The Assumption of Saint Mary

Here followeth the Assumption of the Glorious Virgin our Lady S. Mary

We find in a book sent to S. John the Evangelist, or else the book, which is said to be apocryphal, is ascribed to him, in what manner the Assumption of the blessed Virgin Mary was made. The apostles were departed and gone in to divers countries of the world for cause of preaching, and the blessed Lady and Virgin was in a house by the Mount of Sion, and as long as she lived she visited all the places of her son with great devotion, that is to say the place of his baptism, of his fasting, of his passion, of his sepulture, of his resurrection, and of his ascension. And after that Epiphanius saith, she lived four-and-twenty years after the ascension of her son, and he saith also: When our Lady had conceived Jesu Christ she was of the age of fourteen years, and she was delivered in her fifteenth year, and lived and abode with him three and thirty years. And after his death she lived four-and-twenty years, and by this account when she departed out of this world she was seventy-two years old; but it is more probable that which is read in another place, that she lived after the ascension of her son twelve years, and so then she was sixty years old. And on a day, when all the apostles were spread through the world in preaching, the glorious Virgin was greatly esprised and embraced with desire to be with her son Jesu Christ, and her courage was eschaufed and moved, and great abundance of tears ran withoutforth, because she had not equally the comforts of her son, which were withdrawn from her for the time. And an angel came tofore her, with great light, and saluted her honourably as the mother of his Lord, saying: All hail! blessed Mary, receiving the blessing of him that sent his blessing to Jacob, lo! here a bough of palm of paradise, Lady, which I have brought to thee, which thou shalt command to be borne tofore thy bier. For thy soul shall be taken from thy body the third day next following, and thy son abideth thee, his honourable mother. To whom she answered: If I have found grace tofore thine eyes, I pray thee that thou vouchsafe to show to me thy name, and yet I pray thee more heartily that my sons and my brethren the apostles may be assembled with me, so that tofore I die I may see them with my bodily eyes, and after, to be buried of them, and they being here, I may yield up my ghost to God. And also yet I pray and require that my spirit, issuing out of the body, see not the horrible ne wicked spirit ne fiend, and that no might of the devil come against me. And then the angel said: Lady, wherefore desirest thou to know my name? which is great and marvellous. All the apostles shall assemble this day to thee and shall make to thee noble exequies at thy passing, and in the presence of them thou shalt give up thy spirit. For he that brought the prophet by his hair from Judea to Babylon, may without doubt suddenly in an hour bring the apostles to thee. And wherefore doubtest thou to see the wicked spirit, sith thou hast broken utterly his head, and hast despoiled him from the empire of his power? Nevertheless thy will be done, that thou see not the fiend. And this said, the angel mounted into heaven with great light, and the palm shone by right great clearness, and was like to a green rod whose leaves shone like to the morrow star. And it happed as S. John the Evangelist preached in Ephesus, the heaven suddenly thundered, and a white cloud took him up and brought him tofore the gate of the blessed Virgin Mary. And he knocked at the door and entered and saluted the Virgin honourably. Whom the blessed Virgin beheld, and was greatly abashed for joy, and might not abstain her from weeping, and said to him: John, my son, remember thee of the word of thy master, by which he made me mother unto thee, and thee a son unto me. Lo! I am called of thy master and my God. I pay now the debt of condition human, and recommend my body unto thy busy cure. I have heard say that the Jews have made a council, and said: Let us abide brethren unto the time that she that bare Jesus be dead, and then incontinent we shall take her body and shall cast it into the fire and burn it. Thou therefore take this palm, and bear it tofore the bier when ye shall bear my body to the sepulchre. Then said John: O would God that all my brethren the apostles were here, that we might make thine exequies convenably as it behoveth and is digne and worthy. And as he said that, all the apostles were ravished with clouds from the places where they preached, and were brought tofore the door of the blessed Virgin Mary. And when they saw them assembled, they marvelled, and said: For what cause hath our Lord assembled us here? Then S. John went out and said to them that our Lady should pass and depart out of this world, and added more thereto, saying: Brethren, beware and keep you from weeping when she shall depart, because that the people that shall see it be not troubled, and say: Lo! there, how they dread the death which preach to others the resurrection. And Denis, disciple of Paul, affirmeth this same in the book of divine names, that is to wit that all the apostles were assembled at the assumption and death of our Lady Mary and were together there, and that each of them made a sermon unto the praisirg and laud of Jesu Christ and the blessed Virgin his mother. He said thus, speaking to Timothy: Thus we and thou, as thou well knowest, and many of our holy brethren, did assemble at the vision of the mother that received God. And James, brother of God, was there. And Peter the apostle, most noble and sovereign of the theologians. And after that me seemed that all the Hierarchies lifted her up, after and according to her virtue without end. This saith S. Denis. And when the blessed Virgin Mary saw all the apostles assembled, she blessed our Lord, and sat in the midst of them where the lamps, tapers, and lights burned. And about the third hour of the night Jesu Christ came with sweet melody and song, with the orders of the angels, the companies of patriarchs, the assembly of martyrs, the convents of confessors, the carols of virgins. And tofore the bed of our blessed Lady the companies of all these saints were set in order and made sweet song and melody. And what exequies were done of our blessed Lady, and there hallowed it is all said and enseigned in the foresaid book which is attributed to S. John.

