Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Debate with "Little Les" on the Assumption of Mary: Part 2

You'll notice at the end of Part 1 that I had intended to post next about the evidence for the Assumption from Scripture and Tradition. But, instead of waiting patiently, he went ahead and responded to what I had said up to that point. Here is how I engaged that response. In Part 3, which will come tomorrow, I will post the evidence from Scripture and Tradition that I was eventually able to provide for him. He was banned from Phatmass before he could respond to this evidence, so Part 3 concludes the debate.
- - -
I have. It doesn't. Evidence please or withdraw your assertion.
Munificentissimus Deus doesn't have testimony from the ECF's of the Assumption? Note the following paragraphs, which are numbered:
17. "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 your Son our Lord incarnate from herself."[11]

18. the Gallican sacramentary designates this privilege of Mary's as "an ineffable mystery all the more worthy of praise as the Virgin's Assumption is something unique among men." .... "God, the King of the universe, has granted you favors that surpass nature. As he kept you a virgin in childbirth, thus he has kept your body incorrupt in the tomb and has glorified it by his divine act of transferring it from the tomb."[12]

21. "It was fitting that 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 in the act of 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."[17]

22. "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."[18] And another very ancient writer asserts: "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."[19]

[11.] Sacramentarium Gregorianum.
[12.] Menaei Totius Anni.
[17.] St. John Damascene, Encomium in Dormitionem Dei Genetricis Semperque
Virginis Mariae, Hom. II, n. 14; cf. also ibid, n. 3.
[18.] St. Germanus of Constantinople, In Sanctae Dei Genetricis Dormitionem,Sermo I.
[19.] The Encomium in Dormitionem Sanctissimae Dominae Nostrate Deiparae Semperque Virginis Mariae, attributed to St. Modestus of Jerusalem, n. 14.
As you can see, there is ample patristic witness.

The evidence presented shows that the myth of the assumption was first recorded in the fourth of fifth century spurious writings,and not before that time. This fact is admitted by the Catholic Encyclopedia.Catholic "tradition' was subsequently developed. If you have any evidence of a "bountiful" earlier tradition, please present it.
I believe I have. Also note that in this article, under the section "The Transitus MariƦ or Evangelium Joannis", we read: "However, there is warrant for saying that while the tradition existed substantially in portions of the Church at an early period, and thus prepared the way for the acceptance of mythical amplifications, still its later form and details were considerably influenced by the Transitus and kindred writings." I have found this to be the consensus drawn by scholars on the subject.

Again, as stated at the onset, facts must be proven to exist, not presumed to exist.Please provide evidence of your putative " sources of belief " by anyone prior to the 5th century claiming the assumption of Mary. And please include the date of the writing.
I have. And by the way, I must again remind you that the task, as far as Christian testimony is concerned, is to prove that belief in the Assumption is a part of Sacred Tradition. You stated this yourself early in our debate. I have shown you that it is very much a part of the Tradition of the Church. The timeframe for the Tradition is irrelevant.

It is necessary that a fact be established, not that, using a little creative imagination, it can be "pointed to."One must alyays distinguish between facts and fables.Again, please site your scriptural evidence for the assumption of Mary. Thus far, you have not. Nor have you cited any evidence from a source prior to the fifth century.
Why are you imposing this requirement? There is simply no merit in it. The doctrine is not concerned with the historical facts about her assumption. Pope Pius XII did not set out to affirm or deny these details when he articulated our belief. The doctrine is this: that she was assumed into heaven at the end of her earthly life. The task is this: to prove whether or not this belief is contrary to Scripture or Tradition. Period. That's what you and I are working with. It seems that the only way you can refute what I have presented is by going beyond the parameters of our debate.

Thank you for stipulating to that fact. The historical evidence of the legend of the Assumption, begins with spurious writings of the fifth century. I think you'll find that all Chruch writings date from after that time.
I think you'll find that more recent scholarship is proving otherwise.

