Feast of the Assumption: History, Celebrations, Mass Readings and Prayers

Feast of the Assumption: Table of Contents

Mary occupies a prominent place in the liturgical calendar of the Church, from the beginning of the year (January 1–Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God) through December (the 8th–Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception).

As the calendar pages turn toward the final third of the year, Mary again plays a vital role in the liturgical life of the Church through the Feast of the Assumption.

The formal dogma regarding the Assumption is less than 100 years old, but its tradition dates back to the time of Jesus.

Learn more about why the Feast of the Assumption matters both to the universal Church and your own personal prayer life.

What is the Assumption?

The Assumption refers to Mary, “free from the taint of original sin,” being assumed (taken up) into heaven, body and soul, at the end of her life. The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on August 15 each year, celebrates this Church teaching.

The Assumption in the Bible

Although there is no explicit mention in the Bible about the end of Mary’s life, there are many references to her special place in the Incarnation and the history of salvation.

The New Testament tells us that Mary is the “favored one” (Luke 1:28), which other translations describe as “full of grace.” Later in Luke, we learn that Mary is “most blessed” among women.

Isaiah 66:7-8 foretold her special role in the Church, not only giving birth to Jesus but doing so without traditional labor pains that existed in humanity since Eve:

Before she is in labor, she gives birth; Before her pangs come upon her, she delivers a male child. Who ever heard of such a thing, or who ever saw the like? Can a land be brought forth in one day, or a nation be born in a single moment?

Mary being most blessed, full of grace and without labor pains pave the way for the unprecedented way in which the Assumption makes clear that Mary left the earth.

History of the Assumption

Since the Assumption is not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, it’s important to recognize the importance of both scripture and tradition in the Catholic Church.

The Catechism tells us “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing and move towards the same goal.”

Father Clifford Stevens points out that the belief that Mary was taken up into heaven dates back “to the apostles” since there is no evidence of any relics of Mary, and her tomb was empty.

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII defined the dogma on the Assumption in “Munificentissimus Deus”:

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, 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 soul to the glory of heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendor at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages.

Pope Pius XII – Munificentissimus Deus

Feast of the Assumption – Mass Readings

The Mass readings for the Assumption are consistent every year regardless of the liturgical year (A, B or C.)

The first reading is a section of Revelation that many people believe refers to Mary.

“She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.”

The responsorial psalm is also Marian-inspired: “The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.”

Following a reading from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 15:20-27), the Gospel passage is from Luke (1:39-46), which includes Mary’s Magnificat. 

The liturgy likely will feature Marian-themed hymns, such as:

  • Salve Regina (Hail, Holy Queen)
  • Ave Maria
  • Magnificat

Celebrations of Feast of the Assumption

The Assumption is a Holy Day of Obligation. The Feast of the Assumption is technically a solemnity: the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It takes place on August 15 each year, and communities around the world celebrate it.

Processions are one of the most common ways that parishes observe the Assumption. Churches around the world will carry a statue of Mary and process through the neighborhood.

Attending Mass, which is an obligation, will allow you to enjoy another hallmark of celebrating the Assumption.

Another popular way to celebrate the Assumption is by planting a Mary garden–a place where flowers are planted in Mary’s honor.

Prayers for the Feast of the Assumption

The Assumption represents a tremendous opportunity to draw closer to God through Mary’s intercession and example.

It’s also a great time to recalibrate your prayer life ahead of what is, for many, a time of transition: seasons begin to change, vacations begin and end, school years get underway.

Prayers for the Feast of the Assumption can be as simple as the Hail Mary or Rosary. The Assumption, like other Marian feast days, is a popular day to begin a novena, such as the 54 Day Novena.

This prayer from Pope Paul VI is also a beautiful homage to Mary on the feast of the Assumption: 

O Immaculate Mary, Assumed into heaven, you who are most blessed in the vision of God: of God the Father who exalted you among all creatures, of God the Son who willed that you bear Him as your Son and that you should be His Mother, of God the Holy Spirit who accomplished the human conception of the Savior in you. O Mary, most pure O Mary, most sweet and beautiful O Mary, strong and thoughtful woman O Mary, poor and sorrowful O Mary, virgin and mother woman very human like Eve, more than Eve. You are near to God by your grace and by your privileges in your mysteries in your mission, in your glory. O Mary, assumed into the glory of Christ in the complete and transfigured perfection of our human nature. O Mary, gate of heaven mirror of divine light ark of the Covenant between God and mankind, let our souls fly after you let them fly long your radiant path, transported by a hope that the world does not contain eternal beatitude. Comfort us from heaven, O merciful Mother, and guide us along your ways of purity and hope till the day of that blessed meeting with you and with your divine Son our Savior, Jesus. Amen!

Saint Paul VI

You can also try these short prayers:

“Heavenly mother, filled with God’s grace, pray for us today and all days, that we may strive to trusting, patient and faithful, as you were, so that we may one day join you and all saints in heaven. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.”

“Immaculate Mary, assumed into heaven, teach us to trust in God’s plan the way you did. Do not let us fear obstacles or uncertainties. Inspire us and pray for us today, as we celebrate your Assumption. Amen.”

Hallow makes it easy to pray on the Feast of the Assumption and every day.

More Prayer Resources

Pin It on Pinterest