Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 160 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Monday, August 14, 2023

St. Mary's August Feast Day - Rector's Rambling for August 13, 2023

      On Tuesday, August 15th we are celebrating in the Episcopal Church the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin.

August 15 has long been kept as a feast day of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Christianity, and many Anglican Parishes kept it as a Holy Day before the reform of the calendar in the 1970s formally added it.

The Roman Catholic Church keeps this day as the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, and the Eastern Orthodox Churches commemorate it as the Feast of the Dormition.  Both titles have to do with end of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s earthly life.  Tradition has it that when Mary died her body was taken into heaven just as the Jewish tradition says Moses’ was and the scripture attests that Elijah’s was (without his dying first).  The Episcopal Church has not been formal about declaring this as a doctrine of the Church because it occurs after the recording of Scripture.

As Episcopalians we remember that we can require nothing as necessary for belief concerning salvation that is not contained in Scripture.  But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things which are true and happened, but not recorded for us in Scripture.  They just cannot be required for belief.

The teaching of the Church concerning the death and assumption into heaven is one of those doctrines that cannot be required for salvation, but can be taken for truth on solid tradition of the contemporary writers of that time who attest to this reality.

I know that for me the biggest proof is the reality that the early church venerated and held dear the bodies of the early saints.  The Apostles and others we hear about in scripture have their physical remains venerated (held in high esteem) as what are called relics.  Yet the one body from which Jesus Christ took his earthly flesh has no physical remains held as relics.  Wouldn’t the early church in its zeal to do such things with the saints do so with Jesus’ own mother if her body remained here on earth?

The Anglican compromise is to make it a general feast day in thanksgiving for the life of Mary, and on that we can certainly agree!