “The definitions of 1854 and 1950 were not made in response to controversy, but gave voice to the consensus of faith among believers in communion with the Bishop of Rome. They were re-affirmed by the Second Vatican Council. For Anglicans, it would be the consent of an ecumenical council which, teaching according to the Scriptures, most securely demonstrates that the necessary conditions for a teaching to be de fide had been met. Where this is the case, as with the definition of the Theotókos, both Roman Catholics and Anglicans would agree that the witness of the Church is firmly and constantly to be believed by all the faithful (cf. 1 John 1:1-3)”
The preface for today’s feast helps us to see the meaning of the feast. We pray:
“For today the Virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven as the beginning and image of your Church’s coming to perfection and a sign of sure hope and comfort to your pilgrim people; rightly you would not allow her to see the corruption of the tomb since from her own body she marvellously brought forth your incarnate Son, the Author of all life.”
The Assumption’s main focus is on Mary’s death or sleeping in the Lord, her birthday into glory. God willed that her body would not be corrupted and the assumption is a sign of hope for us who still live on earth.
St Germans of Constantinople wrote in the eighth century
“Her body being human, was adapted and conformed to the supreme life of immortality; however, it remained whole and glorious, gifted with perfect vitality and not subject to the sleep of death, precisely because it was not possible that the vessel that had contained God, the living Temple of the most holy Divinity of the Only-begotten, should be held by a tomb made for the dead.”