Sacristy-Ceiling: Our Lady of the Angels, San Francisco
El Grande. Painting by Contreras, Antonio da, 15 C.
There are four solemnities honoring the Mother of Jesus that are kept throughout the Catholic church: The Immaculate conception (December 8), her divine Motherhood (January 1), the Annunciation (March 25), her Assumption (August 15). The last named has become the most celebrated, giving rise to all manner of festivities and to a great variety of pictorial representations.
The New Testament says nothing about Mary's death and Assumption, but as Pius XII states in the constitution Munificentissimus Deus, which defined belief in the Assumption as a matter of faith:
Speaking more poetically, St. John Damascene (d. 749), who is called the
Doctor of the Assumption, writes, "On this day the sacred and
life-filled ark of the living God, she who conceived her Creator in her
womb, rests in the Temple of the Lord that is not made with hands.
David, her ancestor, leaps, and with him the angels lead the dance."
|1. The Angel Gabriel comes to Mary and announces that in three days she
will die. He presents her with a palm, symbol of the victory
over sin and death that she shares with her Son.
||2. In answer to her earnest prayer, all the Apostles arrive to bid their farewell.|
|3. Mary dies, and Christ comes to take her soul to heaven.||4. In solemn procession, the Apostles bear Mary's body to her grave.|
|5. On the third day, her body is taken from the tomb by angels who carry it to heaven. Later versions picture Mary rising by herself (like her Son at His Ascension) but still accompanied by hosts of angels.||6. Mary is crowned as Queen of Heaven and Earth, a final completion, as it were, of her Assumption. This has been depicted in four different ways: Often she is crowned by her Son alone; sometimes by one or two angels; on occasion by the Father alone; frequently by all Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity together. The first and last of these proved to be the most popular versions.|