The Assumption BY THE EDITOR
You undertook last week to answer a question about the evidence, scriptural and historical, for the dogma of the Assumption, and instead gave us a long account about the infallibility of the Church. Could you this week answer the original question, as Anglicans often ask the same question.
wanted to show last week that
the question about the scriptural and historical evidence was relatively unimportant and uninteresting because the infallibility of the Church and of the Pope is the rail guarantee of the fact of Our Lady's Assumption, quite irrespective of any evidence. It seemed, therefore, more useful to discuss this infallibility. The point is referred to again in our leading article on this page. But of course there is evidence and argument since it is not to be expected that the Holy Spirit would suddenly and out of the blue inspire the Pope to proclaim a dogma. Indeed the Pope does not and cannot discover and proclaim new doctrines, but only truths contained in the original Apostolic Faith, truths which may be later, so to speak, unfolded or made explicit as needed.
THE strongest evidence is simply the belief of the Church which has steadily grown through the centuries with the consequence that for more than five hundred years the faithful, not only in the Catholic Church, but also in the Orthodox (which in this respect maintained ancient traditions), firmly and universally believed in the Assumption, and under that title celebrated the most solemn feast of Our Lady in the Calendar.
Why one may ask ? Exactly ! Why—if not because of the guidance of the Holy Spirit ?
The growth is really impressive, precisely bemuse the belief, accordIng to documents, started so relatively late. A fourth century Spanish sculpture has been interpreted as depicting the Assumption, and St. John Damascene (676-749)
bore the following witness e "St. Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem,
at the Council of Chalcedon (451). made known to the Emperor Marcian and Puleheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of All the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty, wherefrorn the Apostles concluded that the body was taken usa to heaven."
THB feast appears to have been celebrated in parts of the Church !from the 6th century, including
I possibly Rome. From the first it was a feast of the highest class. Since those times the belief in the Assumption has steadily spread, and, given the fact of this actual growing faith within the Church, theologians have been engaged in confirming that faith by pointing out the inner fitnesa of the incorruption of the body of the sinless Mother of God and her assumption into heaven. It is not just a case, as has been I contended, that the Church has argued that because of its fitness, therefore the Assumption must be a fact. The tradition and its unchallenged growth runs parallel ; and logically, though not historically, prior to all is the coming Papal definition which infallibly guarantees the fact of the Assumption to be part of the original Deposit of Faith which closed with the death of the last Apostle.