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Monday, August 11, 2014

Didn't the Church just invent the dogma of the Assumption in 1950?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Question: Regarding the dogma of the Assumption, didn't the Church just invent this dogma in 1950?

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary:  August 15
By a special and singular privilege bestowed by God, the Virgin Mary was taken up body and soul into heaven and re-united with Our Lord Jesus Christ to reign with Him in His kingdom for all eternity.

Answer:  While it is indeed true that the Catholic Church did not officially define the dogma of Mary's Assumption into heaven until 1950:  "The Immaculate Mother of God, Mary Ever-Virgin, after her life on earth, was assumed, body and soul, into heavenly glory"

this in no way means that Christians did not profess and proclaim the Assumption until 1950. That is, Christians have believed in Mary's Assumption into heaven from the very beginning of the Church.  

That it wasn't defined until 1950 is actually irrelevant.  

When something is solemnly pronounced, or formally declared and defined is not an indicationthat it only came to be believed at that point.

For example:  the dogma of the Trinity was not formally defined for over 300 years in the early Church.  However, it would be erroneous to declare, "The Church simply invented this teaching in the 4th century!"  Most Christians understand that from the very beginning the Apostles and early Church believed in the Trinity.  It only came to be formally defined in the 4th century when certain factions of Christianity called this teaching into question.

The Church calls councils at various points in history for a multitude of reasons, sometimes to formally define a teaching when the understanding of the faithful may be lacking.

An analogy helps illustrate this:

It has been the "constant teaching" in our house that when the kids come home from school they are to do certain things: hang up their backpacks, put their shoes away, wash their hands, take off their uniforms, eat their snack, finish their chores, practice their piano, etc etc etc.

Despite the fact that they have been doing this every school day for over 15 years every once in a while we need to have a "family meeting" to pronounce, declare and define exactly who should be doing which job and how it is to be done. (Note: I try to ignore their incredulous looks that say, "What? We're supposed to hang up our backpacks again this year?" or "What? You've never said that we had to take off our uniforms and hang them up!" )

At this council we recall what’s been done in the past, review the current norms and define again exactly what’s the expectation. Sometimes the kids complain that we are “making up new rules”, claiming we’ve “never done it this way before” when in actuality we are just pronouncing, declaring and defining a standard norm of our family.

Thus, the solemn declaration of the dogma of the Assumption was not newly formed in 1950. It was a constant belief held and spoken of for many years, sometimes correctly, sometimes incorrectly.  

However, this dogma was ancient, dating back to the times of the apostles. Perhaps in order to alleviate any doubt and to correct any wrong information, God chose 1950 as the time to pronounce, declare and define this belief and practice.

Sometimes our Protestant brethren recoil at the idea of Catholics professing Mary's assumption into heaven, as if that gives her some co-equality with Christ, or perhaps even a primacy over Him.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Mary is and always will be a creature, NOT DIVINE.  Her assumption was done by God's grace, NOT OF HER OWN POWER.  While Her Son ascended into heaven by his own divine power, Mary was taken up (assumed) only through the power of God.

Also, there are numerous Scriptural examples of other good and holy souls being assumed into heaven, so why would it be such a stretch to assume (haha!) that God wouldn't do this for Mary as well.  

When Enoch had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methuselah three hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” (Genesis 5:21-24)

“By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God.” (Hebrews 11:5)

“Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal… And as they still went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” (2 Kings 2:1,11)

Thus, while we have nothing explicitly in Scripture which says Mary was assumed (and where, BTW, does Scripture demand that everything we believe as Christians must be found explicitly in the Bible?  Nowhere), we do have some examples of some holy men who were assumed into heaven.  

And we have no examples in the early Church of Christians venerating Mary's relics, as they did with other saints.

Finally, it simply makes sense that Christ would so honor His mother by preserving her body from corruption by assuming her into heaven in a special way to be with Him.

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

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