For first, Jesu Christ began to say: Come my chosen and I shall set thee in my seat, for I have coveted the beauty of thee. And our Lady answered: Sir, my heart is ready, and all they that were come with Jesu Christ entuned sweetly saying: This is she that never touched the bed of marriage in delight, and she shall have fruit in refection of holy souls. Then she sang of herself, saying: All the generations shall say that I am blessed, for he that is mighty hath done great things to me, and the name of him is holy. And the chanter of chanters entuned more excellently above all others, saying: Come from Lebanon, my spouse, come from Lebanon, come, thou shalt be crowned. And she said: I come, for in the beginning of the book it is written of me that I should do thy will, for my spirit hath joyed in thee, God my health. And thus in the morning the soul issued out of the body and fled up in the arms of her son. And she was as far estranged from the pain of the flesh as she was from corruption of her body. Then said our Lord to the apostles: Bear ye the body of this virgin, my mother, into the vale of Jehosaphat and lay ye her in a new sepulchre that ye shall find there, and abide me there three days till that I return to you. And anon she was environed with flowers of roses, that was the company of martyrs, and with lilies of the valley, that was the company of angels, of confessors and virgins. And the apostles cried after her saying: Right wise virgin, whither goest thou? Lady, remember thee of us. And then the company of saints that were abiden there were awaked with the sound of the song of them that mounted, and came against her, and saw their king bear in his proper arms the soul of a woman, and saw that this soul was joined to him, and were abashed and began to cry, saying: Who is this that ascendeth from the desert, full of delices, joined to her friend ? And they that accompanied her said: This is the right fair among the daughters of Jerusalem, and like as ye have seen her full of charity and dilection, so is she joyously received, and set in the seat of glory on the right side of her son. And the apostles saw the soul of her being so white that no mortal tongue might express it. And then three maidens that were there took off the clothes from the body for to wash it. The body anon shone by so great clearness that they might well feel it in touching and washing but they might not see it. And that light shone as long as they were about the washing of it. And then the apostles took the body honourably and laid it on the bier, and John said to Peter: Bear this palm tofore the bier, for our Lord hath ordained thee above us, and hath made thee pastor and prince of his sheep. To whom Peter said: It appertaineth better to thee to bear it, for thou art chosen virgin of our Lord, and thou oughtest to bear this palm of light at the exequies of chastity and holiness, thou that drankest at the fountain of perdurable clearness. And I shall bear the holy body with the bier, and these other apostles our brethren shall go round about the body yielding thankings to God. And then S. Paul said to him: I, that am least of the apostles and of you all, shall bear with thee. And then Peter and Paul lifted up the bier, and Peter began to sing and say: Israel is issued out of Egypt, and the other apostles followed him in the same song. And our Lord covered the bier and the apostles with a cloud, so that they were not seen, but the voice of them was heard only. And the angels were with the apostles singing, and replenished all the land with marvellous sweetness. And then all the people was moved with that sweet melody, and issued hastily out of the city and enquired what it was, and then there were some that said to them that Mary such a woman is dead, and the disciples of her son Jesu bear her and make such melody as ye hear about her. And then ran they to arms, and they warned each other saying: Come and let us slay all the disciples, and let us burn the body of her that bare this traitor. And when the prince of priests saw that, he was all abashed and full of anger, and said: Lo! here the tabernacle of him that troubled us and our lineage. Behold what glory he now receiveth, and in saying so, he laid his hands on the bier willing to turn it, and overthrew it to the ground.

