by Fr. George Dion Dragas
Orthodox and Roman Catholic Doctrine:
This is not the place to present in detail all the variable patristic accounts of the falling asleep of the Theotokos and assess their conclusions. In spite of differences, it is clear that they all point to the glorification of the Blessed Theotokos at her death, which marks her entry into Heaven and taking a place closer to Christ than any other heavenly or human being. The mystery of her bodily transposition which is warranted by the empty tomb is a matter of faith and piety and is based on the mystery of the Incarnation. Based on this logic that pertains to the mystery of Christ and the unique place of the Blessed Virgin Theotokos in it, it is also logical to assume that she too has experienced the resurrection of the body as a unique anticipation of the general resurrection of all humanity in the end of time.
In spite of this, the Orthodox Church has not accepted the Roman Catholic dogma of the bodily assumption of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, which was promulgated by Pope Pius XII on 1 November 1950 through his Bull Munificentissimus Deus. The reasons for this rejection have been both theological and historical. The Roman Catholic Dogma of the Assumption is based on the earlier Marian dogma of the Immaculate Conception (that the Virgin was born immaculate, free from original sin), which was promulgated by Pope Pius IX on 8 December 1854 through his Bull Ineffabilis Deus. In effect this meant that being sinless she could not and did not die but was assumed into heaven both in body and soul. For the Orthodox these Roman Catholic Marian Dogmas are rather rationalizations of piety and are not clearly warranted in the Holy Tradition of the Church. Orthodox piety and faith preserves the mystery of the blessed Theotokos along with the mystery of Christ the Incarnate, God and Lord of Glory.
The festal hymn of the Dormition proclaims this most clearly:
In giving birth You kept Your virginity.
In falling asleep You did not abandon the world, o Mother of God.
You passed over into life, for You are the Mother of Life,
and by Your intercessions You deliver our souls from death.
Source: Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries
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