Can I get some enlightenment about this tomb? If Mary was assumed into
heaven, why a tomb? Is there an official version of this or is this all
a matter of tradition/apocrypha? In fact the term in use when I was
learning about all this was "dormition" rather than "death" of the
The early traditions of the death/ Dormition/( Koimesis)
'Falling asleep' ( See: II Thess. 4:13 - We do not want you to be
ignorant, brethren , concerning those who have fallen asleep...) and
bodily translation of the Mother of Jesus are detailed in:
P. Voulet. S. Jean Damascène: Homilies sur la Nativite et la
Dormition. Sources chretiennes, 80. Paris: 1956, pp24-36.
To amplify on Fr. East's reference to the Transitus Mariae, (
See the ed. by Zahn, Die Dormitio Sanct Virginis, 1899), I cite from
Edward Hennecke ( ed W. Schneemelcher, transl R. McL. Wilson) New
Testament Apocrypha, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, Vol.I 1963:
The compilers of the legenda Mariae were early pressed by a
need for more comprehensive collections of Marian 'historiae'
"produced a comprhensive description of the 'Assumption of he Virgin
Mary', which has survived in Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and
Arabic, probably of Egyptian origin, and hardly olre than 400" The
question of the attribution to Melito in not mentioned, and seems to
me to be highly contested in later/current literature. The oldest
version of the Transitus is likely that of Tischendorf, edited in
Apa. 124-136 ( calling it Pseudo-Melito. See; B. Capelle. "Vestiges
grecs et latins d'un antique 'transitus' de la Vierge": Analecta
Boll. 67, 1949, pp21-48. ).
Hennecke also suggests checking M. Jugie on the Transitus Mariae and
especially the studies of B. Altaner ( Theol. Review 44, 1948,
pp129-140; Theol. Review 45, 1949. pp129-142; Theol. Review 46, 1950,
Homiletic installation of the tradition ( for the Greek world
) is traced to the often cited and parodied homily on the Feast of
the Dormition by the Patriarch Modestos of Jerusale; PG LXXXVI, 2,
The liturgical installation of the tradition is attributable
to the stikhera and Matinal Canon of John Of Damascus (c.675-c.749)
and Cosmas of Maium (c 700 birth), both of which become the standard
liturgical texts for the celebration of the Feast in the Orthodox
Church, wherein the narrative outlined by Fr. East is richly
As to the issue of:
"Is there an official version of this or is this all
a matter of tradition/apocrypha?"
While those distinctions do not survive or operate well for
Eastern Christianity,( since the liturgical texts and tradition for
almost all the the Feasts of the Virgin are based on what you would
likely call unofficial, apocryphal sources) I would suggests that
closest thing to an 'official' statement, or what would become so,
would be the installation of the full cycle of liturgical texts for
the feast of the Dormition. These would have been relatively
controlled in presentation,distribution and re-presentation(
liturgically) to the widest audience. Romanos the Hymnographer (fl.
555) 'the Melodist'),while playing a significant part in the
installation of more normative meditative retellings of material for
the other major festal celebrations of the church, did not compose a
Kontakion for the Dormition of the Virgin.
I hope this rather specific information is useful and provides a
wider range of possible explorations in your search.
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