The Assumption of Mary (the Blessed Virgin)
On August 15th, we, as Catholics around the world, celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. This feast day commemorates the day when Mary, the mother of Jesus, was taken up ('assumed') into heaven after her earthly life came to an end. It affirms the belief that Mary was sinless and that she was taken into heaven both 'body and soul'. The Assumption teaches us that we too, through perseverance and faithfulness, can be united with God after our earthly life comes to an end.
The Assumption is a significant doctrine in the Catholic Church, and it is a Holy Day of Obligation and celebrated as a feast day and Public Holiday in many parts of Europe and South America (and further afield!). It is a time of joy and celebration reflected in the many colorful and exuberant pageants and processions and private family gatherings which take place on that day.
In some countries, such as Italy and Spain, there are huge parades and feasts in honor of the Virgin Mary. Statues of the Blessed Virgin, crowned and garlanded, are carried through the streets while onlookers worship and venerate her through the act of throwing scented rose petals. These processions draw in many tourists and are attended by those of all faiths due to the carnival atmosphere and festivities.
Many traditions are associated with this holiday. One is for children to wear blue, which is the color of Mary's mantle, white to symbolize purity or gold to reflect her crown. Some people choose to attend mass and say special prayers to Mary. Reflecting earlier Pagan festivals, crops and harvests are blessed by local clergy and baskets of fruit can be exchanged between neighbors and relatives. Some people also like to visit Marian shrines or take part in processions on this day. The merriment can often extend late into the evening with people dancing around bonfires and enjoying nocturnal fireworks.
If you are not fortunate enough to be able to attend a celebration, why not make your own at home? How about setting up a small Marian altar, with a statue of Our Lady, a Blessed candle and some lilies (associated with chastity) in a vase. Perhaps say a Decade of the Rosary or other favorite prayer with meditative hymnal music playing in the background. Give thanks for the sustenance and nourishment you (and your family) receive on a daily basis.
No matter how you choose to celebrate, this is a day to honor Mary and her importance in our lives. Many Catholics believe that the Assumption guarantees Mary's role as the queen of heaven and intercessor for humanity. This doctrine is a source of great joy for us as Catholics, who believe that Mary is now in the presence of God and that she prays for all the living and the dead.
We give thanks to God for His gift of Mary and we reflect on her example of duty and humility. We also remember that, like Mary, we too are called to a life of holiness.