Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 13, 2017


Toward the end of the summer season, at a time when fruits are ripe in the gardens and fields, the Church celebrates the most glorious "harvest festival" in the Communion of Saints. Mary, the supremely blessed one among women, Mary, the most precious fruit which has ripened in the fields of God's kingdom, is today taken into the granary of heaven. (Pius Parsch, The Church's Year of Grace).
The Assumption is the oldest feast day of Our Lady. After three decades of Christianity Emperor Hadrian (76-138) had leveled Jerusalem and around the year 135 rebuilt it as Aelia Capitolina in honor of Jupiter). For 200 years, every memory of Jesus was obliterated from the city, and the sites made holy by His life, Death and Resurrection became pagan temples. Jerusalem was restored as a Sacred City, at the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (c. 285-337). After the building of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in 336, the sacred sites began to be restored and memories of the life of Our Lord began to be celebrated by the people of Jerusalem. One of the memories about His Mother centered around the "Tomb of Mary," close to Mount Zion, where the early Christian community had lived. On the hill itself was the "Place of Dormition," the spot of Mary's "falling asleep," where she had died. The "Tomb of Mary" was where she was buried.
At this time, the "Memory of Mary" was being celebrated. Later it was to become our feast of the Assumption. It also proclaimed that She had been taken up, body and soul, into heaven.
That belief was ancient, dating back to the Apostles themselves. What was clear from the beginning was that there were no relics of Mary to be venerated, and that an empty tomb stood on the edge of Jerusalem near the site of Her death. That location also soon became a place of pilgrimage. At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, when bishops from throughout the Mediterranean world gathered in Constantinople, Emperor Marcian asked the Patriarch of Jerusalem to bring the relics of Mary to Constantinople to be enshrined in the capitol. The patriarch explained to the emperor that there were no relics of Mary in Jerusalem, that "Mary had died in the presence of the Apostles; but Her tomb, when opened later . . . was found empty and so the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up into heaven."
The tradition continued…Since the time of St. Dominic Guzman who made a rosary prayer popular, most of the Christian faithful pray and meditate upon the mysteries of the Assumption and Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Assumption is God's crowning of His work as Mary ends Her earthly life and enters eternity. The feast turns our eyes in that direction, where we will follow when our earthly life is over.
In 1950, in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Assumption of Mary a dogma of the Catholic Church in these words: "The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of Her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven." With that, an ancient belief became Catholic doctrine and the Assumption was declared a truth revealed by God.