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The Assumption of Mary

1. Provide a 100-150-word summary and analysis of Munificentissimus Deus. What is/was
the significance of this document?

2. Provide a 100-150-word summary and analysis of Laurentin 248-259. Don’t forget the
analysis (as in, don’t just summarize).

3. Provide a 100-150-word summary and analysis of Farkasfalvy 291-306. Don’t forget
the analysis (as in, don’t just summarize).

4. Provide a 100-150-word summary and analysis of Schlink et al, “The New Dogma from
a Protestant Standpoint.” What is/was the significance of this document?

The Assumption of Mary

The Holy See

APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION OF

POPE PIUS XII 

MUNIFICENTISSIMUS DEUS

DEFINING THE DOGMA OF THE ASSUMPTION

November 1, 1950

 

1. The most bountiful God, who is almighty, the plan of whose providence rests upon wisdom and
love, tempers, in the secret purpose of his own mind, the sorrows of peoples and of individual men
by means of joys that he interposes in their lives from time to time, in such a way that, under
different conditions and in different ways, all things may work together unto good for those who
love him.(1)

2. Now, just like the present age, our pontificate is weighed down by ever so many cares,
anxieties, and troubles, by reason of very severe calamities that have taken place and by reason
of the fact that many have strayed away from truth and virtue. Nevertheless, we are greatly
consoled to see that, while the Catholic faith is being professed publicly and vigorously, piety
toward the Virgin Mother of God is flourishing and daily growing more fervent, and that almost
everywhere on earth it is showing indications of a better and holier life. Thus, while the Blessed
Virgin is fulfilling in the most affectionate manner her maternal duties on behalf of those redeemed
by the blood of Christ, the minds and the hearts of her children are being vigorously aroused to a
more assiduous consideration of her prerogatives.

3. Actually God, who from all eternity regards Mary with a most favorable and unique affection,
has “when the fullness of time came”(2) put the plan of his providence into effect in such a way
that all the privileges and prerogatives he had granted to her in his sovereign generosity were to
shine forth in her in a kind of perfect harmony. And, although the Church has always recognized
this supreme generosity and the perfect harmony of graces and has daily studied them more and

more throughout the course of the centuries, still it is in our own age that the privilege of the bodily
Assumption into heaven of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, has certainly shone forth more clearly.

4. That privilege has shone forth in new radiance since our predecessor of immortal memory, Pius
IX, solemnly proclaimed the dogma of the loving Mother of God’s Immaculate Conception. These
two privileges are most closely bound to one another. Christ overcame sin and death by his own
death, and one who through Baptism has been born again in a supernatural way has conquered
sin and death through the same Christ. Yet, according to the general rule, God does not will to
grant to the just the full effect of the victory over death until the end of time has come. And so it is
that the bodies of even the just are corrupted after death, and only on the last day will they be
joined, each to its own glorious soul.

5. Now God has willed that the Blessed Virgin Mary should be exempted from this general rule.
She, by an entirely unique privilege, completely overcame sin by her Immaculate Conception, and
as a result she was not subject to the law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, and she did
not have to wait until the end of time for the redemption of her body.

6. Thus, when it was solemnly proclaimed that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, was from the very
beginning free from the taint of original sin, the minds of the faithful were filled with a stronger
hope that the day might soon come when the dogma of the Virgin Mary’s bodily Assumption into
heaven would also be defined by the Church’s supreme teaching authority.

7. Actually it was seen that not only individual Catholics, but also those who could speak for
nations or ecclesiastical provinces, and even a considerable number of the Fathers of the Vatican
Council, urgently petitioned the Apostolic See to this effect.

8. During the course of time such postulations and petitions did not decrease but rather grew
continually in number and in urgency. In this cause there were pious crusades of prayer. Many
outstanding theologians eagerly and zealously carried out investigations on this subject either
privately or in public ecclesiastical institutions and in other schools where the sacred disciplines
are taught. Marian Congresses, both national and international in scope, have been held in many
parts of the Catholic world. These studies and investigations have brought out into even clearer
light the fact that the dogma of the Virgin Mary’s Assumption into heaven is contained in the
deposit of Christian faith entrusted to the Church. They have resulted in many more petitions,
begging and urging the Apostolic See that this truth be solemnly defined.

9. In this pious striving, the faithful have been associated in a wonderful way with their own holy
bishops, who have sent petitions of this kind, truly remarkable in number, to this See of the
Blessed Peter. Consequently, when we were elevated to the throne of the supreme pontificate,
petitions of this sort had already been addressed by the thousands from every part of the world
and from every class of people, from our beloved sons the Cardinals of the Sacred College, from

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our venerable brethren, archbishops and bishops, from dioceses and from parishes.

