by Frank Jerry
On November 1st, 1950 Pope Pius XII promulgated by the Apostolic Constitution "Munificentissimus Deus" as a dogma revealed by God that:
"Mary, the immaculate perpetually Virgin Mother of God, after the completion of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into the glory of Heaven"
revelation was part of the deposit of faith which had been
preserved and handed down through the Church and was firmly
believed by the great majority of bishops and laity of that
time. It was not true because the Pope proclaimed it, the
Pope proclaimed it because it was true. This
excerpt from Volume XV of the 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia is very
helpful in understanding just what sacred Tradition is and
isn't. (Emphasis mine)
III. The proper mode of existence of revealed truth in the mind of the Church and the way to recognize this truth.
There is a formula current in Christian teaching (and the formula is borrowed from St. Paul himself) that traditional truth was confided to the Church as a deposit which it would guard and faithfully transmit as it had received it without adding to it or taking anything away. This formula expresses very well one of the aspects of tradition and one of the principal rôles of the living magisterium. But this idea of a deposit should not make us lose sight of the true manner in which traditional truth lives and is transmitted in the Church. This deposit in fact is not an inanimate thing passed from hand to hand; it is not, properly speaking, an assemblage of doctrines and institutions consigned to books or other monuments. Books and monuments of every kind are a means, an organ of transmission, they are not, properly speaking, the tradition itself. To better understand the latter it must be represented as a current of life and truth coming from God through Christ and through the Apostles to the last of the faithful who repeats his creed and learns his catechism. This conception of tradition is not always clear to all at the first glance. It must be reached, however, if we wish to form a clear and exact idea. We can endeavour to explain it to ourselves in the following manner: We are all conscious of an assemblage of ideas or opinions living in our mind and forming part of the very life of our mind, sometimes they find their clear expression, again we find ourselves without the exact formula wherewith to express them to ourselves or to others an idea is in search as it were of its expression, sometimes it even acts in us and leads us to actions without our having as yet the reflective consciousness of it. Something similar may be said of the ideas or opinions which live, as it were, and stir the social sentiment of a people, a family, or any other well-characterized group to form what is called the spirit of the day, the spirit of a family, or the spirit of a people.
This common sentiment is in a sense nothing else than the sum of individual sentiments, and yet we feel clearly that it is quite another thing than the individual taken individually. It is a fact of experience that there is a common sentiment, as if there were such a thing as a common spirit, and as if this common spirit were the abode of certain ideas and opinions which are doubtless the ideas and opinions of each man, but which take on a peculiar aspect in each man inasmuch as they are the ideas and opinions of all. The existence of tradition in the Church must be regarded as living in the spirit and the heart, thence translating itself into acts, and expressing itself in words or writings; but here we must not have in mind individual sentiment, but the common sentiment of the Church, the sense or sentiment of the faithful, that is, of all who live by its life and are in communion of thought among themselves and with her. The living idea is the idea of all, it is the idea of individuals, not merely inasmuch as they are individuals, but inasmuch as they form part of the same social body. This sentiment of the Church is peculiar in this, that it is itself under the influence of grace. Hence it follows that it is not subject, like that of other human groups to error and thoughtless or culpable tendencies. The Spirit of God always living in His Church upholds the sense of revealed truth ever living therein.
Documents of all kinds (writings, monuments, etc.) are in the hands of masters, as of the faithful, a means of finding or recognizing the revealed truth confided to the Church under the direction of her pastors. There is between written documents and the living magisterium of the Church a relation similar, proportionately speaking, to that already outlined between Scripture and the living magisterium. In them is found the traditional thought expressed according to varieties of environments and circumstances, no longer in an inspired language, as is the case with Scripture, but in a purely human language, consequently subject to the imperfections and shortcomings of human thought. Nevertheless the more the documents are the exact expression of the living thought of the Church the more they thereby possess the value and authority which belong to that thought because they are so much the better expression of tradition. Often formulas of the past have themselves entered the traditional current and become the official formulas of the Church. Hence it will be understood that the living magisterium searches in the past, now for authorities in favour of its present thought in order to defend it against attacks or dangers of mutilation, now for light to walk the right road without straying. The thought of the Church is essentially a traditional thought and the living magisterium by taking cognizance of ancient formulas of this thought thereby recruits its strength and prepares to give to immutable truth a new expression which shall be in harmony with the circumstances of the day and within reach of contemporary minds. Revealed truth has sometimes found definitive formulas from the earliest times; then the living magisterium has only had to preserve and explain them and put them in circulation. Sometimes attempts have been made to express this truth, without success. It even happens that, in attempting to express revealed truth in the terms of some philosophy or to fuse it with some current of human thought, it has been distorted so as to be scarcely recognizable, so closely mingled with error that it becomes difficult to separate them. When the Church studies the ancient monuments of her faith she casts over the past the reflection of her living and present thought and by some sympathy of the truth of to-day with that of yesterday she succeeds in recognizing through the obscurities and inaccuracies of ancient formulas the portions of traditional truth, even when they are mixed with error. The Church is also (as regards religious and moral doctrines) the best interpreter of truly traditional documents; she recognizes as by instinct what belongs to the current of her living thought and distinguishes it from the foreign elements which may have become mixed with it in the course of centuries.
