The Passionists - Compassion

Mary in Christian Tradition

Mary's Death and Assumption into Heaven

Dormition of Mary

Stories from the 5th century (or perhaps earlier) recount Mary's later life, her death and assumption into heaven -- events unreported by the four Gospels.

The legends describe Jesus appearing to Mary in the house on Mount Sion in Jerusalem where she lived after Pentecost. Her Son tells her she is soon to die. From all parts of the world the apostles gather to bid her farewell:

"Stretching out his hands, the Lord received her holy soul. And when her soul departed, the place was filled with a sweet smell and bright light.

"And a voice from heaven proclaimed: 'Blessed are you among women.'

"Peter and John, Paul and Thomas, ran to embrace her feet and receive her holiness; and the twelve apostles laid her holy body on a bier and bore it forth. (Ps. John: The Dormition of Mary, 4th century)

"Instructed by Jesus, Peter and the other apostles took her body to be buried in a new tomb near Gethsemane in the Kidron Valley, where miracles of healing accompanied her burial.

"Three days later, angels took her body to heaven."

By the year 600, a feast called the Dormition of Mary, honoring her death and assumption into heaven, was celebrated in Jerusalem and in the churches of the East. Some centuries later it would pass into the Western churches known as the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.

One of the first churches in Christendom dedicated to Mary was built over her tomb near Gethsemane around 400 A.D. Today, a church still marks this site in Jerusalem.

In the 7th century, Theothekno, bishop of Palestine, preached a homily on the feast of Mary's Assumption, August 15:


"Rejoice with the Mother of God,
with angels and saints,
and celebrate this great feast:
the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

"On earth she was a fruitful virgin,
in heaven she intercedes for all;
through this blessed woman,
the Spirit's gifts still flow upon us,
and her words teach gentle wisdom.

"At her assent the earth blossomed;
she sought good things for the poor.
Now in heaven her care is undiminished,
near her Son she seeks the good of us all."

Shrines to Mary in Palestine