Then suddenly both his hands waxed dry and cleaved to the bier, so that he hung by the hands on the bier, and was sore tormented and wept and brayed. And the angels that were there in the clouds blinded all the other people that they saw nothing. And the prince of priests said: S. Peter, despise me not in this tribulation, and I pray thee to pray for me to our Lord. Thou oughtest to remember when the chamberer, that was usher, accused thee, and I excused thee. And S. Peter said to him: We be now empeshed in the service of our Lady, and may not now entend to heal thee, but and if thou believest in our Lord Jesu Christ, and in this that bare him, I ween and hope that thou soon shalt have health and be all whole. And he answered: I believe our Lord Jesu Christ to be the Son of God, and that this is his right holy mother, and anon his hands were loosed from the bier, but yet the dryness and the pain ceased not in him. And then S. Peter said to him: kiss the bier and say: I believe in God Jesu Christ that this woman bare in her belly, and remained virgin after the childing. And when he had so said, he was anon all whole perfectly. And then said Peter to him: Take that palm of the hand of our brother John, and lay it on the people that be blind, and who that will believe shall receive his sight again. And they that will not believe shall never see. And then the apostles bare Mary unto the monument and sat by it, like as our Lord had commanded, and at the third day Jesu Christ came with a great multitude of angels and saluted them, and said: Peace be with you. And they answered: God, glory be to thee which only makest the great miracles and marvels. And our Lord said to the apostles: What is now your advice that I ought now to do to my mother of honour and of grace? Sire, it seemeth to us thy servants that like as thou hast vanquished the death and reignest world without end, that thou raise also the body of thy mother and set it on thy right side in perdurability. And he granted it. And then Michael the angel came and presented the soul of Mary to our Lord. And the Saviour spake and said: Arise up, haste thee, my culver or dove, tabernacle of glory, vessel of life, temple celestial, and like as thou never feltest conceiving by none atouchment, thou shalt not suffer in the sepulchre no corruption of body. And anon the soul came again to the body of Mary, and issued gloriously out of the tomb, and thus was received in the heavenly chamber, and a great company of angels with her. And S. Thomas was not there, and when he came he would not believe this. And anon the girdle with which her body was girt came to him from the air, which he received, and thereby he understood that she was assumpt into heaven. And all this heretofore is said and called apocryphum. Whereof S. Jerome saith in a sermon to Paula and Eustochia her daughter: That book is said to be apocryphum, save that some words which be worthy of faith and be approved of saints as touching nine things, that is to wit, that the comfort of the apostles was promised and given to the virgin, and that all the saints assembled there, and that she died without pain, and was buried in the vale of Jehosaphat. And there were made ready the obsequies and the devotion ot Jesu Christ, and the coming of the celestial company, and the persecution of the Jews, and the shining of the miracles, and that she was assumpt into heaven, body and soul. But many other things be put there more at fantasy and simulation than at truth. As that, that Thomas was not there, and when he came he doubted, and other things semblable, which be better not to believe them than not to believe her clothes and vestments were left in her tomb, to the comfort of good christian men. And of one part of her vestments it is said there happed such a great miracle as followeth. When the Duke of Normandy had assieged the city of Chartres, the bishop of the city took the coat of our Lady and set it on the head of a spear like a banner and went out against the enemy surely, and the people followed him. And anon all the host of the enemies were turned into frenzy, and were blind and trembled, and all were abashed. And when they of the city saw this thing, above the divine demonstrance they went on eagerly and slew their enemies, the which thing displeased much the virgin S. Mary, as it was proved by that that her coat vanished away, and the duke, their enemy, found it in his lap.

Text taken from Medieval Sourcebook: The Golden Legend (Aurea Legenda) - Compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, 1275 - Englished by William Caxton, 1483.