10. Consequently, while we sent up earnest prayers to God that he might grant to our mind the
light of the Holy Spirit, to enable us to make a decision on this most serious subject, we issued
special orders in which we commanded that, by corporate effort, more advanced inquiries into this
matter should be begun and that, in the meantime, all the petitions about the Assumption of the
Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven which had been sent to this Apostolic See from the time of Pius
IX, our predecessor of happy memory, down to our own days should be gathered together and
carefully evaluated.(3)

11. And, since we were dealing with a matter of such great moment and of such importance, we
considered it opportune to ask all our venerable brethren in the episcopate directly and
authoritatively that each of them should make known to us his mind in a formal statement. Hence,
on May 1, 1946, we gave them our letter “Deiparae Virginis Mariae,” a letter in which these words
are contained: “Do you, venerable brethren, in your outstanding wisdom and prudence, judge that
the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin can be proposed and defined as a dogma of faith? Do
you, with your clergy and people, desire it?”

12. But those whom “the Holy Spirit has placed as bishops to rule the Church of God”(4) gave an
almost unanimous affirmative response to both these questions. This “outstanding agreement of
the Catholic prelates and the faithful,”(5) affirming that the bodily Assumption of God’s Mother into
heaven can be defined as a dogma of faith, since it shows us the concordant teaching of the
Church’s ordinary doctrinal authority and the concordant faith of the Christian people which the
same doctrinal authority sustains and directs, thus by itself and in an entirely certain and infallible
way, manifests this privilege as a truth revealed by God and contained in that divine deposit which
Christ has delivered to his Spouse to be guarded faithfully and to be taught infallibly.(6) Certainly
this teaching authority of the Church, not by any merely human effort but under the protection of
the Spirit of Truth,(7) and therefore absolutely without error, carries out the commission entrusted
to it, that of preserving the revealed truths pure and entire throughout every age, in such a way
that it presents them undefiled, adding nothing to them and taking nothing away from them. For,
as the Vatican Council teaches, “the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter in
such a way that, by his revelation, they might manifest new doctrine, but so that, by his assistance,
they might guard as sacred and might faithfully propose the revelation delivered through the
apostles, or the deposit of faith.”(8) Thus, from the universal agreement of the Church’s ordinary
teaching authority we have a certain and firm proof, demonstrating that the Blessed Virgin Mary’s
bodily Assumption into heaven- which surely no faculty of the human mind could know by its own
natural powers, as far as the heavenly glorification of the virginal body of the loving Mother of God
is concerned-is a truth that has been revealed by God and consequently something that must be
firmly and faithfully believed by all children of the Church. For, as the Vatican Council asserts, “all
those things are to be believed by divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the written
Word of God or in Tradition, and which are proposed by the Church, either in solemn judgment or

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in its ordinary and universal teaching office, as divinely revealed truths which must be believed.”(9)

13. Various testimonies, indications and signs of this common belief of the Church are evident
from remote times down through the course of the centuries; and this same belief becomes more
clearly manifest from day to day.

14. Christ’s faithful, through the teaching and the leadership of their pastors, have learned from the
sacred books that the Virgin Mary, throughout the course of her earthly pilgrimage, led a life
troubled by cares, hardships, and sorrows, and that, moreover, what the holy old man Simeon had
foretold actually came to pass, that is, that a terribly sharp sword pierced her heart as she stood
under the cross of her divine Son, our Redeemer. In the same way, it was not difficult for them to
admit that the great Mother of God, like her only begotten Son, had actually passed from this life.
But this in no way prevented them from believing and from professing openly that her sacred body
had never been subject to the corruption of the tomb, and that the august tabernacle of the Divine
Word had never been reduced to dust and ashes. Actually, enlightened by divine grace and
moved by affection for her, God’s Mother and our own dearest Mother, they have contemplated in
an ever clearer light the wonderful harmony and order of those privileges which the most provident
God has lavished upon this loving associate of our Redeemer, privileges which reach such an
exalted plane that, except for her, nothing created by God other than the human nature of Jesus
Christ has ever reached this level.

15. The innumerable temples which have been dedicated to the Virgin Mary assumed into heaven
clearly attest this faith. So do those sacred images, exposed therein for the veneration of the
faithful, which bring this unique triumph of the Blessed Virgin before the eyes of all men. Moreover,
cities, dioceses, and individual regions have been placed under the special patronage and
guardianship of the Virgin Mother of God assumed into heaven. In the same way, religious
institutes, with the approval of the Church, have been founded and have taken their name from
this privilege. Nor can we pass over in silence the fact that in the Rosary of Mary, the recitation of
which this Apostolic See so urgently recommends, there is one mystery proposed for pious
meditation which, as all know, deals with the Blessed Virgin’s Assumption into heaven.

