Catholic Activity: Assumption Day
August 15 is the Solemnity of the Assumption, a holyday of obligation in the Church. This is one of the oldest and highest feasts of Our Lady. This day had blessings of herbs, flowers, and fruits of the garden. This is now an optional tradition, with the blessing in the new Roman Ritual. The author has some suggestions on how to incorporate the tradition, even if only in part.
In the eastern Church this was so important and celebrated a festival that it was preceded by a week's fasting. In Rome the day was marked by an enormous procession, led by the pope, who went barefooted, carrying a painting of Christ from the Church of the Lateran to the Church of St. Mary Major, thus to commemorate the coming of Christ for his mother on Mary's death.
This is the greatest of our Lady's feast days, and one of the oldest of them. All the church's office of the day is filled with praise and acclamation of the Mother of God, who was raised from her grave, taken up body and soul into heaven, there to be made the queen of heaven. Gregory of Tours says: "When the time came for the blessed Mary to leave this earth the apostles were gathered together from all lands: and having learnt that the hour was at hand they watched with her. Now the Lord Jesus came with his angels and received her soul. In the morning the apostles took up her body and placed it in the tomb. And again the Lord came and the holy body was taken up in a cloud."
Popular feeling, which had always linked our Lady's feasts with flowers, did not fail now. In this country the Assumption was marked by people taking huge bunches of herbs into the church to be blessed there. Flowers, plants and fruit were also blessed, as though this were the day of the garden, as distinct from the days of the fields of corn and the fodder crops. It is possible that herbs were much in evidence because of the epistle of the day:
"I was exalted like a cedar in Libanus and as a cyprus tree on Mount Sion. I was exalted like a palm tree in Cades and as a rose plant in Jericho, as a fair olive tree in the plains and as a plane tree by the water in the streets was I exalted. I gave a sweet smell like cinnamon and aromatic balm. I yielded a sweet odor like the best myrrh."Is it possibly connected with this herb-offering that we call two herbs balm and myrrh in this country which have no resemblance whatever to the herbs mentioned in the Mass?
Few people have herb gardens now. Still, those who have might decorate the statue of our Lady with them, perhaps decorating the statue in the parish church in the same way. The Assumption might also be an occasion for praying for the flowers and plants and fruit of the ordinary garden. What is more, why could not those who have a garden send flowers to those who cannot grow them, or to city churches and convents where every flower has to be bought? And anyone who had no garden herself could always buy flowers and send or give them to some church or chapel for this first of Mary's feast days.
Activity Source: Candle is Lighted, A by P. Stewart Craig, The Grail, Field End House, Eastcote, Middlesex, 1945