Our convert readers have come out of the woodwork in droves! Welcome! It makes our day to see so many people coming to the Church. Now, if you could just all go have a talk with Anne Rice, the poor thing.
In any case, we still have a Mary issue to clear up and then a new question that will test your new found faith. First, we head to Mary World (one of my favorite places).
Sister, what about the concept of dormition? My understanding is that Mary did not actually die, but entered a phase of something like sleep, and was then assumed bodily into heaven. Can you help to clear this up?
BTW, I am a convert also.
BTW, I am a convert also.
Fasten your seat belt. We have to travel through time, schism and tradition.
You do realize that there are two 'branches' of the Catholic church? The Roman Catholic Church, that's us, over here, and the Greek/Russian Orthodox Church, that's them over there. And while we don't agree about every single thing, we do agree that the Virgin Mary was assumed into heaven.
Here's where the flight is going to get a little bumpy, so take a deep breath and dig your nails into the armrest. The "Dormition of the Blessed Mother" is the Eastern Orthodox Church's feast of the Assumption, defined as "the falling asleep or death of Mary and her subsequent assumption into heaven".
So there's your 'falling asleep' idea. This is not the end of the discussion yet, so the seat belt light is still on.
In the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Pius XII actually made an Infallible Papal decree on the Assumption (Munificentissimus Deus, Latin for "the most bountiful God" written in 1950). He said this:
"Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted
by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death."
Take a deep breath. The question of Mary's death is left open.
And it would seem that the Eastern Orthodox Church also leaves the question open. But the fact is that the Eastern Orthodox Church actually teaches that Mary did die. The word "Dormition" is the word for Mary's Assumption and...how she got there....but they actually teach that she died.
In the Roman Catholic Church, although the Pope officially left it open, if you actually read the Ex Cathedra decision in its entirety, you'll find that Pope Pius refers to Mary's death several times.
The generally accepted theology on the subject, therefore, is that Mary did die because Jesus died and she is His Number #1 follower. So she followed Him by dying. But it's not official, unless you are in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Then, even though the definition of Dormition uses open language, Mary died. And if you are Roman Catholic, you pretty much believe Mary died.
If this were a math question and we were to round up to the nearest number, we'd be saying Mary died.
I'm going with that.
I wouldn't take my seat belt off just yet. We still have this:
I too am a convert to the Church, which I'm very happy about, easily the best decision of my life, and I have a question similar to the one you address in this post.
Could you please explain the doctrine of the Real Presence? I once asked a priest about it, but he just got mad, and I stopped talking about it. How can the wafer and wine become the real body and blood when they still look like bread and wine? Do they mean spiritually? In which case, using the word real doesn't seem right.
Thanks for helping me with this.
I can't help you with this. The doctrine is very simple. During the Mass, the bread and wine change into the physical Body and Blood of Christ. We don't mean spiritually or symbolically. We mean the Real Deal, hence the term, Real Presence.
How can this happen?
Once there was nothing, not even a great void of space. Just nothing. And somehow, there are more galaxies than we will ever be able to count, more stars, more planets. On this planet, we have a complex system of self sustaining life. From nothing.
The human body alone is like a galaxy, a mind boggling complex system of molecules and atoms, DNA strands and cells. It is recreated again and again with the start of single cells meeting and dividing and yet each individual created is unique. There are millions and millions of people in the world right now, and there are millions and millions of them who have lived before us, each utterly unique. Every dog, cat bird and flower, fish and otter, unique.
Ever see the eye of one fly? Flies see at a 275 degree angle. A fly. There are zillions of flies.
God did that.
The Real Presence? No sweat.
Can we understand how God does these things? No.
There is one thing I can help you with, that you will find very, very valuable as a Catholic. This is the term "Sacred Mystery". This term refers to things that God has done that we will never be able to understand because we are human. They are beyond our scope and capability and always will be.
An even more valuable tip that cradle Catholics well know: "Sacred Mystery" is "Catholic" for "just let it go".