16. This belief of the sacred pastors and of Christ’s faithful is universally manifested still more
splendidly by the fact that, since ancient times, there have been both in the East and in the West
solemn liturgical offices commemorating this privilege. The holy Fathers and Doctors of the
Church have never failed to draw enlightenment from this fact since, as everyone knows, the
sacred liturgy, “because it is the profession, subject to the supreme teaching authority within the
Church, of heavenly truths, can supply proofs and testimonies of no small value for deciding a
particular point of Christian doctrine.”(10)

17. In the liturgical books which deal with the feast either of the dormition or of the Assumption of
the Blessed Virgin there are expressions that agree in testifying that, when the Virgin Mother of

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God passed from this earthly exile to heaven, what happened to her sacred body was, by the
decree of divine Providence, in keeping with the dignity of the Mother of the Word Incarnate, and
with the other privileges she had been accorded. Thus, to cite an illustrious example, this is set
forth in that sacramentary which Adrian I, our predecessor of immortal memory, sent to the
Emperor Charlemagne. These words are found in this volume: “Venerable to us, O Lord, is the
festivity of this day on which the holy Mother of God suffered temporal death, but still could not be
kept down by the bonds of death, who has begotten your Son our Lord incarnate from herself.”(11)

18. What is here indicated in that sobriety characteristic of the Roman liturgy is presented more
clearly and completely in other ancient liturgical books. To take one as an example, the Gallican
sacramentary designates this privilege of Mary’s as “an ineffable mystery all the more worthy of
praise as the Virgin’s Assumption is something unique among men.” And, in the Byzantine liturgy,
not only is the Virgin Mary’s bodily Assumption connected time and time again with the dignity of
the Mother of God, but also with the other privileges, and in particular with the virginal motherhood
granted her by a singular decree of God’s Providence. “God, the King of the universe, has granted
you favors that surpass nature. As he kept you a virgin in childbirth, thus he has kept your body
incorrupt in the tomb and has glorified it by his divine act of transferring it from the tomb.”(12)

19. The fact that the Apostolic See, which has inherited the function entrusted to the Prince of the
Apostles, the function of confirming the brethren in the faith,(13) has by its own authority, made
the celebration of this feast ever more solemn, has certainly and effectively moved the attentive
minds of the faithful to appreciate always more completely the magnitude of the mystery it
commemorates. So it was that the Feast of the Assumption was elevated from the rank which it
had occupied from the beginning among the other Marian feasts to be classed among the more
solemn celebrations of the entire liturgical cycle. And, when our predecessor St. Sergius I
prescribed what is known as the litany, or the stational procession, to be held on four Marian
feasts, he specified together the Feasts of the Nativity, the Annunciation, the Purification, and the
Dormition of the Virgin Mary.(14) Again, St. Leo IV saw to it that the feast, which was already
being celebrated under the title of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother of God, should be
observed in even a more solemn way when he ordered a vigil to be held on the day before it and
prescribed prayers to be recited after it until the octave day. When this had been done, he decided
to take part himself in the celebration, in the midst of a great multitude of the faithful.(15)
Moreover, the fact that a holy fast had been ordered from ancient times for the day prior to the
feast is made very evident by what our predecessor St. Nicholas I testifies in treating of the
principal fasts which “the Holy Roman Church has observed for a long time, and still
observes.”(16)

20. However, since the liturgy of the Church does not engender the Catholic faith, but rather
springs from it, in such a way that the practices of the sacred worship proceed from the faith as the
fruit comes from the tree, it follows that the holy Fathers and the great Doctors, in the homilies and
sermons they gave the people on this feast day, did not draw their teaching from the feast itself as

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from a primary source, but rather they spoke of this doctrine as something already known and
accepted by Christ’s faithful. They presented it more clearly. They offered more profound
explanations of its meaning and nature, bringing out into sharper light the fact that this feast
shows, not only that the dead body of the Blessed Virgin Mary remained incorrupt, but that she
gained a triumph out of death, her heavenly glorification after the example of her only begotten
Son, Jesus Christ-truths that the liturgical books had frequently touched upon concisely and
briefly.

