The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

by Kim Long

On the 15th day of August, we celebrate the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Body and Soul into heaven. The feast, which has a long and storied history in the Church, is one of Mary’s oldest. Let’s take a look…

 

History

The late Fr. Andrew Greeley stated  that the Celtic people celebrated a harvest festival in mid-August and in Christian times this became the festival of Mary in harvest time because Mary reflected the life-giving, life-nurturing love of God. From the days of the early church, this feast day was part of the fabric of believers. We glean this from the writings of some early Church fathers. On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII, issued Munificentissimus Deus, which officially defined the Dogma of the Assumption, meaning that the Church officially recognizes this belief as essential and vital to the life of Catholics. I read the document in preparation for this article. At 12 pages it was not a difficult read and is available online. According to many sources about this feast, it illustrates to us the way Jesus felt about his mother as well as the promise of eternal life. Pope Pius XII also wrote a beautiful prayer in honor of Mary and this feast.

 

Ways to celebrate

I read an article long ago that posed the idea of making a shift in our thinking from holy days of “obligation” to holy days celebration. I have always been of the mind that it is a “both/and” rather than an “either/or”.  One of the definitions of obliging is to bind. I like the idea of being bound to God in many ways; after all, we are not bound to those whom we love by only one way so why not expand our way of viewing these holy days of obligation. When we celebrate this feast we are also celebrating God’s love for us, Jesus’ promise that we will not die but have eternal life with Him. Who doesn’t love it when a mother is treated well, in this case, a literal queen as the responsorial psalm for this liturgy reminds us- “the queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.” Personally, I like a little imagery that takes me out of an ordinary day and reminds me of God’s immensity.  This day accomplishes that very well. We are bound, obliged to attend Mass and celebrate with our community but there are additional (both/and) ways we can revel in God’s glorious love.

 

Food

In one of my favorite and well worn books “A Continual Feast” by Evelyn Birge Vitz in which she guides us through the liturgical year with food and family, she recommends a fresh fruit salad but only AFTER we fast from fruit from August 1st, breaking it finally after Mass on the 15th gives us an idea of waiting for first fruits of the season.

 

Processions

This is a great Catholic tradition. In our parish we are blessed to have a priest who embraces this part of our tradition and we are seen several times a year processing around the church property. I am unsure of what passers-by think but we know we are walking with a purpose! At home, if you have a statue or even a picture of Mary take it out, dust it off and gather your family and go for a walk with the Blessed Mother. Begin with a prayer, reverently walk with the image or statue and return, placing it in a place of honor.

 

Mary Garden

In preparing for this article I found that Bishop Juvenal of Jerusalem (now St. Juvenal) told the Council of Chaldea that St. Thomas found lilies and roses in Our Lady’s tomb. That is inspiration enough for many to plant at least one flower in honor of our Blessed Mother. There is an Assumption Lily, part of the day lily family dedicated to this event Other plants include: violets, roses, Lady slippers, bleeding hearts, snowdrops and lily of the valley. There are also several herb plants dedicated to Mary especially rosemary, however, any sweet smelling and fragrant herb can represent her joys and any bitter herb her sorrows. St. Fiacre’ is said to have maintained a garden in honor of Mary all his adult life. Even if it is too late this year, looking forward to spring these selections could give your garden a “lift.” In addition to the idea of special plants in Mary’s honor, there is also the tradition of blessing of the gardens, orchards, and produce on this day; a way to honor first fruits. The Roman Ritual from 1964 has a beautiful prayer and blessing for this.

Ask your priest for more information, or sprinkle some holy water on your garden, thanking God for his bounty. These are a few ways to add an element of celebration to one of the most special days of our liturgical year! Happy Holy Day of Celebration!

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