13 August 2008

A Dormition Meditation

I remember when the angel came and told me, and my heart burst with joy and terror.

I remember when I came to the door of Zechariah’s house and Eliabeth knew my secret and my heart melted and my eyes burned with tears and my mouth prophesied.

I remember when I felt your movement first inside my body, and I realized that I was the living ark of the living God.

I remember when first I saw your face, and touched your hands, and looked into my Joseph’s eyes.

I remember when they came creeping in to see you, to worship you, the shepherds of the night, and told me songs of angels and glory in the highest and peace on earth.

I remember when we brought you to the temple and the old man took you in his arms and blessed God, ready to die, and told me of pain yet to come.

I remember when they came from the East and bowed before you as I held you and gave their gifts - the gold, the incense and the myrrh, while the star's light shone upon us.

I remember when he woke me and we fled into the night ahead of the terror of Herod’s sword.

I remember when we came home at last, and people looked and talked, but you were all our joy.

I remember when you stayed behind, when you left us, and we found you in the temple and my heart rose up in fear realizing that you chose to abide in the place of sacrifice and death.

I remember when you spoke to me in roughness and yet made the water into wine.

I remember when we came to make you take your rest and you taught me that all these in need were dear to you as your own family.

I remember when they took you, tortured you, and crucified you; and before my eyes rose up the old man in the temple – his words haunted me still – and a sword ran me through as I watched you dying.

I remember when you looked on me and the beloved one and gave us to each other for all our days.

I remember when the light died in your eyes and my heart sank beyond tears and words.

I remember after the empty days when they came and told me that you lived again, and joy flooded my heart, and I knew then what I had always known - your every promise was true.

I remember when we prayed together after you had gone into heaven and the Spirit came in wind and flame.

I remember how they went and told the news to all the world. And I welcomed each new believer as my beloved child, a brother of my Son, the King of all.

I remember it all now as I die, as I lay my head down in death.

My Son, I am not afraid. I go to you, to you who have conquered death, to you who are the Forgiveness of all sins. Receive me, child. Receive me.

I remember. I remember. I remember.


Cha said...

Does your parish observe Mary, Mother of Our Lord with a liturgy?

The Lutheran parish for which I work does - I think they are the only Lutherans in the Twin Cities who do.

But I noticed today as I was preparing the bulletin for their service on Friday that the emphasis in the service is not on the Dormition at all. The service seems to revolve more around the Magnificat. The lessons and hymnody (of which there is very little in ELW - even less than LBW) all point in this direction, anyway.

So I was happy to see this post - about the Dormition of the Theotokos, but am curious first to know if other Lutherans keep this feast, and then maybe also to know why it isn't observed on the Roman Catholic Feast of the Annunciation...since all the texts used for Mary, Mother of Our Lord point in that direction.

William Weedon said...

Yes, we're transferring the festival to tonight's liturgy. We also have the Magnificat reading (also Is 61:7-11 and Gal. 4:4-7). But consider the Gradual:

All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold. In many-colored robes she is led to the king, with her virgin companions following her.

And the Collect:

Almighty God, You chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of Your only Son. Grant that we, who are redeemed by His blood, may share with her in the glory of Your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ...

Mimi said...

Happy Feast Day.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Weedon needs to get after Fr. Kind (ULC/Minneapolis) to observe this great festival as well...we need at least 2 Lutheran parishes in the twin cities to do so.

Brian P Westgate said...

The Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary will be celebrated at 10AM Friday at Zion Detroit. The historic Gospel (at Mary and Martha's house) will be used.

Schütz said...

Very beautiful reflection, Pastor. I argue this out more on my own blog, but I would like to ask (in light of the feast) in what sense you believe that Mary has gone to be with her Son.

William Weedon said...

Dear David,

I'm content to leave it that she is with him. I do not deny that she may be bodily assumed, but I cannot think of it as a dogma. But the joy of her homecoming must have been celebrated by angels and archangels and all the company of heaven no matter how it was accomplished.

Cha said...

Yes the Collect (Prayer of the Day, for them) is about the same - just a little different verbage, but they aren't using the assigned Gradual (Verse, for them) for this particular liturgy.

Anyway, thanks for this reflection. Wishing you blessings on the feast.

William Weedon said...

Thank you -C and Mimi -

And blessings to your celebration on Friday!

O higher than the Cherubim,
More glorious than the Seraphim,
Lead their praises, alleluia!
Thou, Bearer of the Eternal Word,
Most gracious, magnify the Lord!

Chris Jones said...


in what sense [do] you believe that Mary has gone to be with her Son?

