Today we celebrate the fourth Glorious Mystery of the Rosary. For hundreds of years, Catholics observed the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15, celebrating Mary being taken body and soul to Heaven after her death. But it was not until 1950 that the Church proclaimed this teaching a dogma (an essential belief of the Catholic faith) of the Church.
Finally; the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians:
In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death…She is our Mother in the order of grace. ~ The Catechism of the Catholic Church
Different countries have special customs to celebrate this great solemnity.
It is traditional to bless fruits and herbs on this day. There is a legend that all the flowers and herbs of the earth lost their scent after Adam and Eve had sinned in the Garden of Eden. On the Assumption the flowers were given back their scent and the herbs their power to heal.
It is a custom in many coastal areas of the US and Europe to have special blessings of the water (the sea or ocean) on the Feast of the Assumption. This custom originated in 15th century Italy when a bishop traveling from Venice, during a storm at sea on the Feast of the Assumption, prayed and threw his pastoral ring into the sea from the ship and the waters were calmed! In the US, these celebrations take place annually in Atlantic City, Camden and Long Island. Sometimes during these ‘blessings of the sea’ celebrations after the priest or bishop has blessed the water the people wade out into the water and fill bottles with it and use it like regular holy water. An old Irish saying is that ‘There’s a blessing in the water’ on the feast of the Assumption.
The Italians have a custom of delivering fruit baskets and feasting on fruit today. In many parts of Italy, the statue of the Virgin of the Assumption is carried in procession through the streets to the cathedral or church.
The Portuguese surround Mary’s statue with angels and crown her Queen of the Angels.
The Polish honor Mary this day as Our Lady of the Flowers.
In Armenia the blessing of the grapes takes place at Mass on this day; these are the first grapes of the season to be eaten.
In France, August 15th is a day for parties and excursions into the country. At Quimper, in Brittany, it is considered a day for betrothals, when young men and women come to ask Mary’s blessing on their future.
So, today we will eat some fruit, put fresh flowers by our Mary statue, sing the ‘Immaculate Mary’ hymn, have a party (BBQ) and go swimming!