Revd. Dr. Peter Mullen, the Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill, in London, in the pages of Catholic Herald about the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
GK Chesterton said: "I love my religion and I love especially those parts of it which are generally held to be most superstitious." Many suspect that the Assumption of Our Lady is one of those superstitious aspects - despite the fact that the observance of this feast day is universal in both eastern and western churches.
The Assumption is not mentioned in the New Testament but there are many references to it in the so-called apocryphal gospels. For example, in an early Coptic text attributed to Evodius, described as first Bishop of Antioch and said to have been among the 72 disciples who followed Christ with St Peter, there is the following account.
"The chariot of the cherubim appeared with the Virgin seated in it. There were greetings. Jesus bade the apostles go and preach in all the world. He spent all that day with us and his Mother and gave us the salutation of peace and went up to heaven in glory. Such was the death of the Virgin on 21st of the month Tobi and her Assumption on 16th of the month Mesore. I, Evodius, saw it all."
The first really firm and reliable record is that of St Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451. St Juvenal told the Emperor Marcian and his wife Pulcheria - who had requested they be allowed to possess the body of the Blessed Virgin - that Mary had died in the presence of all the apostles but that her tomb, when opened, was found to be empty. The apostles concluded that she had been taken up bodily into heaven. Other ancient pious traditions claim that the Assumption took place at Ephesus, where Mary had lived into her old age with St John the beloved disciple.
Here is one of my favorite prayers to the Theotokos, from the Byzantine Office of Paraclisis:
Prayer to Our Lady
O my most blessed Queen, Defender of the human race, Refuge and Salvation of
all those who hasten to you: I know that I have sinned many times and
angered the most Good God who was born of you. But I have many examples of
those who abused this loving kindness before I did; all were sinners who
received forgiveness of their sins after confession and penance. Having
before my sinful eyes the example of those pardoned, and beholding the great
mercy of God in receiving them anew, I too, a repentant sinner, dare to have
recourse to your compassion, O my gracious Queen. Give me your helping hand,
and obtain from your Son and our God the forgiveness of my grievous sins.
I believe and profess that the One you have borne, your Son, is truly
Christ, the Son of the living God, the Judge of the living and the dead who
will deal with each one according to his deeds. I further believe and
profess that you are truly the Theotokos, and that in your deep love for the
Christian people, you are a fountain of mercy, the consolation of the
afflicted, a haven for the lost, a powerful and constant advocate before
Christ, and the guarantee of my repentance.
Truly, there is no help or refuge for humanity besides you, O merciful Lady:
no one who hopes in you is ever disappointed, no one who implores God
through you is ever forsaken.
For this reason, I beseech your inexhaustible goodness: open the gates of
your mercy to me who have sinned and fallen into darkness. Sinful as I am,
do not despise me nor reject my appeal; in my wretchedness, do not forsake
me whom the enemy has seized for destruction. Beseech the merciful God, born
of you, that He may forgive my grievous sins and deliver me from ruin, so
that I too, with all those who have been forgiven before, may praise and
glorify God's boundless mercy and your unfailing intercession for me, both
in this life and in the age to come. Amen.