One Week- Two Feast Days: Celebrating Mary

Thursday, August 13th, 2020

This is a week to celebrate Mary. On Saturday, August 15 we celebrate the Assumption of Mary into Heaven and on Saturday, August 22 we honor the Queenship of Mary. Both of these feasts are connected. Fr. Ashley explores the beliefs, history, and expressions of artwork surrounding these feasts.

First of all, we begin with a basic belief: Mary is the first Christian. She is the first one of us. She is the first to accept Christ − “Let it be done to me according to your word.”
She is the first to carry Christ into this world − the Incarnation.
 She is the first to make Christ visible – the Nativity. She is the first to live her daily life in the presence of the Lord Jesus. She is the first to remain faithful to Him even when He seemed to be doomed to failure – the Via Dolorosa. She is the first to hold Him as they prepare his tomb.
And she is among the first to celebrate the Resurrection.
It is only right and just that when her journey was completed she was the first of all God’s children to be raised up body and soul into heaven – the Assumption. Mary was so free from sin and so prepared to be in union with God that on her falling asleep she was raised body and soul to be in union with God.

Western art usually depicts Mary being assumed into heaven (artwork at left) guided by the angels directing her towards her Son. Some artists would include at the bottom of the painting images of the apostles and disciples either staring at her empty tomb or looking upward as she ascends.

Eastern Church traditions depict the scene differently. They call Mary’s assumption into heaven the Dormition (the Falling Asleep) of Mary (artwork to the right).

Mary is depicted as sleeping on a bed surrounded by the apostles and disciples who are looking down on her and weeping. Standing at her side is Jesus. He calmly looks straight at us. The viewer hardly notices that Jesus is holding something. In his arms is a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. Who is the baby? And doesn’t it remind the viewer of the Nativity with Mary holding the infant Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes? The infant is the soul of Mary newly born to eternal life and ready to be carried to Heaven by her Son.

In either view, Mary, the first Christian, has completed her journey and as the first Christian is raised up now to eternal life.

In 1969 Pope Paul VI moved the feast day of the Queenship of Mary to August 22 so that it would complete the octave of the Assumption. The connection was clear. Mary assumed into heaven is united to her Son. At the Annunciation the Angel Gabriel assured Mary that her Son would inherit the throne of David since he was of the royal house of David. Jesus indeed is the King of Kings, the Savior of the World, Christ the King.

In the ancient world the King’s Queen was not his wife. Kings in the ancient world had many wives. The Queen who sat next to the King was the Queen Mother. She was the one with special influence over the King, her Son. She was the one a person would go to seeking an intercessory.

So Mary the Mother of Jesus becomes the Queen of Heaven (artwork left).


  1. The early Church created a chant celebrating Mary as Queen. You know this chant as the Salve Regina meaning Hail Queen. A rendition of this chant can be seen at
  2. Centuries later a similar hymn was created called Hail Holy Queen. A video version of this popular hymn can be seen at–E8suls.
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