of Some Accounts of the Assumption
(These are just quick notes. I expect to have something more
presentable by April of 2006.)
The Passing of Mary, a Greek text on the
Assumption dated no later than the 4th century, . Gregory's
account of the Assumption
Passing of Mary (cached)
was written in Greek no later than the 4th century. It is online only
in an English translation (cached) of a medieval Latin translation. It
is not the source of Gregory's Assumption account in Glory of the Martyrs. In
it Mary's soul is carried aloft by Christ himself. The time between
this and the Assumption is not specified. During this interval
Jerusalem's Jews decide to attack and burn the body but are
incapacitated by blindness; then the apostles are attacked by a Jew
while carrying the body from Mt. Zion to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, but
by a miracle he is converted. In the valley they inter the body and
then it is "suddenly" borne up by angels, seen only by St. Thomas, who
was just arriving; the others were blinded by the light around the
sepulchre and did not realize that the body was gone. When he saw her
rising, Thomas prayed to her and asked for "thy compassion," whereupon
she tossed down her girdle. Then he explained to the apostles, who were
incredulous at first, that the body was no longer in the sepulchre.They
looked in the sepulchre, then at the girdle, and were convinced.
Fifteen apostles are named, and the text says there were many others in
attendance, plus the three virgins, who are given names. The three-day
interval is not between dormition and assumption as in other texts, but
between Mary's announcement to the apostles of what will happen and her
Account of St. John on the Falling Asleep of the Mother of God (cached)
First John, then the other apostles, including Paul and the evangelists
Luke and Mark, are miraculously brought to Mary in Bethlehem. Several
of them recite the story of how they were snatched from their places
and transported here. At regular intervals, Mary tells them to "cast
incense and pray"; this may explain the censer in some paintings.Then
there is another unsuccessful Jewish plot to burn Mary. Then her soul
is received by Christ (it is not expressed as a lifting aloft). Then
the story of the Jew who attacks while the body is being carried but is
converted by a miracle. Then the entombment, followed by three days of
sweet perfume and angel voices; after which "all knew that her spotless
and precious body had been transferred [sic] to paradise [sic]."
Nothing is said about the body being raised by anyone. The account is
much more rhetorical than other Assumption stories: Mary and the
apostles speak to each other in formal speeches and deliver elegant
prayers to Christ. Mary has three virgin attendants in this one too,
though they are unnamed. St. Thomas is not set apart in this story; he
is just one of the apostles who relate their travels hither and who
carry the body to Gethsemane.
Golden Legend #119: html or pdf
first part of #119 integrates a number of sources into a narrative of
the dormition and assumption. It claims to be using a small apocryphal
book of St. John the Evangelist as a source, but nothing in the ensuing
account seems drawn from the St. John above; indeed, GL says Mary is on
Mt. Zion as the story begins, whereas pseudo-John says it is Bethlehem.
The apostles arrive miraculously. In the dormition her soul flies up,
attended by red roses and white lilies of the valley, to Christ,
who carries her into Heaven speaking words from the Song of Solomon.
The three virgins, unnamed, wash the body and the apostles carry it to
the valley of Josaphat, interrupted by a Jewish crowd led by the chief
priest, who is converted by miracle as above. After Mary is interred
"she came forth glorious from the monument and was assumed into the
heavenly bridal chamber, a great multitude of angels keeping her
The second part of #119 assembles various miracles and commentaries
related to the Assumption.
The third part claims to be based on a sermon that is read in churches
and that is itself based on a variety of sources. An angel tells Mary
what will happen, gives her a palm branch and her burial clothes. John
comes un-miraculously, the apostles rain down miraculously from a storm
cloud. At the dormition Christ comes down with his angels and carries
Mary's soul up to Heaven. Then the burial procession to Gethsemane
singing In exitu Israel de Aegypto,
interrupted by those pesky Jews again, with the same miraculous
conversion of one of them. At the assumption they see Christ come down
and carry the body up, to angelic voices and ineffable perfume. Then
"one of the apostles" (not specified as Thomas) who had been absent
shows up and doubts the story, insists they open the tomb and show him,
which they do: empty, with just "the garments and the shroud."
The fourth part assembles more comments on the assumption.
The fifth cites John Damascene's account of the assumption. In the
dormition Mary "commended her spirit into the hands of her son" -- no
visualization is given. The procession from Zion to Gethsemane is again
interrupted by a mob and a miraculous conversion. The assumption is
expressed not visually but via a commentary on the appropriateness of
preserving Mary's body from corruption.
The sixth and final part is a lengthy quotation from a sermon of St.
Augustine on the assumption.
Also see Stephen Shoemaker, Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's
Dormition and Assumption, OUP 2003 ISBN 0199250758