21. Thus St. John Damascene, an outstanding herald of this traditional truth, spoke out with
powerful eloquence when he compared the bodily Assumption of the loving Mother of God with
her other prerogatives and privileges. “It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in
childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that
she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It
was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine
mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby
received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped in the act of giving birth to him,
should look upon him as he sits with the Father. It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess
what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as
the handmaid of God.”(17)

22. These words of St. John Damascene agree perfectly with what others have taught on this
same subject. Statements no less clear and accurate are to be found in sermons delivered by
Fathers of an earlier time or of the same period, particularly on the occasion of this feast. And so,
to cite some other examples, St. Germanus of Constantinople considered the fact that the body of
Mary, the virgin Mother of God, was incorrupt and had been taken up into heaven to be in keeping,
not only with her divine motherhood, but also with the special holiness of her virginal body. “You
are she who, as it is written, appears in beauty, and your virginal body is all holy, all chaste,
entirely the dwelling place of God, so that it is henceforth completely exempt from dissolution into
dust. Though still human, it is changed into the heavenly life of incorruptibility, truly living and
glorious, undamaged and sharing in perfect life.”(18) And another very ancient writer asserts: “As
the most glorious Mother of Christ, our Savior and God and the giver of life and immortality, has
been endowed with life by him, she has received an eternal incorruptibility of the body together
with him who has raised her up from the tomb and has taken her up to himself in a way known
only to him.”(19)

23. When this liturgical feast was being celebrated ever more widely and with ever increasing
devotion and piety, the bishops of the Church and its preachers in continually greater numbers
considered it their duty openly and clearly to explain the mystery that the feast commemorates,
and to explain how it is intimately connected with the other revealed truths.

24. Among the scholastic theologians there have not been lacking those who, wishing to inquire

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more profoundly into divinely revealed truths and desirous of showing the harmony that exists
between what is termed the theological demonstration and the Catholic faith, have always
considered it worthy of note that this privilege of the Virgin Mary’s Assumption is in wonderful
accord with those divine truths given us in Holy Scripture.

25. When they go on to explain this point, they adduce various proofs to throw light on this
privilege of Mary. As the first element of these demonstrations, they insist upon the fact that, out of
filial love for his mother, Jesus Christ has willed that she be assumed into heaven. They base the
strength of their proofs on the incomparable dignity of her divine motherhood and of all those
prerogatives which follow from it. These include her exalted holiness, entirely surpassing the
sanctity of all men and of the angels, the intimate union of Mary with her Son, and the affection of
preeminent love which the Son has for his most worthy Mother.

26. Often there are theologians and preachers who, following in the footsteps of the holy
Fathers,(20) have been rather free in their use of events and expressions taken from Sacred
Scripture to explain their belief in the Assumption. Thus, to mention only a few of the texts rather
frequently cited in this fashion, some have employed the words of the psalmist: “Arise, O Lord, into
your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified”(21); and have looked upon the Ark
of the Covenant, built of incorruptible wood and placed in the Lord’s temple, as a type of the most
pure body of the Virgin Mary, preserved and exempt from all the corruption of the tomb and raised
up to such glory in heaven. Treating of this subject, they also describe her as the Queen entering
triumphantly into the royal halls of heaven and sitting at the right hand of the divine Redeemer.(22)
Likewise they mention the Spouse of the Canticles “that goes up by the desert, as a pillar of
smoke of aromatical spices, of myrrh and frankincense” to be crowned.(23) These are proposed
as depicting that heavenly Queen and heavenly Spouse who has been lifted up to the courts of
heaven with the divine Bridegroom.

27. Moreover, the scholastic Doctors have recognized the Assumption of the Virgin Mother of God
as something signified, not only in various figures of the Old Testament, but also in that woman
clothed with the sun whom John the Apostle contemplated on the Island of Patmos.(24) Similarly
they have given special attention to these words of the New Testament: “Hail, full of grace, the
Lord is with you, blessed are you among women,”(25) since they saw, in the mystery of the
Assumption, the fulfillment of that most perfect grace granted to the Blessed Virgin and the special
blessing that countered the curse of Eve.

28. Thus, during the earliest period of scholastic theology, that most pious man, Amadeus, Bishop
of Lausarme, held that the Virgin Mary’s flesh had remained incorrupt-for it is wrong to believe that
her body has seen corruption-because it was really united again to her soul and, together with it,
crowned with great glory in the heavenly courts. “For she was full of grace and blessed among
women. She alone merited to conceive the true God of true God, whom as a virgin, she brought
forth, to whom as a virgin she gave milk, fondling him in her lap, and in all things she waited upon

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him with loving care.”(26)

