Today is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, a defined dogma of the Roman Catholic Church which holds that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was somehow brought into heave--body and soul--after her death. This popular belief can be traced to testimony from the Bishop of Jerusalem at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE.
St. Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon (451), made known to the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven.
As is typical with Marian doctrines, the Assumption was not a carefully constructed theological position but rather an acknowledgement of a popular tradition among the faithful. In fact, Marian doctrines are largely the expression of the devotional life of ordinary Christians and later Catholics who saw Mary as a more accessible figure than an hierarchical and imperial church concerned with defining doctrines and thus determining who was in and who was out.
Whether or not I accept this doctrine--and I think I do not--it and the other Marian doctrines stand as clear testimony of the vibrancy and power of the life of ordinary people within the Church. I read the official definition--by papal decree rather than counciliar statements--to be an attempt to co-opt this vibrant tradition.
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