Catholic and Orthodox Christians revere Mary as the Mother of God: the Theotokos or 'God-bearing" virgin to whom the angel Gabriel appeared. According to the Gospel of St Luke, the angel appeared to her saying "Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women." Throughout Christian holy scriptures, she is a central figure in the life and ministry of her Son. But the story of the Virgin Mary following the Resurrection is almost absent from Scripture. It is other early Christian writings that her life and passing into eternity is recounted.
According to Archbishop Joseph Raya of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church:
"According to a very early Christian legend, while the apostles were scattered all over the the then-known world, preaching the Gospel, Mary remained in Jerusalem in the house of John [the Beloved Disciple]. Her love of God, like an ardent flame, burned steadily in her body.
Finally it was revealed to her that her life was about to end. She wished to see the Twelve Apostles once more before she died. Each one of them was miraculously carried away from where he happened to be and borne on a cloud to the house on Mount Sion in Jerusalem where Mary was approaching death; every one of them, that is, except Thomas. They saw Christ Himself come down from heaven and receive the soul of His Mother in His arms. They took her holy body and placed it in the tomb prepared for it in the valley of Cedron, near Gethsemani.
Thomas arrived three days later, when all was over. He wished to see for the last time the face of the woman who had been the Temple of God. He went with the other apostles to the tomb, which they opened. They found it empty, but heard an angelic concert. [It is also said that the beautiful fragrance of flowers filled the empty tomb, and this is why we bless flowers on this day.] Mary herself appeared to them and confirmed the fact of her assumption into heaven."
Since that time, Mary's passing has been known as the Dormition, or her 'falling asleep' and her passage into heaven. Given that she had borne God - Jesus Christ - who is beyond the scope of the cosmos within her womb, some theologians assert that she was preserved from the horrors of death and instead was taken (i.e. assumed, not resurrected) into heaven to sit with God. Christians ever since have prayed to her, though not worshiping her, to ask for her intervention so that they - though they will not be spared the horrors of physical death - may enjoy eternal life in heaven with God.
Today, whether the feast is known as the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary or the Dormition of the Theotokos, Christians may celebrate the pathway blazed by Mary and trust that they may find the rest that she enjoys today.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.