Assumpta est Maria

Assumption of the Virgin, 1577 by El Greco

This is the day the Mater Dei (through whom Christ Our Saviour descended to minister to mankind) was assumed into heaven by death. This day, she, the Altar Dei (the Altar of God), who contained the Bread of Life, and the Power of the Godhead (without knowing man) was assumed from earth to heaven; and the Gates of Heaven (the Porta Coeli) opened wide to receive the Gate of God (the Porta Dei) into her eternal mansion. This day the true and living Ark of the Lord is taken to the peace of her Son. The gates of heaven are opened to receive the receptacle of God, who, conceived and brought forth the tree of life, destroying Eve’s disobedience and Adam’s penalty of death. And Christ, the maker of all life, receives His chosen vessel, the Tower of Ivory carved without hands, into His embrace for evermore. This day she, who manifested the Word’s divine Incarnation, rests in her glorious tomb as in a bridal-chamber, from whence she goes to share in the Kingdom of her Son and God, leaving her tomb as a place of rest for those of us still here on earth.  The angelic state achieved by Our Lady is not for the lovers of this world, but the wondrous life she attained – that of the Blessed – is for the servants of God’s Holy Spirit, those who know that passing to God is better and sweeter than anything earth has to offer.  This truth we must embrace – disdaining self-imposed slavery the allurements of the world – if we are to follow in her footsteps to God.

Before the Reformation, different Catholic rites in Europe developed varying liturgies to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady’s Assumption into heaven (then called Our Lady’s Dormition or “going to sleep in the Lord”).  In the Sarum Rite, there was a Sequence Hymn composed for the occasion – the tune is lost to history, but these are the words:

From our first Mother Eva’s sickly branch
Mary the blooming rose proceedeth forth;
Bright as amidst the stars the Morning Star,
And fair in beauty as the moon she came;

Sweet beyond balsam, ointments, frankincense;
As violet glowing, dewey as the rose.
White as the lily, she who was preferred
To bear the highest Father’s holy Child.

That of a Virgin’s flesh immaculate
He might upon Him take flesh hallowed.
Great Gabriel brings the message of new joy,
The arising of the eternal King on earth.

And to His Mother thus gives salutation
Blessed art thou, Queen of the universe!
Thou shalt bring forth the Everlasting King.
She answered, How can I fruitful be,
Seeing a man I know not, from my birth
Ever a Virgin chaste continuing?

Fear not (the Angel answered), upon Thee,
Chaste as thou art, the Holy Ghost shall come,
Whereby thou shalt bear God and Man in one.
O truly holy, truly to be loved!
Of whom redemption hath for us arisen,
Salvation of the world, and our true life.

Mother of God, accept our prayers this day,
Whereon to heaven’s portals thou wast made.
Fair Spouse of God, thou Christ the King hast borne:
Lady thou art in heaven and in earth.

This day hosts met thee from the court of heaven,
And to the starry palace led thee up.
Jesus Himself, to welcome Thee His Mother,
Came with the angels forth and set Thee up
With Him for ever in His Father’s seat.

With God now reigning, mercifully pardon
Our evil deeds, and ask for us all good.
O gracious Mediatrix, next to God
Our only hope, commend us to thy Son,
That we in highest heaven may Alleluias sing.

“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death!”

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