On Wednesday, 10 August 2022, we had our Parish’s monthly BECCOT meeting. After the Vespers (Evening Prayer), we divided into groups - to share and discuss the BEC reflection paper. The topic for August’s BEC reflection paper was the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, which falls on 15 August.
What caught my attention was a statement from St Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem (422–458) and the first Patriarch of Jerusalem, who told the Emperor that “Mary died in the presence of all the apostles, but that the tomb, when opened upon the request of St Thomas was found empty; the apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven.”
I wondered why St Thomas our Patron Saint, had the privilege of witnessing the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven. Ms Anna Thong, a parishioner sent two articles on St Thomas and his witness of Mary’s empty tomb entitled, “Assumption: The Virgin Mary’s Parting Gift to Saint Thomas.” Through the internet, I came across another article entitled “The Passing of Blessed Virgin Mary” or “De Transitu Virginis” which was written in the fifth century. All these articles are available online.
After the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary continued
praying day and night. Before she passed away, an angel appeared to her and said, “Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord be with you” and she responded, “Thanks be to God.” The angel told her that she would be assumed into heaven on the third day of her death.
The Blessed Virgin Mary then assembled all the disciples who had gone to preach throughout the world. She announced her departure to them and to her relatives. All the apostles were present, except Thomas who was on mission in India. She invited the apostles to watch and pray with her the whole night until Lord Jesus appeared and received the soul of His beloved mother into heavenly glory. The apostles then laid her body in a tomb.
While St Thomas was in India, he heard an inner voice asking him to return to Jerusalem. However, when he arrived by foot, it was already the third day after the BVM’s burial. He thought “he would never see her divine form again, he cried out to her in anguish of heart, imploring her not to leave him desolate.”
She took her waist-belt that she habitually wore and threw it down from heaven at Mount of Olives, as a token of proof and evidence of her assumption into heaven. The belt has now become a famous relic. St Thomas doubted Jesus’ resurrection and he obtained proof by touching the resurrected body of Jesus. Tradition also said that he was the only one to witness the Assumption of Mary into heaven while the other Apostles witnessed her death.
The above insights are not in Scripture, but they are from the Tradition of the Church, to help us to understand our Christian history which is of utmost importance, particularly for our devotions to Mary and St Thomas, the Apostle.