While we Lutherans are happy to hymn the Blessed Mother as "higher than the cherubim" and "more glorious than the seraphim," we see no need nor basis to regard her eternal destiny as being, ontologically, any different than the rest of the redeemed. That is, she enjoys now that which we all are called to: being a partaker of the divine nature.

Past Elder said...

The Roman Rite had a liturgical change in the Mass for 15 August in 1950 -- the year the Assumption was defined as a revealed truth of the faith by Pius XII.

The Gradual quoted is derived from a verse of Psalm 44 (Vulgate numbering).

The Collect is worded differently than the one quoted, yet is clearly of the same origin. The Roman version reads:

O almighty and eternal God, who didst assume into celestial glory, in body and soul, the Immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of Thy Son, grant we beseech Thee, that ever intent on heavenly things, we may be worthy to share in her glory. Through the same etc.

Note the omission of a reference to the doctrine of the assumption, and the inclusion of a reference to the fact of redemption through her Son's Blood in the Lutheran version.

Note the inclusion of a reference to the doctrine of the assumption, and the omission of a reference to the fact of redemption through her Son's Blood in the Roman version.

I stand with redeemed by his Blood rather than ever intent on heavenly things.

We honour her most not in speculating on how she came into heaven, which we do not know, but in hearing her words at Cana, which we do -- do whatever he tells you.

Rosko said...

It would be nice if Fr Kind celebrated this, but since it falls in the summer, for the University that most of his flock comes from, I doubt it will ever happen. If Concordia is in session, the atrocity that such a chapel is, they might observe it in the Chapel, but not with a Mass. It would be nice to see him bust out the censer and Sanctus bells for such a feast. I and a friend gave him the Sanctus bells as a gift to the parish for Christmas 2004.

Schütz said...

As a Catholic I rejoice in the freedom to weigh the various traditions regarding the dormition/assumption of our Lady for myself - with the firm assurance that Mary is now risen body and soul in heaven with her risen Son - a sign of our hope to come. Her reward (completely by grace and through the merit of her Son) and destiny is no different from ours - rather ours will be what hers is.

Something just occured to me this afternoon though, which ought to be a challenge to all Protestants who are confident that Our Lady is "with the Lord" and that she does pray for us. Neither of these things are affirmed or even mentioned in Scripture. So on what grounds does does confidence lie?

I would say that this confidence is on exactly the same grounds as our Catholic confidence that Mary is body and soul in heaven. The theological problems that would be raised by the non-assumption of Mary are trifling compared to those that would be raised if Mary in fact were not among the redeemed! In other words, the conclusion that Mary is among the saints in blessedness (even if in soul only) is a theological conclusion - it is not based upon scripture in any sense whatsoever. I challenge Pastor Weedon and all protestants who hesitate - on the basis of lack of explicity scriptural foundation - to affirm the solid tradition of Mary's bodily Assumption, how it is that they can still affirm that her soul (at least) is among the saints in heaven when there is no explicit scriptural proof for this either.

Stands to reason, it seems, that if one can affirm that her soul is in heaven without explicity scriptural evidence, the lack of scriptural evidence should not, in itself, be an impediment to affirming that her body is there also.

The only difference therefore is that Catholic tradition, reflecting more deeply upon the implications of Mary's part in the incarnation and redemption of the world, has concluded that the ancient tradition of her assumption is not only fitting and right, but true in both theological and historical senses.

William Weedon said...

Dear David,

"All generations will call me blessed." Certainly generation after generation would never call blessed the Mother who bore the Son of God only to lose the blessedness of faith! One would call such a one tragic in the extreme.

As for her joining in the intercession of her Beloved Son: we know that He lives to intercede for us, and it is unthinkable that the members would be disjoined from their Head in His constant prayer. Why should 1 Cor. 12 and the words about the body be limited to the experience of the Church on THIS side of the grave?

But finally, when it comes to the teaching of the assumption, we have a tradition of the Church that was not universal (unlike Mary's salvation and her intercession), and that the Eastern Christians still regard as undefined. It's relatively late date simply makes it difficult to assert as a definite part of the Church's patrimony. It is dogmatizing a pious opinion and a beautiful thought. Again I say: it may be so; but I will not go beyond that.

Rev. James Leistico said...

I'm surprised no one besides me made a comment about the icon - the candle placed precisely to look like a sword piercing her heart.

William Weedon said...

Goodness, Jimbo, I missed that, but once you pointed it out, it is certainly striking!

Anonymous said...

