The Custody celebrated the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Jerusalem | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

The Custody celebrated the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Jerusalem

Scripture kept complete silence regarding the end of Mary’s life because of the grandeur of the marvel, so as not to strike the human mind with excessive astonishment.” Thus according to Saint Epiphanius in his Panarion (78.10-11,23).

But if Scripture remained silent, Tradition for its part has spoken in abundance and sometimes in contradictory ways. Still today, some pilgrims to Jerusalem have trouble distinguishing between the place of the Dormition on Mount Zion and the Blessed Virgin’s tomb at Gethsemane in the Kidron Valley, not to mention the tradition which situates these events at Ephesus…

The Transitus Virginis (the passage of the virgin) or ’Dormitio Mariae’ (Dormition of Mary), which Father Bagatti, ofm sees – at least for certain passages – as dating from the 2nd century, describes the last moments of Mary’s life on earth.

According to this text, the Blessed Virgin Mary fell asleep in the Lord on Mount Zion, surrounded by the apostles. The Holy Spirit then told Peter: “Take Madame Mary, leave Jerusalem by the path that goes to the top of the (Josaphat) valley beyond the Mount of Olives. There are three grottoes there: one large one on the outside, then another, and inside, a small room with a raised shelf: that is where you are to place her.” Thus the two sanctuaries commemorating the last moments of the Blessed Virgin’s life can be reconciled.

Both places received many pilgrims on this August 15. But the Franciscans celebrated the feast at Gethsemane. It began in the morning in the Church of the Nations with a solemn Mass over which the Custos of the Holy Land, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, presided together with some twenty priests.

In his homily, Friar Frédéric Manns let us share in the Blessed Virgin’s joy on the day of her Assumption, and each one could imagine being with her together with the apostles and admiring once again her unshakeable trust, the purity of her thanksgiving, and her joyful humility. Together with the apostles, the assembly experienced the glory the Lord had reserved for her. Father Manns cited the apocryphal sources in abundance and explained them in the light of Jewish tradition.

ÒThen, opening her mouth, Mary gave praise with these words: I bless you, for you did what you promised and you did not sadden me… Now it has been done to me according to your word. Who am I in my poverty to be judged worthy of such glory? After saying this, she completed her course, her smiling face turned towards the Lord.” “After he had embraced her, the Lord took her soul and place it into the hands of Michael, enveloping her with skins, the glory of which cannot be truly described. As for us, the apostles, we saw Mary’s soul placed in the hands of Michael in a perfect human form except for the face of a man or a woman. She had nothing other than the resemblance of her whole body and a clarity that was seven times greater.”

Taking up this kiss by God, Father Manns recalled the similarity between the end of the Virgin Mary’s life and that of Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron. For according to Jewish tradition, Moses, Aaron and Miriam did not experience the corruption of the grave. The three leaders of the Exodus died “al pi adonai”, which is to say, upon an order from the mouth of God. The expression was later interpreted as follows: they died while being embraced by God, in a kiss from God. Mary, the new Miriam, enjoyed this same privilege.”

In the afternoon, the more numerous assembly met for Vespers in the Grotto of the Apostles, and this was followed by the procession to the tomb.

Today, the tomb of the Blessed Virgin is looked after by the Greek and the Armenian Orthodox; together with Bethlehem, the Holy Sepulcher, and the place of the Ascension, it is the fourth holy place under the status quo, and that is why the Franciscans can continue to go there in solemn procession.

There was one hymn and prayer to the Blessed Virgin after the other, while all the faithful entered one by one after the Franciscans to venerate the place where the Virgin Mary was laid to rest: a simple stone bed that is as bare as the tomb of Christ is bare and empty.

After keeping watch for three days over their Mother Mary, the apostles saw the archangels Michael and Gabriel and thousands of angels carrying her body upon the cloud. And tradition goes on to say that the Lord “sent the apostles to their lands to proclaim the conversion and the salvation of humankind.”

On this August 15, the assembly again dispersed, each one to his or her country, with the task of announcing the marvels of God.