29. Among the holy writers who at that time employed statements and various images and
analogies of Sacred Scripture to Illustrate and to confirm the doctrine of the Assumption, which
was piously believed, the Evangelical Doctor, St. Anthony of Padua, holds a special place. On the
feast day of the Assumption, while explaining the prophet’s words: “I will glorify the place of my
feet,”(27) he stated it as certain that the divine Redeemer had bedecked with supreme glory his
most beloved Mother from whom he had received human flesh. He asserts that “you have here a
clear statement that the Blessed Virgin has been assumed in her body, where was the place of the
Lord’s feet. Hence it is that the holy Psalmist writes: ‘Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you
and the ark which you have sanctified.”‘ And he asserts that, just as Jesus Christ has risen from
the death over which he triumphed and has ascended to the right hand of the Father, so likewise
the ark of his sanctification “has risen up, since on this day the Virgin Mother has been taken up to
her heavenly dwelling.”(28)

30. When, during the Middle Ages, scholastic theology was especially flourishing, St. Albert the
Great who, to establish this teaching, had gathered together many proofs from Sacred Scripture,
from the statements of older writers, and finally from the liturgy and from what is known as
theological reasoning, concluded in this way: “From these proofs and authorities and from many
others, it is manifest that the most blessed Mother of God has been assumed above the choirs of
angels. And this we believe in every way to be true.”(29) And, in a sermon which he delivered on
the sacred day of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s annunciation, explained the words “Hail, full of grace”-
words used by the angel who addressed her-the Universal Doctor, comparing the Blessed Virgin
with Eve, stated clearly and incisively that she was exempted from the fourfold curse that had
been laid upon Eve.(30)

31. Following the footsteps of his distinguished teacher, the Angelic Doctor, despite the fact that
he never dealt directly with this question, nevertheless, whenever he touched upon it, always held
together with the Catholic Church, that Mary’s body had been assumed into heaven along with her
soul.(31)

32. Along with many others, the Seraphic Doctor held the same views. He considered it as entirely
certain that, as God had preserved the most holy Virgin Mary from the violation of her virginal
purity and integrity in conceiving and in childbirth, he would never have permitted her body to have
been resolved into dust and ashes.(32) Explaining these words of Sacred Scripture: “Who is this
that comes up from the desert, flowing with delights, leaning upon her beloved?”(33) and applying
them in a kind of accommodated sense to the Blessed Virgin, he reasons thus: “From this we can
see that she is there bodily…her blessedness would not have been complete unless she were
there as a person. The soul is not a person, but the soul, joined to the body, is a person. It is
manifest that she is there in soul and in body. Otherwise she would not possess her complete
beatitude.(34)

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33. In the fifteenth century, during a later period of scholastic theology, St. Bernardine of Siena
collected and diligently evaluated all that the medieval theologians had said and taught on this
question. He was not content with setting down the principal considerations which these writers of
an earlier day had already expressed, but he added others of his own. The likeness between
God’s Mother and her divine Son, in the way of the nobility and dignity of body and of soul – a
likeness that forbids us to think of the heavenly Queen as being separated from the heavenly King
– makes it entirely imperative that Mary “should be only where Christ is.”(35) Moreover, it is
reasonable and fitting that not only the soul and body of a man, but also the soul and body of a
woman should have obtained heavenly glory. Finally, since the Church has never looked for the
bodily relics of the Blessed Virgin nor proposed them for the veneration of the people, we have a
proof on the order of a sensible experience.(36)

34. The above-mentioned teachings of the holy Fathers and of the Doctors have been in common
use during more recent times. Gathering together the testimonies of the Christians of earlier days,
St. Robert Bellarmine exclaimed: “And who, I ask, could believe that the ark of holiness, the
dwelling place of the Word of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit, could be reduced to ruin? My soul
is filled with horror at the thought that this virginal flesh which had begotten God, had brought him
into the world, had nourished and carried him, could have been turned into ashes or given over to
be food for worms.”(37)

35. In like manner St. Francis de Sales, after asserting that it is wrong to doubt that Jesus Christ
has himself observed, in the most perfect way, the divine commandment by which children are
ordered to honor their parents, asks this question: “What son would not bring his mother back to
life and would not bring her into paradise after her death if he could?”(38) And St. Alphonsus
writes that “Jesus did not wish to have the body of Mary corrupted after death, since it would have
redounded to his own dishonor to have her virginal flesh, from which he himself had assumed
flesh, reduced to dust.”(39)

36. Once the mystery which is commemorated in this feast had been placed in its proper light,
there were not lacking teachers who, instead of dealing with the theological reasonings that show
why it is fitting and right to believe the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven,
chose to focus their mind and attention on the faith of the Church itself, which is the Mystical Body
of Christ without stain or wrinkle(40) and is called by the Apostle “the pillar and ground of
truth.”(41) Relying on this common faith, they considered the teaching opposed to the doctrine of
our Lady’s Assumption as temerarious, if not heretical. Thus, like not a few others, St. Peter
Canisius, after he had declared that the very word “assumption” signifies the glorification, not only
of the soul but also of the body, and that the Church has venerated and has solemnly celebrated
this mystery of Mary’s Assumption for many centuries, adds these words of warning: “This
teaching has already been accepted for some centuries, it has been held as certain in the minds of
the pious people, and it has been taught to the entire Church in such a way that those who deny
that Mary’s body has been assumed into heaven are not to be listened to patiently but are

