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Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God Posted: Aug 14 2019 2:22PM

This popular icon depicts the Dormition of Mary, when she "fell asleep" and entered eternal life.
(photo: St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai, 13th century / Wikipedia)

15 August marks an important solemnity on the Catholic calendar: the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It honors the moment when — in the words of Pope Pius XII — “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”

In Eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches, this feast is known as the Dormition of Mary — her ”falling asleep” — and is commemorated on the same date:

The origin of the feast of the Dormition or the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary [Theotokos] is closely connected with her public veneration since the beginning of the fourth century. It developed from the early celebration of Christmas in which the Theotokos, the Mother of God our Savior, played an important role. The solemn proclamation of Mary as “the Theotokos” at the Council of Ephesus (431) greatly enhanced her public veneration as the “Mother of God.” This is evidenced by the fact that a few years later her divine maternity was celebrated in Jerusalem as the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, on August 15. (cf. Armenian Lectionary, 434 A.D.)

A popular icon (shown above) depicts Mary asleep, surrounded by the apostles, with Jesus in heaven holding a baby in his arms — representing Mary beginning a new life.

It is common in some Byzantine parishes to bless flowers on this feast, including roses, the Lily of the Valley (sometimes called ”Mary’s Tears) and the Columbine —also known as ”Mary’s Shoes,” since one legend holds that wherever Mary walked on her way to visit Elizabeth, these flowers bloomed.