Here’s a story I’d never heard before, despite all my years of Roman Catholic indoctrination. Shortly after Jesus died, St. Thomas was preaching in India when he found himself suddenly swept up in a swirling cloud. He ended up hovering just above Mary’s tomb (like Dr. Sam Parnia’s dead people in the OR), and saw her body rising up out of it. When he asked her where she was going, she, believe it or not, threw her girdle at him! (This is actually less salacious than it sounds, because a girdle in those days meant a belt-like cloth around the waist. And if you’re as doubting as Thomas was, you can actually see this green piece of cloth if you happen to be in Florence today, but you have to go to mass at the Duomo, where it’s only displayed five times a year.)
Anyway, her whole body rose up into heaven. Thomas landed near some other apostles and they all went into Mary’s tomb where, for some strange reason, they decided to smell the clothes she’d left behind (does this mean she was naked except for the girdle?), which had a wonderful sweet smell, the “odor of sanctity.”
And one more strange element for a very odd story: it’s also called the Feast of the Dormition, or the Feast of the Falling Asleep of the All Holy Mother of God.
Jesus died, but got resurrected, but for some reason they didn’t want to say Mary died. But if she didn’t die, but only fell asleep, what was she doing in a tomb?