On this day: The Assumption

by Gerelyn Hollingsworth

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On this day we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Sie aber legte sich in ihre Schwäche
und zog die Himmel an Jerusalem
so nah heran, daß ihre Seele nur,
austretend, sich ein wenig strecken mußte:
schon hob er sie, der alles von ihr wußte,
hinein in ihre göttliche Natur.

--Rainer Maria Rilke, Das Marien-Leben, "Vom Tode Mariae"

"As early as the tenth century, the intimate association between the aromas of herbs and flowers and the victory of Mary over death was celebrated in the ritual of the feast of the Assumption. Medicinal herbs and plants were brought to church on that day. Periwinkle, verbena, thyme, and many other ingredients of the herbalist's art were laid on the altar, to be incensed and blessed. Then they were bound into a sheaf and kept all year to ward off illness and disaster and death. But the ceremony was abolished in England at the Reformation, and is extinct everywhere now except in some towns of northern Italy."

--from Chapter Six, The Assumption, in Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary, by Marina Warner, Knopf, 1976, page 100.

"The end of the Virgin Mary's life remains a relatively uncertain moment in the Christian story. Despite decades of research and the Vatican's concerted efforts to resolve the matter during the past century, culminating in the 1950 dogma of the Virgin's Assumption, the topic remains an unclear point of the early Christian tradition. Indeed, even the Vatican's 1950 definition fails to clarify such a basic matter as whether or not the Virgin actually died before departing this world."

--from the Introduction to Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption, by Stephen J. Shoemaker, Oxford University Press, 2004, page 1. (Amazon provides generous samples of Shoemaker's book, including the impressive bibliography.)

Click here for the Liturgy of the Hours and here for the Mass During the Day.

Happy feast day to one and all!

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