ST MARY THE VIRGIN
Although August 15 is not a Prayer Book holy day, it seems hardly credible that we have no feast in honor of the gentle and lovely woman most intimately involved in the Incarnation. From early times, August 15 has been celebrated as her day. It has been marked by various names. The most ancient and universal title for this feast is the Dormition of Our Lady. That is an unfamiliar word which means "falling asleep." It emphasizes that St Mary was not a martyr, as were most of the saints whose feasts are kept in the Prayer Book kalendar.
In more modern times, this day has come to be called the Feast of the Assumption, celebrating a post-Biblical legend that after her death Mary's body did not decompose but was miraculously transported to the heavens. Before we reject this pious opinion too quickly, we must acknowledge that the New Testament gives some tantalizing hints of such a belief.
wrote (I Thess. 4:17) of those who will be "caught up together in the
clouds, to meet the Lord in the air," and penned a majestic description (Rev.
12) of the "woman clothed by the sun." So rather than giving undue honor to
the Mother of God, the picture of Mary already in glory shows the ultimate
destiny of every Christian. "Be ye faithful unto death, and I will
give thee the crown of life" is Christ's promise to her and to us as well. St John
Even if Scripture is silent concerning the end of Mary's earthly life, the Church has given her the title "Mother of God." That appellation still offends many, just as it offended the heretic Nestorius. He was willing to call her "Mother of Christ," but not "Mother of God." "Mother of God" seems to imply something false, that Mary is the mother of the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as if Mary herself were a Goddess from eternity. Such a notion would be beyond heresy, a leap into sheer paganism.
When we say, as we must say, that the Virgin Mary was the Mother of God, we are saying quite emphatically that the One to whom she gave birth was none other than God in the flesh. Her Son Jesus Christ was and is Deity Incarnate. So the title "Mother of God" at bottom line is not a statement about Mary herself but a statement about the One to whom she was Mother.
From the moment she surrendered herself to the Archangels's message ("Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word") until the day of Pentecost when she was occupying an honored place amongi the apostles, we see Mary as the most faithful and obedient disciple, the model for all Christians. Concerning her we sing, "O higher than the cherubim, more glorious than the seraphim, lead their praises; thou bearer of the eternal Word, most gracious, magnify the Lord." LKW