by Fr Duncan McVicar on 13/08/2011 -
The Assumption of Mary into Heaven, celebrated today, is one of the oldest in Church history. This wonderful summer feast, honouring Our Lady, was first celebrated in Palestine in the year 529 AD. It was such a strong tradition in the Church, needing no confirmation, that it wasn’t until November 1, 1950 that Pope Pius XII declared the Assumption of Mary to be a dogma of the faith. An ancient and beautiful legend about the Assumption of Mary tells the story this way: When Our Lady felt her time on earth coming to an end, she sent word to all the Apostles that she would like to see them for the last time on earth. They were out preaching the Good News of her Son ‘to all the corners of the world’ as Jesus had commanded them. When they received her message, of course, they paid their respects to their new congregations and disciples and left so as to hurry to her side. After long sea voyages and treks over land, they arrived just in time to say goodbye and pray with her one last time. Then she died. Only the apostle Thomas was late. He had been delayed by some way or another, and had been travelling day and night since to try and catch up. But he was too late. When he finally arrived, hot and travel-stained, he was grief-stricken to learn that she had been laid to rest in a tomb. He wept bitterly, and begged the Apostle’s permission to open the tomb so that he could see her beloved face one last time. At first, the other Apostles were reluctant. After all, she had been dead for three days, and it was a hot country. Finally they yielded to his tears and rolled away the stone. To their amazement, the tomb was filled with flowers, all giving off a sweet fragrance. They felt happier and healthier just smelling the beautiful scent that came wafting out of that tomb. Where they had placed her body was now only her shroud, filled with more flowers. Her body had been carried up to heaven by her Son and the angels, to join her soul.
Now, it must be remembered that after the great Fall, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate of the Fruit of the Tree of Life and were cast out of the Garden, all the flowers lost their scent, or perhaps we lost the ability to smell them. The herbs lost their healing powers too, and were only good for flavouring our food. Not that that’s not a good thing mind you, but to be able to heal sickness and mend broken bones, well that’s something more important that a nicely flavoured stew. It’s only right that one the day of her Assumption, Our Blessed Lady’s last gift to us should be the restoring of the scent of flowers and the healing power of herbs.
In many European countries, on the Feast of the Assumption, they have the tradition of blessing herbs for use at home in Church.
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