An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Assumption of Mary

The belief that the Mother of Jesus was taken up body and soul into heaven. Though not in scripture, it was described in apocryphal stories of the fifth century. It originated in the lack of scriptural data on Mary's death. It found support in the absence of bodily relics of the Virgin, in meditation on Jesus' filial love, and in a liturgical feast which dates from the fifth century. This feast was known as Memory of Mary in the fifth century and was celebrated as the Dormition in the sixth century on Aug. 15. In the seventh century it was called the Assumption in the west. It was universally accepted by piety in Byzantium. It became a theological opinion in western theology. As the belief spread it was featured in iconography and gothic sculpture (as at Canterbury Cathedral). Though accepted by most Reformers, the feast was not included in the BCP. The belief was eventually abandoned in the churches of the Reformation. It was preserved in Orthodoxy and by some Anglicans as a pious belief. It became a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church in 1950.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.