Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Did Mary Die?

Often I have seen Protestants try to "make hay" over the discussion of whether or not the Blessed Virgin Mary actually died or merely went to "sleep" and was taken in her sleep.  They like to point out various Catholics who disagree on this matter.  One such discussion I stumbled across on Beggars All.  On BA, Mr. Swan quotes a Catholic blogger named "Shelly" who quotes from MUNIFICENTISSIMUS DEUS (MD):
"Venerable to us, O Lord, is the festivity of this day on which the holy Mother of God suffered temporal death, but still could not be kept down by the bonds of death, who has begotten your Son our Lord incarnate from herself."
But!  What Mr. Swan appears to be a bit ignorant of is the fact that the definition is NOT the entire document!  That which is protected by the charism of infallibility is NOT the entire document - rather it is ONE SENTENCE within that document!  This is THAT sentence:
by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: 

that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.
The earlier commentary, even though it is from His Holiness, Pope Pius XII, and within the same document as the definition - is just that - Pope Pius' personal commentary on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  All the definition states is that she completed the course of her earthly life.  It does not state whether she died before being bodily assumed into Heaven - only that she was thusly assumed.

Another point worthy of note... the quote "Shelly" uses from MD is actually Pope Pius XII quoting from Sacramentarium Gregorianum - of Adrian I, which he sent to Emperor Charlemagne.  Clearly it can be assumed that Pope Pius XII believed, along with Adrian I, that the Blessed Virgin Mary suffered temporal death - as all humans have and will (saving those who may be "raptured" - but that's a whole 'nother discussion!).  The pope sharing his beliefs in MD does not equate to those beliefs being declared infallible.  Again, the ONLY part of MD which is to be considered infallible is THE DEFINITION - which is ONE SENTENCE from section 44 of that document.

Eastern Icon of the Dormition
Personally, I lean to the side that she indeed died - however - the Eastern Catholic (and Orthodox) tradition for this "feast day" is that the Blessed Virgin Mary "slept" - and in fact, the Eastern title of the feast day is "The Dormition of the Theokotos" (The Falling Asleep of the God Bearer).  That could be a bit misleading (it was for me for a while) for that "sleep" is in reality of their tradition the "sleep of death."  Part of this tradition is that the Blessed Virgin went into this "sleep of death" in the presence of the Apostles and was buried - but St. Thomas was missing.  He, wanting to see her one more time, convinced the others to open her grave and there it was found her grave was empty - she had been taken.

This conversation continues, nearly two years later, as you can see here:


  1. Interestingly, if you link to an article on Swan's blog it automatically generates a link back to your article. Recently I have noticed that when I give due credit to an article I am responding to from Swan's blog, the link shows up - until it is noticed and someone deletes it. What are they so afraid of?

  2. Scott,

    I have not deleted any links to your blog, ever.

    Regards, James

  3. Scott,

    The only "someone" would be me.

    Simply give me a list of posts you'd like to be linked to, and I'll do what I can to make sure your links are restored.

    By the way, I don't stop by over here very often (only when my sitemeter links over here)... what have you done with your blog? Both IE and FF are displaying it weird. On the other hand, your blog used to take much longer to load in, now it's very quick.

    Regards, James

  4. Hi James,
    I appreciate the offer, however I don't think you want to go back through every post where I've cited your site and re-link them any more than I want to go through all those posts to list them out. The comment was just something I noticed in passing. You may not have deleted any links, but if your other contributors have admin rights, any one of them could have... but again, it's not a huge deal.

    The bigger deal here is the matter of whether the Church officially teaches that the Blessed Virgin Mary actually died before being bodily assumed into Heaven. As I said in my response, the bottom line is THAT is not part of the infallible definition. She most certainly COULD have died first, or perhaps just before she passed, she was taken up. I lean toward the tradition which holds she died temporal death and then was assumed. As I have stated in previous discussions too - I believe she did inherit the penalty of Original Sin (temporal death, which even her Son experienced) but not the stain of Original Sin. That's a different dogma, but the point is in inheriting the penalty of Original Sin, she died - and Jesus was her Redeemer just as He is ours.

    In JMJ,


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