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everywhere to be denounced as over-contentious or rash men, and as imbued with a spirit that is
heretical rather than Catholic.”(42)

37. At the same time the great Suarez was professing in the field of mariology the norm that
“keeping in mind the standards of propriety, and when there is no contradiction or repugnance on
the part of Scripture, the mysteries of grace which God has wrought in the Virgin must be
measured, not by the ordinary laws, but by the divine omnipotence.”(43) Supported by the
common faith of the entire Church on the subject of the mystery of the Assumption, he could
conclude that this mystery was to be believed with the same firmness of assent as that given to
the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin. Thus he already held that such truths could be
defined.

38. All these proofs and considerations of the holy Fathers and the theologians are based upon
the Sacred Writings as their ultimate foundation. These set the loving Mother of God as it were
before our very eyes as most intimately joined to her divine Son and as always sharing his lot.
Consequently it seems impossible to think of her, the one who conceived Christ, brought him forth,
nursed him with her milk, held him in her arms, and clasped him to her breast, as being apart from
him in body, even though not in soul, after this earthly life. Since our Redeemer is the Son of Mary,
he could not do otherwise, as the perfect observer of God’s law, than to honor, not only his eternal
Father, but also his most beloved Mother. And, since it was within his power to grant her this great
honor, to preserve her from the corruption of the tomb, we must believe that he really acted in this
way.

39. We must remember especially that, since the second century, the Virgin Mary has been
designated by the holy Fathers as the new Eve, who, although subject to the new Adam, is most
intimately associated with him in that struggle against the infernal foe which, as foretold in the
protoevangelium,(44) would finally result in that most complete victory over the sin and death
which are always mentioned together in the writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles.(45)
Consequently, just as the glorious resurrection of Christ was an essential part and the final sign of
this victory, so that struggle which was common to the Blessed Virgin and her divine Son should
be brought to a close by the glorification of her virginal body, for the same Apostle says: “When
this mortal thing hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death
is swallowed up in victory.”(46)

40. Hence the revered Mother of God, from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in
one and the same decree of predestination,(47) immaculate in her conception, a most perfect
virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a
complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of
her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her
own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and

The Assumption of Mary

THE NEW DOGMA FROM A PROTESTANT STANDPOINT

Before the announcement concerning the promulgation of the dogma of the
Assumption of the Virgin Mary, a group of German Protestant theologians
prepared a memorandum on the subject and submitted it to certain Roman
Catholic leaders with whom they were in contact. The group was composed
of Professor Edmund Schlink, Professor G. Bornkamn, Professor P. Brunner,
Professor von Campenhausen and Dr. W. Joest. The document deals first
of all with the basic Biblical and theological issues involved, and subsequently
comes to the following conclusions.

Effects on the Relation between the Evangelical and the Catholic Church

Any dogma of the bodily resurrection and ascension of the Virgin would,
beyond any doubt, increase the number of differences existing between the
Roman Catholic and the Evangelical Church, and deepen the fissure separating
their two faiths. Since the Evangelical Church could only see in this dogma
not merely a deviation in the Catholic exposition of Apostolic teaching, but a
Catholic renunciation in principle of the Apostoìic foundation of their teaching,
this dogma would evoke in it nothing but grieved astonishment. Not only
can the Evangelical Christian give no sort of an assent, by reason of the
relation in which he stands to Holy Writ, to such a dogma, but he cannot
gloss over it either as an adiaphoron, and he cannot leave it open ; he can
only note it with the deepest regret, and expressly reject it.

The rapprochement which came about in the period of persecution between
the EVangelical and the Catholic Church would be gravely affected by the
elevation into a dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin. For this rapproche-
ment was ultimately based on the gratifying mutual discovery that at a time
of great distress we might hear something of the consolation contained in
the Gospel of the Apostles out of the mouths of those belonging to the Church
that is sundered from ourselves. It is this discovery that is at the bottom of
the new respect being manifested for one another’s biblical and theological
work. The same discovery was for Evangelical theology also the occasion
for giving fresh and careful thought to problems of church tradition. And
it was responsible for both sides’ being prepared to reinterpret the teaching
and history of the other Church in a spirit of repentance. All this would be
crippled by the proclamation of the Assumption as a dogma. For it would
be evident that the Scriptures are not, for the Roman Catholic Church, the
real standard as regards what man must believe in order to be saved, and that

