As early as the Seventh Century the preparation, by a solemn fast, for keeping devoutly the great festival of the Dormition of the Mother of God (aka The Assumption), is described as a custom of great antiquity. In Orthodoxy and Catholicism, in the language of the scripture, death is often called a “sleeping” or “falling asleep” (Greek κοίμησις; whence κοιμητήριον > coemetērium > cemetery, a place of sleeping). The Church teaches that Mary died a natural death, like any human being; that her soul was received by Christ upon death; and that her body was resurrected on the third day after her repose, at which time she was taken up, bodily only, into heaven. Her tomb was found empty on the third day. Pope Pius XII in Munificentissimus Deus (1950) though dogmatising the doctrine of the Assumption, left open the question of whether or not Mary actually underwent death in connection with her departure, but alludes to the fact of her death at least five times in his Apostolic Constitution.
In many parts of the Church the strict fast enjoined lasted over several days. Traditionally the Orthodox precede the Feast by a two-week fast, referred to as the Dormition Fast. From August 1 to August 14 (inclusive) Orthodox and Eastern Catholics fast from red meat, poultry, meat products, dairy products (eggs and milk products), fish, oil, and wine. The Dormition Fast is a stricter fast than either the Nativity Fast (Advent) or the Apostles’ Fast, with only wine and oil (but no fish) allowed on weekends.
Blessed Mary lived, cared for by St. John, for twelve years after Our Lord’s Resurrection. Her life was spent in helping the Apostles and in praying for the conversion of the world. On the third day after Mary’s death, when the Apostles gathered around her tomb, they found it empty. The sacred body had been carried up to the celestial paradise. Jesus Himself came to conduct her thither the whole court of heaven came to welcome with songs of triumph the Mother of the Divine Word. Why was Mary’s body received into heaven instead of remaining in the earth, like the rest of mankind? The grave had no power over one who was pure. Her flesh could not see corruption. Her body had been over shadowed by the Holy Ghost. It had been the sacred temple in which had dwelt God Incarnate, and so it had a claim to ascend whither the Body of her Son had already gone before. But the chief reason was that as she had shared in each detail in the sorrows and agony of her Son, so it was right that she should take part in His triumph. Let us ask of God, through Mary’s intercession, the grace of a happy death.
INTROIT Psalm 44: 13, 15-16
Let all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating a festival day in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for whose Assumption the Angels rejoice and give praise to the Son of God (Ps. 44: 2) My heart hath uttered a good word: I speak my works to the King. v. Glory be…etc
O God who dost manifest Thine power almighty most chiefly in sparing and showing mercy: multiply upon us Thy mercy: that as we hasten towards Thy promises, Thou mayest make us partakers of the heavenly treasures. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, Forever and ever.
EPISTLE Eccles. 24: 11-13, 15-20
In all things, I sought rest and I shall abide in the inheritance of the Lord. Then the Creator of all things commanded, and said to me; and He that made me rested in my tabernacle. And He said to me: Let thy dwelling be in Jacob and thine inheritance in Israel, and take root in my elect. And so was I established in Sion, and in the holy city likewise I rested, and my power was in Jerusalem: and I took root in an honorable people, and in the portion of my God His inheritance, and my abode is in the full assembly of Saints. I was exalted like a cedar in Libanus, and as a cypress tree on Mount Sion: I was exalted like a palm tree in Cades, and as a rose plant in Jericho, as a fair olive tree by the water in the streets, was I exalted. I gave a sweet smell like cinnamon and aromatic balm: I yielded a sweet odor like the best myrrh.
GRADUAL/ALLELUIA Psalm 44: 5, 11, 12
Because of truth, and meekness, and justice, and thy right hand shall conduct thee wonderfully. V. Hearken, O daughter, and see and incline thy ear: for the King hath greatly desired thy beauty. Alleluia, alleluia. V. Mary is taken up into Heaven: the host of angels rejoice. Alleluia.
GOSPEL Luke 10: 38-42
At that time, Jesus entered into a certain town; and a certain woman named Martha, received Him into her house: and she had a sister called Mary, who sitting also at the Lord’s feet, heard His word. But Martha was busy about much serving: who stood and said, Lord, hast Thou no care that my sister hath left me alone to serve? Speak to her therefore, that she help me. And the Lord answering, said to her: “Martha, Martha, thou art careful, and art troubled about many things: but one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Mary is taken up into heaven: the Angels rejoice: and blessing God, with one voice offer high praise to Him, alleluia.
May the prayer of the Mother of God aid Thy people, O Lord: and although wé know, her, to have passed out of this life, fulfilling the lot of the flesh, may we experience her intercession for us with Thee in Heavenly glory. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son. Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever.
PREFACE of the Blessed Virgin Mary
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation, that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God and that we should praise and bless, and proclaim Thee, on the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Mary, ever Virgin: Who also conceived Thine only-begotten Son by the over-shadowing of the Holy Ghost, and the glory of her virginity still abiding, gave forth to the world the everlasting light, Jesus Christ our Lord. Through whom the angels praise Thy Majesty, the Dominations worship it, and the Powers stand in awe. The heavens and the heavenly hosts together with the blessed Seraphim in triumphant chorus unite to celebrate it. Together with them we entreat Thee, that Thou mayest bid our voices also to be admitted, while we say with lowly praise:
COMMUNION ANTIPHON Luke 10: 42
Mary hath chosen for herself the better part: which shall not be taken from her forever.
We who have been made partakers of Thy heavenly table, implore Thy mercy, O Lord our God, that as we celebrate the Assumption of the Mother of God, we may through her inyercesion, be delivered from all evils that beset us. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God For ever and ever.