Assumption of Mary, formally known as the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven, and colloquially referred to as The Assumption, is based on a traditional Christian belief of the bodily ascension of the Virgin Mary to the Heaven as Her earthly life came to an end. The Roman Catholic Churches preach this as a dogma that when Virgin Mary completed her time on Earth she was assumed “body and soul” into the glory of Heaven.

On November 1, 1950, this dogma was defined by Pope Pius XII by means of papal infallibility in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus. Pointing at the Book of Genesis for support, the Pope said that according to the scriptures, Virgin Mary scored victory over sins and as well as death as also reflected in the 1 Corinthians.

In the Eastern Orthodox Churches however the physical death of Virgin Mary has not been defined dogmatically – they believe in the theory of Dormition of the Theotokos, which in certain ways is no different from the Assumption. The Assumption of Mary is observed on August 15 each year. The Churches that observe the day consider it to be a day of Feast and mark it as a Holy Day of Obligation.

History:

  • The word Assumption in this case comes from the Latin word “Assumptio” which means “A Taking”. Apocryphal accounts of the Ascent of Mary into the Heaven have been in circulation since the 4th century at the latest.
  • Although Saint Epiphanius of Salamis had made statements regarding the same in 377 AD this occasion has been defined as an infallible dogma by the dictate of the Catholic Church much later.
  • Although there is no confirmation about the death of Virgin Mary the Catholic interpretation of the event is derived from the chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation.
  • The earliest known narrative about the event is from the Ethiopian translation of the book called “Liber Requiei Mariae” which literally translated means “The Book of Mary’s Repose”.
  • In the Armenian letter that is attributed to Dionysus the Areopagite that is believed to have been written after the 6th century, there is a mention about the Assumption of Mary. During this period, this doctrine was first advocated by John of Damascus.
  • There are two versions of the story, one which claims that the event took place in Ephesus in the House of the Virgin Mary; while the other claims that the end to Mary’s life came in Jerusalem. The latter is a much traditional belief, while the former has been established much recently.
  • It is believed that the Teaching of the Assumption of Mary was widespread in the Christendom even in the 5th century. It is believed to have been established during that time by the Emperor Maurice sometime around 600 A.D.
  • In the 8th century, there is record of the Pope Sergius I to have celebrated the event, while Pope Leo IV confirmed the feast to be an official one at that time.
  • The Catholic writer Eamon Duffy rounds up by stating that although there is no historical evidence of the Assumption of Mary, the Catholic Church has spread it on the basis of the apocryphal accounts.

Public Life:

In the United States, this day is not considered to be a federal holiday, as such businesses and organizations operate according to their regular schedule. The same is applicable in case of public transportation that runs as per schedule on this day. Schools and other educational institutions also operate following the normal course of routine. Some Church Schools may have special prayers or blessing services organized to mark the day.

Observances:

Observant Christians attend Church Mass on this day where feasts are often organized in honor of the occasion. In the United States, Assumption of Mary is not celebrated in a lavish manner as compared to some other countries. The largest festivity held for the occasion is recorded to be in Cleveland, Ohio, where the occasion is celebrated for four days beginning on August 12th each year. This Festival is organized in the city’s neighborhood that is known by the name of Little Italy. There are also some other States that celebrate the Feast – some places have music and dancing, parades and fireworks to commemorate the occasion. Public grounds are often peppered with food vendors and local artists often display their creations to pep up the festive fervor.


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