The living magisterium, therefore, makes extensive use of documents of the past, but it does so while judging and interpreting, gladly finding in them its present thought, but likewise, when needful, distinguishing its present thought from what is traditional only in appearance. It is revealed truth always living in the mind of the Church, or, if it is preferred, the present thought of the Church in continuity with her traditional thought, which is for it the final criterion, according to which the living magisterium adopts as true or rejects as false the often obscure and confused formulas which occur in the monuments of the past. Thus are explained both her respect for the writings of the Fathers of the Church and her supreme independence towards those writings--she judges them more than she is judged by them. Harnack has said that the Church is accustomed to conceal her evolution and to efface as well as she can the differences between her present and her former thought by condemning as heretical the most faithful witnesses of what was formerly orthodoxy. Not understanding what tradition is, the ever-living thought of the Church, he believes that she abjured her past when she merely distinguished between what was traditional truth in the past and what was only human alloy mixed with that truth, the personal opinion of an author substituting itself for the general thought of the Christian community. With regard to official documents, the expression of the infallible magisterium of the Church embodied in the decision of councils, or the solemn judgments of the popes, the Church never gainsays what she has once decided. She is then linked with her past because in this past her entire self is concerned and not any fallible organ of her thought. Hence she still finds her doctrine and rule of faith in these venerable monuments; the formulas may have grown old, but the truth which they express is always her present thought.
To read this article in it's entirety, go to http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15006b.htm
You wrote to me:
"... don't get me wrong we can look back at tradition as a standard, but if that tradition is any different from the word of God than we must speak out against it ."
I'm not sure how your idea of tradition as a conditional standard would have been feasible when the canon of Scripture itself was decided upon, but this was an issue I raised in my previous postings which you have never addressed. Be that as it may, since you claim that the Assumption of Mary isn't taught in the bible, then you are claiming that it is non-biblical...but not anti-biblical. Therefore, as you stated before, Tradition can be looked at as a standard, as long at it does not contradict Scripture. What does Scripture have to say on the idea of the Assumption? Is it contrary to Scripture? Actually, it is in perfect conformity with Scripture and God's divine revelation. The bible says that after the resurrection, the bodies of the holy men and women of old were raised from the dead and seen by many.
Matthew 27:52 the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
Some other Scriptures to look at are:
Genesis 5:24 Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.
Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God.
Deuteronomy 34:6 and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-pe'or; but no man knows the place of his burial to this day.
Jude 1:9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you."
Matthew 17:3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Eli'jah, talking with him.
2 Kings 2:11 And as they still went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Eli'jah went up by a whirlwind into heaven
Why do you have such a hard time believing that God could and would do the same with the most blessed among all women, Mary, the mother of God? Is it because you have no understanding of the Scriptures and the power of almighty God?
Mark 12:24 Jesus replied, "Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that Mary's Assumption is a "a singular participation in her Son's Resurrection" (no. 966) It demonstrates the power of Jesus' resurrection in which the fruits are applied to Mary who was the first disciple of Jesus and was the first to be raised body and soul and glorified in heaven with her Son. Christ obeyed the law perfectly. As everyone knows, one of the commandments is to "honor your father and mother". In Hebrew, the word for "honor" is "kabodah" and means to "bestow glory". Christ honored his heavenly Father by bestowing His glory upon his mother Mary. What more glory could be given than to raise her, body and soul, into heaven?
It would seem the only "right" thing for Him to do in regards to Mary, but that fact alone does not make it true. The very same Church that was founded directly by Jesus, and bestowed with a promise that the gates of hell would never prevail against her, witnesses to me that He did. You, on the other hand, born somewhere around 1930 years after Jesus died, and who was personally given no promise whatsoever that you would teach infallibly, seem to think that He did not. Whom should I trust? If you ask me, it's a simple decision to make.
More from Scripture on the Assumption of Mary
Luke1:28: And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
Because Mary was full of grace, she was preserved from the curse of sin as well as bodily decomposition at the end of her earthly life.(Genesis 3)
Ps. 131, 8 Arise, O Lord, into thy resting place; thou and the ark which thou hast sanctified, the ark of the Covenant made from incorruptible wood."
The ark of the Covenant can be seen to be a type of the incorruptible body of Mary. This is even more apparent when we read the last verse of chapter 11 in the book of Revelations:
Rev11:19: And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his Covenant: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.
John continues on describing this vision in chap 12...
Revelation 12:1 And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;
If the "man-child" in Revelation is seen to be Jesus, and the dragon... Satan, then the woman who bore him must be Mary. Those who wish to totally exclude this interpretation are just being biased.
If you wish to claim that this dogma is anti-biblical, please show me where it contradicts the Bible.
The Catholic Legate
February 18, 2004