August 15: Solemnity of the Assumption

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – also known as the Dormition – commemorates the end of Mary’s life and her journey into heaven. It’s been formally celebrated since the early Middle Ages, with folk stories surrounding Mary’s death being told in ancient apocryphal texts centuries before that, dating back to even the 2nd century.

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HISTORY & LORE


Engraving by Laurent de La Hire, 1606-1656

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – also known as the Dormition – commemorates the end of Mary’s life and her journey into heaven. It’s been formally celebrated since the early Middle Ages, with folk stories surrounding Mary’s death being told in ancient apocryphal texts centuries before that, dating back to even the 2nd century.

In a tale from the Golden Legend – a collection of hagiographies by Jacobus de Voragine, very popular in the late Medieval period – the apostles gathered at Mary’s deathbed, but St. Thomas was late. He doubted her Assumption, and then her girdle fell to him from heaven.

Another story goes that when Thomas arrived and entered Mary’s tomb, he found only her burial sheet and a fragrant array of flowers and herbs.

This summertime solemnity, celebrating Mary’s assumption into heaven, bears an age-old tradition of blessing flowers, herbs, and the August harvest. It invites us to celebrate this abundance through the lens of Mary, the fragrant Theotokos (“God-Bearer”), who bore the gift that awoke us to abundance.

If you’d like to learn more about the history, traditions, folklore, & plantlore of the Assumption, enjoy this free info sheet designed to help you build your Liturgical Year Binder:

“The Death of the Virgin (Dormition)”, Late 15th c., from the Workshop of Tilman Heysacker

ARTWORK



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References cited:

Adolf Adam. The Liturgical Year: Its History & Its Meaning After the Reform of the Liturgy. Liturgical Press, 1990.

Berger, Florence with Alexandra Greeley & Sr. Esther Mary Nickel R.S.M, Ph.D., S.L.D. Cooking For Christ: Your Kitchen Prayer Book. Catholic Rural Life, 2018 (Revised Edition).

Cloisters: The Death of the Virgin (Dormition). https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/471989

Golden Legend: The Assumption. https://www.christianiconography.info/goldenLegend/assumption.htm