No. Apostolic Traditions cannot realistically be said to have begun six or seven hundred years after the fact.In the case of the Assumption, no tradition at all can be evidenced before the early 5th century.
Well, for one, we find evidence of a belief in the Assumption before the fourth century. Secondly, if in fact we were to find no writings from before this time, that would not mean that no one believed it. It would just mean that we have no written evidence of it (either because they didn't write about it or because their writings on the subject no longer exist). Do you realize how hard it is to find writings about anything from the time period you stipulate? It is no small task.

Futhermore, Christians during the first four centuries were primarily concerned (maybe even obsessed) with properly formulating Christian belief regarding the Incarnation and the Natures of Christ, and in battling the Christological heresies of the day. It only makes sense that there would be very little written about other Christian figures.

Plus, it was through their formulations about the nature of the Incarnation that they were finally able to come to a greater understanding of the role and privileges of Mary. After all, it is from her role as the Mother of the Lord that all her other honors flow, and they could not understand what it means to be the Mother of the Lord, and the ramifications of this, until they understood the Incarnation and the Natures of Christ.

Considering all this, it seems unreasonable to me for you to insist on a refined, explicit belief in the Assumption of Mary before the fourth century.

And while doing so, you might want to consider this: "A popular martyrology, that was used from the ninth century to the reform of the Roman Martyrology by Baronius in 1548, was composed by Usuard, a monk of St. Germain des Pres in Paris. It stated its opinion quite bluntly in its announcement of the feast: "The Falling Asleep of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. Though her most sacred body is not to be found on earth, still Holy Mother Church celebrates her venerable memory with no doubt that she had left this life. But as to where the venerable temple of the Holy Ghost has been hidden by divine Providence, the sobriety of the Church prefers pious ignorance to any frivolous or apocryphal doctrine."11

Footnote 11. The Roman Martyrology, quoted by Paul E. Duggan, The Assumption Dogma: Some Reactions and Ecumenical Implications in the Thought of English-Speaking Theologians (Cleveland: Merson Press, 1989), 18.

This is quoted from: The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute, Dayton, Ohio 45469-1390, I think thy have a website.

Of course, this was written before the Pius XII's infallible pronouncement, that is, before "frivolous or apoccryphal doctrine" became official teachings.
I don't know how to state this any more plainly: the exact details of the assumption (when it happened, where it happened, who was there) are simply not at issue here. So, this quote of yours does little to advance your claim. Also, note that when Usuard says the phrase "frivolous or apocryphal doctrine" he is referring to beliefs about where her body was burried. This has nothing to do with the doctrine of the Assumption, which states only that she was assumed into heaven at the end of her earthly life.

The origin of Church "Tradtion" is very much bound to a time frame.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
76 In keeping with the Lord's command, the Gospel was handed on in two ways: - orally "by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received - whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit"- in writing "by those apostles and other men associated with the apostles who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing".
The volumnous writings of the Early Church Fathers omit any mention of the Assumption. And one of them, St. Epiphanius admits that he knows nothing about it. (Panarion, Haer, 78.10-11) See also CE, Feast of the Assumption).

The legend of the Assumption is first found in De Obitu S. Dominae, an apocryphal treatise, which belongs to the 4th or 5th century. (See CE op cit).

The first Church author to write of it is St. Gregory of Tours (6th century) according to Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pp 209-210, Tan Books, 1974.

In short, apostolic tradition, is not verified by the facts.
You're right, the origin of Tradition is bound to a timeframe. That's because the origin is the Sacred Deposit given to the Apostles by Christ himself. However, Sacred Tradition is always with us, in the Testimony of the ECF's, in her customs and disciplines, and in her liturgies and forms of worship throughout the history of the Church. You betray a fundamental misunderstanding of what Tradition actually is. Hopefully we can remedy this. (*wink*)

Thank you for stipulating to the fact that none of the scriptures you presented support the Assumption.
I didn't say that. Look at my words again. I said that the literal intention was not to address the Assumption. I went on to explain that, in the tradition of the NT writers, the Church finds implicit evidence for the Assumption in these verses. Maybe you missed that part? Les, please read my posts in their entirety before you respond, instead of responding to each paragraph as you read it. I think that by employing this latter approach you are not grasping the full meaning I am trying to articulate to you.

Pax Christi,


  1. Just letting you know I read this whole thing ;-)

    *sigh* You're so smart.


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