Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Celebrating the Assumption, August 15th

"Assumption of the Virgin" by Andrea del Sarto

The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin (or Dormition, in the Orthodox Church) is celebrated by the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglo-Catholic and some Protestant faiths. It commemorates the dogma that Mary, the Mother of God, at the end of her life, was assumed body and soul into heaven upon her death to dwell with her Divine Son. Apocryphal accounts of Mary's Assumption have circulated since at least the 5th century, though it was not made officially dogmatic until 1950. The feastday is celebrated as Mary's "heavenly birthday" and is a joyous occassion, despite the fact that it is called a solemnity.

Typically, the Assumption is a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics (meaning that all Roman Catholics who are able are required to attend Mass on the 15th of August each year), but since it falls on a Saturday this year, the obligation to attend Mass is lifted, though attendance is still recommended. In many countries, August 15th is a public holiday, with parades and other festivities. For those of us who do not get a public holiday, it is a special treat to have the Assumption fall on a Saturday. We are freer than usual this year to celebrate it, and I would thoroughly recommend attending Holy Mass even though it is not obligatory--when will you get a better opportunity to truly enjoy this special holiday?

And, how does one celebrate this special day? Here are some ideas:
  • Attend Mass.
  • Pray a rosary. Saturday, we pray the Joyful Mysteries, many of which are reflections on Mary's relation to Christ, including the Annunciation, Visitation, and Nativity.
  • Consider consecrating your family to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, if you have not already done so.
  • If you didn't do so during the month of May, consider planting a "Mary Garden", using flowers that have been named for or associated with the Blessed Mother.
  • Bake a yeast bread. Explain to your children that it "rises", just as Mary rose into Heaven.
  • Make other dishes that "rise," such as a souffle.
  • In Germanic countries, herbs have long been associated with the Virgin Mary. Why not have an herb salad, or combine two traditions and make an herbed souffle?
  • Fly a kite. You might consider having children write short prayers to Mary on ribbons and tie them to the kite.
  • Bake a blueberry pie for dessert--blue is Mary's color, and we're right in the height of blueberry season.
  • Dress in blue in honor of Our Blessed Mother.
  • Pray for the souls of our own mothers and grandmothers who have died. Just as Jesus wanted His Mother to dwell with Him in Heaven, so we want to dwell one day with our own mothers in Paradise. Let us pray for the repose of their souls.
  • Bring a bouquet of seasonal flowers (or herbs) to place before a statue of Mary, either in your home or garden or at your parish when you attend Mass with your family.

Sophia and I will be putting together a small bouquet to bring with our family to place before the Blessed Virgin at our church where we will attend Mass in the morning. Then, we'll enjoy some sweet yeasted treat (probably homemade cinnamon rolls) for breakfast after Mass, and I'm planning to make a souffle for dinner, followed by a blueberry crumble pie for dessert. Our family will also be dressed in blue to honor the day...provided that James hasn't spit up on all our blue clothing before Saturday! He already nailed my blue dress this morning...hadn't been planning on that. I'll have to see if I can scrounge something else up out of my closet.


  1. Hello Bethany. My name is Kayleen and I have recently started reading your blog. I appreciate your insight into the Catholic faith and other family related topics. I thought I would comment on this post because I do know that you live in Washington State (I hope that's okay to comment on; you have written posts in reference to where you live so I figured it's okay) Anyway, I thought I would inquire whether or not you have ever attended a Byzantine liturgy? We have an especially beautiful liturgy that is celebrated for the Dormition of Mary. The church is St. John Chrysostom, on Beacon Hill. If you are interested, I would gladly send you an email with more information. Either way though, I wish you a blessed Dormition of our Lady. Thanks again for your lovely blog, it is a joy to read. God Bless! :D

  2. Kayleen- Thank you so much for your kind offer. We are actually planning to attend services at our own Parish (Blessed Sacrament), but I really appreciate it, and if we hadn't already had plans, I would certainly take you up on the offer. I do enjoy experiencing how others celebrate the liturgical year.

  3. I am so much looking forward to the Feast of the Dormition! It's the day before our anniversary, and so the Theotokos (Mother of God) is our family's patron saint. And I was just thinking, there's NOTHING blooming in my yard right now! Not a thing, which is a disappointment, because before when I didn't have a garden, I'd think how nice it would be to have one so that I could take flowers on our family's feast, and now that I have one, turns out nothing I have planted blooms in August. Well, except nasturtiums and sunflowers. Maybe I can do something with those before we go to church tomorrow morning!


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