Rev. Weedon, thanks for this great piece. I shared it with our Bible Class this morning, saying that I pulled it from your site. Hope that is okay. At any rate, the people were most impressed by the range of emotions and Scriptural imagery that came to them. I thought it was lovely. Jeremy

Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

It is a quaint legend, without any Scriptural support, so let's not get *too* carried away about it. There is a lot of mischief to be located in the Marian legends, which Hermann Sasse brilliantly analyzes in one of his essays, which name escapes me right now. He masterfully demonstrates the origins of most Marian legends in the effort to push out Roman female deities amongst pagans converting to Christianity.

Past Elder said...

Well David, I would hardly speak for all Protestants, but I think as a Lutheran you are quite free to weigh the various traditions on the assumption/dormition for yourself too.

What you are not free to do is weigh them for everyone else too and proclaim them part of the deposit of revealed truth.

Now that I think of it, there are Marian things which, despite their widespread observance, a Catholic is not bound to believe -- Lourdes, Fatima, etc. Catholic tradition did not impersonally conclude anything about the assumption; it was formally defined as a binding dogma by a pope.

For all the reservations I may have about some of the pronouncements of our current synodical president, none of them has been to proclaim something binding doctrine on the church!

So the real question is, as always with Rome, is Rome the name to which every knee shall bend.

Anonymous said...

Now that I think of it, there are Marian things which, despite their widespread observance, a Catholic is not bound to believe --Lourdes, Fatima, etc. Catholic tradition did not impersonally conclude anything about the assumption; it was formally defined as a binding dogma by a pope.

Very true. The Nicene Creed is the rule of belief for an orthodox Catholic, not how many Marian devotions he/she observes. Since Vatican II Mary as Mother of God and Mother of the Church and first disciple of her Son have become far more prominent.

On the other hand, the old canard that Marian devotion was snuck into the church to appease the pagan need to worship the Magna Mater of yore is also not true. As Jaroslav Pelikan observed (while still Lutheran) Mary of Nazareth was a historical person. Unlike Athena, Hera, and the whole panoply of Greek and Roman goddesses.

It all hinges on the Catholic/Orthodox/Protestant view of the Communion of Saints and how they may or may not be approached.

Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

No, actually it all hinges on the fact that there is not a single word of command, nor promise and no example in Sacred Scripture of praying to the saints. That's what this "hinges" on.

Anonymous said...

No, actually it all hinges on the fact that there is not a single word of command, nor promise and no example in Sacred Scripture of praying to the saints. That's what this "hinges" on.

On the basis of Sola Scriptura, of course. How could it be otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I actually meant that as "for Lutherans, how could it be otherwise."

Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

We Lutherans retain the catholic Church's very high regard for Scripture, which trumps any tradition or teacher, every time. The Bishop of the Rome may blast forth all the gaseous pronouncements he wishes, but we disregard them when they are not anchored in our Lord and His Apostles' words.

Anonymous said...

Understood, Pastor McCain!

But for the greater catholic tradition (east and west) there is this:

To what Scripture, then, did the earliest Christians appeal to authenticate their evangel, to substantiate their beliefs? They relied upon the oral transmission of the Gospel, of what Jesus said and did, through the mouths of the Apostles --- who in turn transmitted this deposit of the Faith through their successors, to subsequent generations. The corpus of the the New Testament as we now understand --- beginning with the Gospel according to St. Matthew and concluding with the Book of Revelation, or the Apocalypse --- was developed over many centuries and not brought to the literary and chronological form we now recognize until the the 3rd Century, and first listed by St. Athanasius in 367 in his Festal Letter 39 to the nascent Church in Egypt* --- at the earliest.

This means that, apart from Apostolic Tradition, the Christians of the first three and a half centuries relied upon the Gospel and its interpretation being authentically communicated to them not in a literary form to which they could appeal chapter and verse to validate what they believed, but through the voice and authority invested in the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops.

One can hardly lay this at the feet of the Bishop of Rome in toto.

For Catholics the "Word" will always first and foremost be a Person, Jesus Christ, to whom the inspired Scriptures witness.

With all due respect and affirmation for the Lutheran half of my family, of course.

Dan Woodring said...

Where does it say in Holy Scripture that Blessed Mary experienced physical death? Since the Scriptures are silent on this subject, one would expect a consistant “sola Scriptura” position to maintain the possibility that she is alive and well and perhaps living in Maui. Isn’t speaking of her as a member of the Church Triumphant, just a major assumption on your part?

William Weedon said...

Actually, Dan, I *think* the POPE just said that. See Schütz' blog!