159

joint Bible and theological work is therefore of entirely minor importance
for all efforts to bring about the unity of the Church. It would likewise be
clear that even scientific concern with church tradition cannot proceed any
further in these questions, since the Roman Catholic Church today takes its
stand not on tradition susceptible of historical proof, and not even on probable
Apostolic tradition, but on the claim to be itself able to produce “Apostolic
tradition.” The theological discussion between the Evangelical and the
Catholic Church would be seriously hampered by the fact that the Assumption
could only be established as a dogma thanks to an authoritative invalidation
of the generally-recognised findings of scientific research, so that doubt would
be thrown on the whole significance of scientific theological work. And in
addition there would be the disabling doubt whether this dogma was genuinely
and sincerely believed by those Catholic theologians who assented to it after
its proclamation when before it they had expressed well-founded reservations.
The Evangelical theologian is also aware that the Holy Spirit can through the
mouth of the Church pass decisions counter to the theological insight of the
individual. But the reality of the Spirit is manifested in the fact that it brings
home to man the historical words of Jesus (St. John xiv, 26), and does not
utter its own (St. John xvi, 13).

At the same time, the proclamation of the Assumption as a dogma would
undoubtedly give a considerable and justified stimulus to those groups in the
Protestant Churches which distrusted from the beginning the rapprochement
between the Evangelical and the Roman Catholic Church, detected in it
nothing but dangers, and are continuing to regard isolation and one-sided
polemics as the sole proper position to take up in relation to the Church of
Rome. These groups are not the ones which count in the Evangelical Church
in Germany today, but they could become so once more, and the old distress-
ing situation be reproduced of the two Churches estranged from one another
and engaged in an uncomprehending struggle. \

It is certain that, not only in Germany but in the Oikoumene as a whole,
the erection of the Assumption into a dogma would have an effect far transcend-
ing the concrete content of the theologoumenon itself, as the proclamation
of a definite line to be followed by the Church of Rome, and this is true as
regards not only the relation in principle between the Church and the teaching
of the Apostles, but the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church to the numerous
rapprochements between the Churches in the world. While most Churches
are today avowing, in bitter repentance before God, their share of guilt for
the sundering of the one Body of Christ, and striving, in united prayer and
strict application to scientific study, to reduce the dimensions of the differences
and to find and to attest before all men a maximum of sharing (though not
suppressing such lack of agreement as still exists), the Roman Catholic Church
would by the promulgation of this dogma increase those differences. Such

160

a step would be taken, amid the efforts for church rapprochement now going
on, as a definite No on the part of the Roman Catholic Church, and not
only by the Evangelical Church in Germany, but by Protestants all over the
world, and by the body of Orthodox Christians also. This is the more true
if we consider what other new dogmas and reinterpretations of existing dogmas
would, on the basis of what the Catholic Church regards as prerequisite, be
perfectly possible, and how they might act on the other Churches not as a
deterrent but as a stimulus, and perhaps even as a model to be followed.

Effects on the Fission between the Churches and the World

The Churches are today living in a dechristianised and anti-Christian
world. Thus they are being assailed on all fronts by the atheistic philosophy
and sovereignty of Bolshevik Communism. But no less menacing is the mass
phenomenon of secular man, who belongs in name to a Church but has lost
all belief in the reality of God’s great acts of salvation, which are made actual
in the service of worship by the Word and the Sacraments. These are the
many people who have fallen victim to the scientific and historical empiricism
of this century. In the Bible’s testimony to the marvellous works of God they
see mere myths of, it may be, great aesthetic beauty, and in the Church merely
a sociological quantity of, it may be, indispensable moral and political signi-
ficance. The Protestant and Catholic Churches in Germany today form —
if not by dogmatic consensus, at any rate defacto and in the eyes of the world
— one front of witness to Christ in face of their anti-Christian and a-Christian
contemporaries. This united front, which does not do away with the differ-
ences between the two Churches and yet is the beginning of a new fellowship,
would undoubtedly be weakened by the proclamation of the Assumption
as a dogma, weakened in regard both to the united effect of this witness to
Christ, and to the united contribution towards a just political and social
reordering of society.

