Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Church Fathers and The Assumption of Mary

It's hard to prove the assumption of Mary into heaven from just the Bible alone. The Bible doesn't speak very much on the concept of the Trinity either! But it's obvious that the early church must have been talking about it enough so that it found its way into their writings. I wonder what I would have thought if I had been exposed to these writings earlier.
I was told that the Catholic Church created this doctrine out of thin air.
Even if one does not agree with these writings because they are not Scripture, it tells us that Mary was held in a place of high regard for the early believers. These writings are like little theological snapshots to give us an inside view of the mind of the early Church.
Sometimes the early believers had some heterodox views, but these were weeded-out and smacked-down by the Church because Jesus promised that He would give the Holy Spirit to lead us in all Truth. You may argue that Marian doctrines illustrate that the early Christians were "starting to get away from the Scriptures" but my argument is the Church would not have allowed them to be promulgated if they were heretical, as my post about the Collyridians illustrated. Thanks to Stay Catholic for this collection of ECF quotes below.

Pseudo – Melito

If therefore it might come to pass by the power of your grace, it has appeared right to us your servants that, as you, having overcome death, do reign in glory, so you should raise up the body of your Mother and take her with you, rejoicing, into heaven. Then said the Savior [Jesus]: "Be it done according to your will" (The Passing of the Virgin 16:2-17 [A.D. 300]).

Timothy of Jerusalem

Therefore the Virgin is immortal to this day, seeing that he who had dwelt in her transported her to the regions of her assumption (Homily on Simeon and Anna [A.D. 400]).

John the Theologian

The Lord said to his Mother, "Let your heart rejoice and be glad. For every favor and every gift has been given to you from my Father in heaven and from me and from the Holy Spirit. Every soul that calls upon your name shall not be ashamed, but shall find mercy and comfort and support and confidence, both in the world that now is and in that which is to come, in the presence of my Father in the heavens". . . And from that time forth all knew that the spotless and precious body had been transferred to paradise (The Dormition of Mary [A.D. 400]).

Gregory of Tours

[T]he Apostles took up her body on a bier and placed it in a tomb; and they guarded it, expecting the Lord to come. And behold, again the Lord stood by them; and the holy body having been received, He commanded that it be taken in a cloud into paradise: where now, rejoined to the soul, [Mary] rejoices with the Lord's chosen ones. . . (Eight Books of Miracles 1:4 [A.D. 575]).

Theoteknos of Livias

It was fitting ... that the most holy-body of Mary, God-bearing body, receptacle of God, divinised, incorruptible, illuminated by divine grace and full glory ... should be entrusted to the earth for a little while and raised up to heaven in glory, with her soul pleasing to God (Homily on the Assumption [ca. A.D. 600]).

Modestus of Jerusalem

As the most glorious Mother of Christ, our Savior and God and the giver of life and immortality, has been endowed with life by him, she has received an eternal incorruptibility of the body together with him who has raised her up from the tomb and has taken her up to himself in a way known only to him (Encomium in dormitionnem Sanctissimae Dominae nostrae Deiparae semperque Virginis Mariae [ante A.D. 634]).

Germanus of Constantinople

You are she who, as it is written, appears in beauty, and your virginal body is all holy, all chaste, entirely the dwelling place of God, so that it is henceforth completely exempt from dissolution into dust. Though still human, it is changed into the heavenly life of incorruptibility, truly living and glorious, undamaged and sharing in perfect life (Sermon I [A.D. 683]).

John Damascene

It was fitting that the she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped when giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father, It was fitting that God's Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God (Dormition of Mary [A.D. 697])

Gregorian Sacramentary

Venerable to us, O Lord, is the festivity of this day on which the holy Mother of God suffered temporal death, but still could not be kept down by the bonds of death, who has begotten Thy Son our Lord incarnate from herself (Gregorian Sacramentary, Veneranda [ante A.D. 795]).


Blogger George Weis said...

I think what I'm struggling with here, is that these are all fourth century and beyond. Are their any that are earlier?


