The holiday is celebrated annually on August 15th.
The Feast of the Assumption of Mary is a very important day in the Catholic religion – it is even called the ‘Easter of the summer’ in some parts of Europe.
Also known as the ‘Dormition of the Virgin Mary’, it is the principal feast of the Blessed Virgin, the mother of Jesus Christ.
In countries such as Spain and Italy, it marks the start of the annual summer holidays, when many escape the heat of the cities to vacation on the coast or in the hills. Because of its date in the calendar, it is known as the “Feast of Our Lady of the Harvest” in some parts of Europe.
This feast commemorates two events – the departure of Mary from this life and the assumption of her body into heaven.
The Church’s official doctrine of the Assumption says that at the end of her life on earth Mary was assumed, body and soul, into heaven.
The death or ‘Dormition’ of Mary is not recorded in the Christian canonical scriptures. Hippolytus of Thebes, a 7th- or 8th-century author, claims in his partially preserved chronology to the New Testament that Mary lived for 11 years after the death of Jesus.
The term Dormition expresses the belief that the Virgin died without suffering, in a state of spiritual peace. This belief does not rest on any scriptural basis but is affirmed by Orthodox Christian Holy Tradition. It is testified to in some old Apocryphal writings, but neither the Orthodox Church nor other Christians regard these as possessing scriptural authority.
Some mistakenly believe Mary “ascended” into heaven, which is incorrect according to the Bible. It was Jesus Christ who ascended into heaven, by his own power. But Mary was “assumed” or taken up into heaven by God.
Observed as a holy day of obligation by Catholics and as a public holiday in some countries, devotees consider the Feast of the Assumption as the Holy Mother’s “heavenly birthday” and this is not a day of mourning for her loss, but a celebration of joy for the union of the mother with her beloved son.
According to St. John of Damascus, the Roman Emperor Marcian requested the body of Mary, Mother of God at the Council of Chalcedon, in 451.
St. Juvenal, who was Bishop of Jerusalem told the emperor “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; the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven,” the saint recorded.
Pope Pius Xll, in 1950, defined that Mary “after the completion of her earthly life…was assumed body and soul into the glory of Heaven.” Her body wasn’t allowed to corrupt nor was it allowed to remain in a tomb. Though there are claims by some cities about possessing her temporary tomb.
In the early Christian centuries relics of saints and those who gave their lives for the faith were jealously guarded and highly prized. Many cities claim the mortal remains of saints, both famous and little-known. But there are no records of Mary’s bodily remains being venerated anywhere.
As this is a religious holiday, the Assumption is most commonly celebrated by devotees by attending mass, where the subject of the sermon is usually the Virgin Mary. It is a Holy Day of Obligation, and Catholics are required to attend Mass.