1) The elevation into a dogma of the belief in the Assumption of the Virgin
Mary could only be taken by the Evangelical Church as the elevation into
a dogma of a myth lacking any foundation in history. By such elevation, this
myth would be placed by the Church of Rome on an equal footing with the
historical acts of salvation performed by God, which the Apostles attested
and the Church, on the basis of this attestation, has believed and preached
without remission through the centuries. The Assumption would then, by
Catholic doctrine, would need to be believed as being as necessary to salvation
(being a Divine act of salvation) as the Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection
of Christ. Its proclamation as a dogma would therefore make it consider-
ably easier for those anti-Christians and a-Christians who deny the revelation

161

n

of God in history to reject the Christian message as a myth. The opposing
front would be strengthened, and the common front of the Churches thereby
at the same time weakened. For the Evangelical Church would see the Catholic
as being on the side of those who turn the Gospel into a myth, and the Catholic
Church would see the Evangelical as being on the side of its opponents, who
contest the historical reality of what it believes.

2) This question is also not without significance in the field of political
and social collaboration. For this collaboration is not intended to be purely
of a tactical nature ; it presupposes a realisation of common Christian respons-
ibility. The proclamation of such g. dogma could not but increase the doubt
in the mind of the Evangelical Christian as to whether there really exists
such a basis for cooperation.

Naturally, any rapprochement between the Evangelical and Catholic
Churches involves dangers which might develop into a menace to members
of both — the dangers of a relativisation of the question of truth and an
obliteration of differences, the dangers of an over-emotional anticipation of
the unity we hope and pray and work for while we do not in fact possess it.
There is a clear consciousness of these dangers on both sides, though it seems
to us that a stronger guard is set against them by the Catholics than by the
Evangelicals. At any rate, the issuing one after another of the Papal Ency-
clicals Corporis Christi Mystici and Mediator Dei, the Monitum just before
the Amsterdam Assembly in 1948 and the Instructio of December 20, 1949
(in which latter the ecumenical discussions were treated, in a way which
aggravated their difficulties, namely as aiming at conversion to Roman
Catholicism) was widely felt as a withdrawal by the Holy See into aloofness
from ecumenical rapprochement.

The promulgation of the dogma of the Assumption would, as far as it is
possible to judge, dispose of these dangers at one blow. From this point
of view, certain circles in the Evangelical Church go the length of desiring
and warmly welcoming it. Isolation from the Church of Rome and polemics
against it would be rendered a great deal easier. From a sense of responsibility
for Christendom as a whole, we think it our duty to utter a warning against
the proclamation of this dogma.

As soon as the one danger is out of the way, another arises which is
certainly no less in its range than the first — the danger of growing self-
righteous in isolation, the danger of taking an overweening pride in our
spiritual heritage, denying the work begun by the Spirit of God under the
persecution in the common confession and suffering of the two Churches,
in short a relapse into the polemical obduracy and incomprehension of days
gone by. And this danger of obduracy too exists for both the Churches, and
would be immeasurably increased by the elevation into a dogma of the Assump-
tion of the Virgin.

162

May God amid the present oppression of Christendom show to all the
Churches of the Oikoumene the way that leads between these two dangers,
the way of increasing realisation by each Church of the workings of the Divine
grace in the other — the way for love in its search to follow towards unity in
the truth, for which our Lord Jesus Christ offered Up His prayer.

A STRATEGY FOR INTER-CHURCH AID IN EUROPE FOR 1951

At the end of October 1950, seventy representative churchmen from
Europe and America met in Geneva to study the strategic opportunities and
needs of European Churches for 1951. They came from thirteen countries
and from a wide range of member Churches of the World Council of Churches.
No distinction was felt between “giving and receiving Churches,” since all
were primarily concerned with strengthening the life and witness of the Church
in Europe.

The Case for Inter-Church Aid in 1951

The future of Europe is once again at stake. As Christians we must be
concerned that the right political action should be taken, but we also know
that the ultimate solution of Europe’s problems does not depend upon diplo-
macy, or force of arms. The spiritual foundations of Europe have been
profoundly shaken by events in the last three decades. It is not therefore
enough that European civilisation should survive. What matters is that Ufe
should be renewed from its deepest sources. It is here that the rôle of the
Church in Europe is most clearly seen. The Church is not there simply to
conserve, or to protect, but to enable men and communities to be born anew.
The Consultation provided much evidence of such new life within the Churches.

The historic, continuing work of Inter-Church Aid has been greatly
intensified in the years since the end of the war. Clearly this work has not
simply been a matter of transferring funds, or supplying food and clothing
to meet necessities. Inter-Church Aid has been a distinctive factor in binding
the Churches of Europe together and in Unking them with Churches outside
Europe. The result of the giving and receiving of gifts has not been merely
an improvement of material conditions, or even temporary encouragement.
Inter-Church Aid has had a deeper significance. Men and women have
experienced the reaUty of the Ufe of the Church of Jesus Christ through the
acts of Christian fellowship. Out of utterly different situations has come
evidence of new spiritual opportunities, simply because scattered groups of
Christians and isolated Churches have received help from abroad.

163

^ s

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