Abrahamic / Middle Eastern Christianity The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary A Foretaste of Our Own Resurrection Share Flipboard Email Print An icon of the Holy Dormition of the Mother of God, written by Fr. Thomas Loya, at the Annunciation of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church in Homer Glen, IL. © Scott P. Richert Christianity Catholicism Holy Days and Holidays Beliefs and Teachings Prayers Tips Worship Saints Christianity Origins The Bible The New Testament The Old Testament Practical Tools for Christians Christian Life For Teens Christian Prayers Weddings Inspirational Bible Devotions Denominations of Christianity Funerals and Memorial Services Christian Holidays Christian Entertainment Key Terms in Christianity Latter Day Saints View More By ThoughtCo Updated July 22, 2018 Celebrated every year on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary commemorates the death of Mary and her bodily assumption into Heaven, before her body could begin to decay—a foretaste of our own bodily resurrection at the end of time. Because it signifies the Blessed Virgin's passing into eternal life, it is the most important of all Marian feasts as well as being a Holy Day of Obligation. Quick Facts Date: August 15Type of Feast: Solemnity, Holy Day of Obligation.Readings: Revelation 11:19a, 12:1-6a, 10ab; Psalm 45:10, 11, 12, 16; 1 Corinthians 15:20-27; Luke 1:39-56Prayers: The Hail MaryOther Names for the Feast: The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary; the Assumption of Mary Into Heaven; the Dormition of the Theotokos; the Falling Asleep of the Blessed Virgin Mary History of the Assumption The Feast of the Assumption is one of the oldest holy days in the Church, with accounts of celebrations going back to the sixth century. Christians in the East, both Catholic and Orthodox refer to it as the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, or "the falling asleep of the Mother of God." The earliest printed reference to the belief that Mary's body was assumed into Heaven dates from the fourth century, in a document entitled "The Falling Asleep of the Holy Mother of God." The document is written in the voice of the Apostle John, to whom Christ on the Cross had entrusted the care of His mother, and it recounts the death, laying in the tomb, and assumption of the Blessed Virgin. Tradition variously places Mary's death at Jerusalem or at Ephesus, where John was living. An Official Belief On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII, exercising papal infallibility, declared in an Apostolic constitution known as the Munificentissimus Deus that it is a dogma of the Church "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." As a dogma, the Assumption is a required belief of all Catholics. Anyone who publicly dissents from the dogma, Pope Pius declared, "has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith." While members of the Eastern Orthodox church believe in the Dormition, they object to the papal definition of the dogma, seeing it as unnecessary, since belief in Mary's bodily assumption, tradition holds, goes back to apostolic times. Did Mary Die Before the Assumption? This is a matter of debate. Some believe Mary did indeed die, like all humans do, and was then transported to heaven. Still others believe she simply "completed the course of her earthly life," which leaves open the possibility that she ascended to heaven before actually dying. Pope Pius XII, in the text explaining his definition of the dogma of the Assumption, refers repeatedly to the Blessed Virgin's death before her Assumption, and the consistent tradition in both the East and the West holds that Mary did die before she was assumed into Heaven. However, since the definition of the Assumption is silent on this question, Catholics are not bound by dogma to believe that Mary either did or did not die before her Assumption. They must only believe in the Assumption itself.