The Assumption of the Holy Mother of God
The belief of the Orthodox Church, which finally crowned Jesus’ mother on the throne as the Heavenly Queen and Mediatrix, and which has no foundation in Scripture, is the doctrine of Mary’s Resurrection and Assumption into Heaven. Here is a narrative from sacred tradition:
“John had a home on Zion in Jerusalem in which the Theotokos settled and remained there to live out the end of her days on earth. By her prayers, gentle counsels, meekness and patience, she greatly assisted the apostles of her Son… On one occasion, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her and revealed to her that within three days she will find repose. The angel gave her a palm-branch to be carried at the time of her funeral procession. She returned to her home with great joy, desiring in her heart once more to see in this life, all of the apostles of Christ. The Lord fulfilled her wish and all of the apostles, borne by angels in the clouds, gathered at the same time at the home of John on Zion. With great rejoicing, she saw the holy apostles, encouraged them, counseled them and comforted them. Following that, she peacefully gave up her soul to God without any pain or physical illness. The apostles took the coffin with her body from which an aromatic fragrance emitted and, in the company of many Christians, bore it to the Garden of Gethsemane to the sepulcher of [her parents], Saints Joachim and Anna. By God’s Providence, they were concealed from the evil Jews by a cloud. Anthony, a Jewish priest, grabbed the coffin with his hands with the intention of overturning it but, at that moment, an angel of God severed both his hands. He then cried out to the apostles for help and was healed since declaring his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Thomas was absent, again according to God’s Providence, in order that a new and all-glorious mystery of the Holy Theotokos would again be revealed. On the third day, Thomas arrived and desired to venerate [kiss] the body of the Holy All-pure one. But when the apostles opened the sepulcher, they found only the winding sheet and the body was not in the tomb. That evening, the Theotokos appeared to the apostles surrounded by a myriad of angels and said to them: ‘Rejoice, I will be with you always’. It is not exactly known how old the Theotokos was at the time of her Falling Asleep but the overwhelming opinion is that she was over sixty years of age.”
So, as we did with the previous “celebrations of the Mother of God”, so this case will also demonstrate the utter inconsistency of these beliefs in relation to the apostolic New Testament writings.
We start from the previous assertion that Mary lived more than 60 years. If this statement is correct (and this is the only statement that could be in accordance with the Bible), it means that she died between 35-50 A.D., which assumes she was between 15-20 years when Jesus was born – which is very likely. This would mean that Jesus’ mother died before any of the books of the New Testament were written, e.g. during the time when Christ’s teachings were still transmitted via word of mouth. Shortly afterwards, the apostles began to record the epistles and other canonized works. The first question that arises is this: why did the apostles not write a single word about Mary’s Assumption, which, apparently, would have been a very important event for the salvation of the whole world? Such an event would have been much fresher in memory than those events from the time of Jesus’ childhood, youth and messianic ministry!
The book of Acts describes the events that transpired from Christ’s Ascension, roughly 31 A.D., to Paul’s time in Rome around 60 A.D. So what is believed to be the “Assumption” would have occurred roughly midway through this time period. Regarding the alleged “Ascension of the Virgin”, we can safely say it would have been considered a super miraculous even for that time period.
Despite the great miracles performed by the apostles, such as, for example, the healing of the paralytic at the entrance to the temple, the deaths of Ananias and Saphira, the martyrdom of Stephen and his vision of the glory of God and Christ in heaven, the healing of the lame at Lystra, healings by the shadow of Peter and the handkerchief of Paul, the narrative of the Resurrection and Ascension of the Theotokos contains several major miracles within just one event. We read about the angelic proclamation of the death of Mary, the apostles riding on the clouds to be in her presence, and the preaching to the apostles by a woman who was terminally ill.
However, this was not the end of the miracles. The most amazing ones are yet to follow. After the death of Mary, the apostles put her body in a coffin (though Jewish tradition and custom tells us that people at that time in Israel used open burial a lot more often than closed coffins; burial was not done in coffins, but by laying the body in a curved funeral dress in a tomb carved in rock) from which an aromatic fragrance emitted and was concealed from her enemies by a cloud. Also, we have the hands of Anthony the priest that were cut off and then healed. (This incredible event resembles the slashing and subsequent healing of the ear of Malchus, slave to the High Priest in Lk. 22:49-51 and Jn. 18:10.) This tradition in many respects mirrors events in the gospels, such as the absence of Thomas from the burial and assurance of the resurrection. Of course, the greatest sacrilege is the episodes ascribing to Mary “omnipresence” – a property which no created being possesses, but only God. What else could that sentence attributed to Mary mean: “Rejoice, I will be with you always”? Compare Mary’s “omnipresence”, which is solely a divine attribute to that which the Lord Jesus Christ applied to himself in Matthew 28:20, when he said: “And surely I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The wise Solomon in his prayer said:
“O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way… But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”
The Psalmist also declares that God is present everywhere:
“O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall[a] on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.”
Therefore, anyone other than the Lord who makes a claim that he (or she) will be with his disciples everywhere and in every place – this person must be omnipresent and also omniscient, all-wise, omnipotent, etc. Someone has calculated that in the present
time, from the mouths of one billion and three hundred million Roman Catholic and Orthodox believers (because they all pray to God), each second of time ascend into Heaven about fifty thousand prayers – from all over the world. It is certain that no one except the Triune God can process so much information in seconds and at the same time.
The last thing I want to point out to solve the mystery of the “Assumption” is the prayer pronounced by the apostles after they saw Mary ascending. This short prayer (which is much more like a cry for help) follows:
“The apostles cried out, ‘Most Holy Mother of God, help us!’”
As stated previously, Scripture not only tells us nothing about this complex event, but nowhere does it ever mention that the first Church ever named Mary “Theotokos”. Not one of the verses of the New Testament that mention the mother of Jesus , be they spoken or written by the apostles, evangelists, or other figures mentioned in the Bible, ever refer to Mary except simply by her first name, without any other epithets. If it had been customary to refer to Mary as “the Mother of God”, then one must wonder why the apostles never recorded it anywhere in the New Testament.
The German author Ernst Benz, an excellent scholar of Orthodox theology, wrote
his book The Spirit and Life of the Eastern Church in gratitude to his “very valuable living and dead teachers of the Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris. He mentions the following:
“The development of the title Mother of God as ‘Blessed Virgin’ – Theotokos – and
the evolution of the respective dogmas comprise one of the most astonishing events in the history of the ancient church. The New Testament provides only insignificant bases for this development, indeed, proofs for the creation of a special title for Mary are quite insufficient, because in contrast to Jesus Christ, who is in the center and foreground of all four gospels, Mary is completely in the background. The gospels clearly show that Jesus’ development as a preacher of the kingdom of God took place in very sharp opposition to his family, which, according to Mark’s Gospel, was so skeptical of his mission that they considered him crazy (Mk. 3:21). Consistently, all the Gospels suggest that Jesus was separated from his family and that, also, his disciples attached value to that separation. John’s gospel also contains traces of very tense relations between Jesus and his mother. However, Mary appears twice without naming labels as the mother of Jesus, however, Jesus himself regularly does not mention her name and addressed her by the word ‘woman’, which, according to Jewish custom, was unusually offensive. It is a hard word – ‘ Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?’ (Jn. 2:4) This is the most powerful expression of conscious distancing.”
Since we have demonstrated that even this Orthodox tradition has nothing in common with the divine Biblical accounts, we now can work with the historical facts that can disclose the source of the origin and beliefs of the majority church in Serbia on the issue of the “Mother of God.”