Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Dormition

As an Eastern Christian, I am committed to the doctrine of Mary's death, resurrection and assumption.

I even chose the Dormition as the patronal feast of my blog.

Mary, model of Christians, imitated Christ in all things. She is His most perfect imitator.

I believe Elijah, too, will die. He has not yet died, but he and Enoch will return one day. And they will die and rise from the dead.

I bring this up because Andrew Sullivan recently wrote:

"As a Catholic, I am obliged to believe that the mother of Jesus was whooshed physically into the sky rather than dying" (hat tip to The Curt Jester), thereby demonstrating how prevalently misunderstood is the doctrine of Mary's assumption.

Though many Catholics choose to believe so, there is no implication in the doctrine of the assumption that Mary did not die.

“Rejoice, O Joyous One, in thy Dormition not having left us.”


Anonymous said...


The Assumption means that Mary was taken body and soul into heaven "at the end of her earthly life"-- whether she died or not is not mentioned.

Tradition overwhelmingly asserts that she did die before being assumed.

lone_striker said...

Well, in my discussions with a few Orthodox friends, I have been told that this is actually a major theological point.

The Dormition and Assumption are actually incompatible doctrines in that the Assumption (which holds she was assumed alive, while the East holds she "fell asleep in Christ") rationally follows from the Augustinian view of sin, and is a necessary corollary to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

If she, the New Eve, was conceived without sin, then she is therefore preserved from the consequences of the Fall. Which means she has not died, for "the wage of sin is death."

I of course cannot parse and judge this myself, but it is things such as this that have made me grimace every time I hear a fellow Catholic aver that there is no essential differance between East in West, in (what I must assume) is utter innocence of this, and a a myriad of other apparently profound differences. It also makes me smile when I notice a Greek Orthodox church (and they are for some reason always Greek, never Russian, OCA or whateverhaveyou) named "Assumption."

But no worries, nobody but a few crazy monks on Athos and their few disciples abroad apparently is interested in such "nuances" anymore, anyway..

John R.P. Russell said...

Both East and West hold that Mary was assumed into Heaven alive.

The East simply insists that she died first. The West permits (but does not insist upon) the erroneous idea that she did not die. Yes, it permits this idea because of its views on original sin and the Immaculate Conception.

An interesting addition to the discussion is the teaching, common in Eastern Churches, that Mary did not experience the pain of childbirth - another consequence of the Fall.

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