November 21, 2008 9:15 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

yes, George, I agree that most of the Catholic beliefs regarding Mary's assumption, immaculate conception and perpetual virginity were "crystallizing" and being written about by the fathers like Jerome, Athanasius, Augustine, Cyril of Jerusalem from the fourth century and onward. Yet we believe there was the seed in these beliefs in the early Church. Justin Martyr and Irenaeus from Lyons in the mid 150's both wrote about Mary in way that tells us she had a special place in the hearts of the early Christians.
Catholics as you know believe in the concept of "development of doctrine" and some protestants, to a degree, do as well. The Marian dogmas that came to be defined by the Church later in history had their "seeds" in the early writings but it certainly would be wrong to say, "Paul and Peter were talking about her but that it never got recorded, it's just passed as sacred Tradition." That's a disingenuous explanation.
Instead we believe that, based on Jesus words, the "Spirit would lead us in all truth", that the Marian doctrines were guided under the inspiration of His Spirit and as the Church grew and developed, the understanding of Mary's role in salvation solidified. They weren't calling her the "theotokos" in the book of Acts, yet, Scripture shows us she was at every important event in the early days, including Pentecost which is considered the birthday of the Church.
At some point I had to say to myself early in my conversion process, If this is the Church that has always believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and gave us the Creed in 325 which solidified the doctrine of the Trinity, shouting down all the heresies and later in 390's discerned the canon of Scripture, than I have to trust her with what she says regarding the doctrines of Mary.
Here's a few earlier quotes from Justin Martyr and Ireneaus from the mid 2nd century.

"As Eve was seduced by the speech of an angel, so as to flee God in transgressing his word, so also Mary received the good tidings by means of the angel's speech, so as to be God within her, being obedient to this word. And though the one had disobeyed God, yet the other was drawn to obey him; that of the virgin Eve, the virgin Mary might become the advocate and as by a virgin the human race had been bound to death, by a virgin it is saved, the balance being preserved- a virgin's disobedience by a virgin' obedience." (Against Heresies, 3, 19) (130 A.D.)

For whereas Eve, yet a virgin and undefiled, through conceiving the word that came from the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death; the Virgin Mary, taking faith and joy, when the Angel told her the good tidings that the Spirit of the Lord should come upon her, and the power of the Most High overshadow her, and therefore the Holy One to be born of her should be the Son of God, answered, Be it don to me according to thy word. And so by means of her was he born, concerning whom we have shown so many Scriptures were spoken; through whom God overthrows the serpent, and those angels and men who have become like to it, and on the other hand, works deliverance from death for such as repent of their evil doings and believe in him (Dialogue with Trypho, 100 A.D.)

Eve was called the mother of the living ...after the fall this title was given to her. True it is...the whole race of man upon earth was born from Eve; but in reality it is from Mary the Life was truly born to the world. So that by giving birth to the Living One, Mary became the mother of all living (St. Epiphanius, Against Eighty Heresies, 78,9)

Sorry for the length here, but gives you a view of what some of the early church writers were saying about Mary, just a generation or so after the death of the last disciple, John (100 AD)
Thanks for reading!

November 23, 2008 3:31 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

oops! st epiphanius was in the 300's not 2nd century, I copied and pasted him in by accident. :)

November 23, 2008 3:34 PM  
Blogger Regina Barzyk said...

Your comments are interesting in the historical point of view.
I am a Catholic also, I was raised with a deep Faith and knowledge of Mary and a great veneration towards her through the Church, including the clergy.

I feel now it is a bit laxing (I'm in my 60's).
What do you all think?
Regina Barzyk

August 15, 2011 1:51 PM  
Blogger Russ Rentler, M.D. said...

What do you mean by laxing Regina?

August 15, 2011 8:03 PM  
Blogger Regina Barzyk said...

Hello, Russ

I mean that the clergy no longer makes long invitations before the Assumption of Our Lady's Feast day as they used to do years ago.

Years ago the clergy, meaning the priests would tell the parishoners week before of that special feast day. They would tell of all the graces and mysteries of Mary connected and deeply united with the incarnation of Christ. The priest would make special effort to invite the congregation for Mass, even if the Archdiocese did not make it an obligation for that year, as I noticed this year in Cary nc it was not.

This is what I mean by lax within the Church.
I went to Assumption Mass by sheer depth of Faith and being used to venerate Mary the Mother of God.

Thank you!

August 16, 2011 2:43 PM  

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