Friday, August 09, 2013

On the Feast of the Assumption of the B. V. Mary (August 15)

I'm continuing the completion of my Office Hymn listings.  Here are the hymns for the Feast of the Assumption listed at Hymn melodies for the whole year from the Sarum service books:
On the Feast of the Assumption of the B. V. Mary:
1st Evensong:  O quam glorifica ... ... ... ... 66
Mattins:  Quem terra, pontus, ethera ... ... ... ... 63
Lauds O gloriosa femina ... ... ... ...63
2nd Evensong: Letabundus ... ... Sequence, p. (11)
(But within the 8ve & on the 8ve day, O quam glorifica,  as above.)

(This feast is called "The Repose of the Blessed Virgin Mary" at Breviary Offices, from Lauds to Compline Inclusive (Society of St. Margaret, Boston); that book was published in 1885.  You can get all the Psalms, the collect, Chapter, antiphons, etc., for all the offices of the day at that link, although no music is provided - or check the iFrame look-in at the bottom of this post. )

And the 1979 Book of Common Prayer calls this day simply "The Feast of  St. Mary the Virgin"; it is a Major Feast in the Episcopal Church.

O quam glorifica is a beautiful hymn; I was not familiar with it previously.  Melody #66 is never used at any other office on any other day; it's a really lovely tune with an unusual meter (11-11-11-11):

Here it is sung by the Trappist monks of Gethsemani in Kentucky (Thomas Merton's monastery - and he actually might have been singing here, because the YouTube page says this recording is from 1958):

Here are the Latin words (verse 3 is not included on the video above):
O quam glorifica luce coruscas,
Stirpis Davidicæ regia proles.
Sublimis residens, Virgo Maria,
Supra cæligenas ætheris .

Tu cum virgineo mater honore,
Ang(e)lorum Domino pectoris aulam
Sacris visceribus casta parasti;
Natus hinc Deus est corpore Christus.

Quem cunctus venerans orbis adorat,
cui nunc rite genuflectitur omne;
A quo te, petimus, subveniente,
Abjectis tenebris, gaudia lucis.

Hoc largire Pater luminis omnis,
Natum per proprium, Flamine sacro,
Qui tecum nitida vivit in æthera
Regnans, ac moderans sæcula cuncta.
It's quite beautiful in English, too; this is, I believe, G.H. Palmer's translation, from The Hymner:
O with what glorious lustre thou shinest,
Daughter of royalty, David's descendant!
Throned in majesty, Mary the Virgin,
Thou 'mid the blessed ones sittest exalted.

Keeping thy virginal honour unspotted
E'en in thy motherhood, chastely thou gavest
Shrine for the Holy One, Lord of the Angels;
Thus in humanity God was incarnate;

Whom the whole universe lowly adoreth,
Duly on bended knee tendering homage:
We on thy festival pray him to grant us
Light and felicity, darkness dispelling.

This, of thy clemency, Father of glory,
Grant through thine only Son, who, with the Spirit,
Evermore one with thee liveth and reigneth
In the bright firmament, ordering all things. Amen.

Here is the chant score for melody #63 from Hymn Melodies:; this melody is used for both the Mattins and Lauds hymn on Assumption.

Here's an mp3 the cantor from LLPB singing melody #63; it's the Mattins hymn Quem terra, pontus, ethera, called "The God Whom Earth and Sea and Sky" in English.  This hymn is also sung at Mattins on Purification (Candlemas).

Here are the words from Oremus; the note says "Words: attributed to Fortunatus, sixth century; trans. John Mason Neale, 1854."
The God whom earth and sea and sky
adore and laud and magnify,
whose might they own, whose praise they swell,
in Mary's womb vouchsafed to dwell.

The Lord whom sun and moon obey,
whom all things serve from day to day,
was by the Holy Ghost conceived
of her who through his grace believed.

How blessed that Mother, in whose shrine
the world's Creator, Lord divine,
whose hand contains the earth and sky,
once deigned, as in his ark, to lie.

Blessed in the message Gabriel brought,
blessed by the work the Spirit wrought;
from whom the great Desire of earth
took human flesh and human birth.

O Lord, the Virgin-born, to thee
eternal praise and glory be,
whom with the Father we adore
and Holy Ghost for evermore.

The Lauds hymn, O gloriosa femina (sometimes "O gloriosa domina"), is sung to the same melody today;  O gloriosa domina is also sung at Lauds on Purification (Candlemas)

This set of words comes from the SSM Breviary mentioned above (p.291);  it uses the same meter as Quem terra, pontus, ethera, so just sing it to the same tune, as prescribed.
O GLORIOUS Virgin, throned in rest
Amidst the starry host above,
Who gavest nurture from thy breast
To God with pure maternal love:

What we had lost through sinful Eve
The Blossom sprung from thee restores.
And granting bliss to souls that grieve.
Unbars the everlasting doors.

O gate, through which hath passed the King:
O hall, whence light shone through the gloom;
The ransomed nations praise and sing,
Life given from the virgin womb.

All honour, laud, and glory be,
O Jesu, Virgin-born, to Thee;
All glory, as is ever meet,
To Father and to Paraclete. Amen.

CPDL has the words to O gloriosa Domina, in Latin and English; the words above are clearly taken from the same original Latin text, so it's definitely the same song:
O gloriosa Domina
excelsa super sidera,
qui te creavit provide,
lactasti sacro ubere.

Quod Eva tristis abstulit,
tu reddis almo germine;
intrent ut astra flebiles,
Caeli fenestra facta es.

Tu regis alti janua
et porta lucis fulgida;
vitam datam per Virginem,
gentes redemptae, plaudite.

Gloria tibi, Domine,
qui natus es de Virgine,
cum Patre et Sancto Spiritu
in sempiterna secula. Amen.

O Heaven's glorious mistress,
elevated above the stars,
thou feedest with thy sacred breast
him who created thee.

What miserable Eve lost
thy dear offspring to man restors,
the way to glory is open to the wretched
for thou has become the Gate of Heaven.

Thou art the door of the High King,
the gate of shining light.
Life is given through a Virgin:
Rejoice, ye redeemed nations.

Glory be to Thee, O Lord,
Born of a Virgin,
with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
world without end. Amen.

Here's a page from the Poissy Antiphonal that includes both of these hymns - but the melodies seem quite different:

And here again is Letabundus, the Christmas Sequence Hymn, sung today at Second Vespers, as it is on Candlemas also. Here's a lovely version, sung by the Gregorian Singers of the Cremona Church of Sant’Abbondio:

Here's the score, from Hymn Melodies for the whole year from the Sarum service-books:

Here's an image of the score from the same source:

Here's the entry for this feast from the wonderful website Full Homely Divinity:

The Feast of Saint Mary the Virgin - Marymas
August 15th
 O God, who hast taken to thyself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of thy incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of thine eternal kingdom; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Collect for the feast, 1979 BCP)
The feast days of the saints are often referred to as their "heavenly birthdays" since they ordinarily celebrate the day when the saint died and thus passed into the new life of the Kingdom of Heaven.  No one illustrates this better than the Blessed Virgin Mary. Tradition relates that, when the time of her death drew near, all of the apostles gathered in Jerusalem to be with her--all except Thomas, who was preaching the Gospel in India and was unable to return to Jerusalem in time. The apostles gathered around her in a house on Mount Zion, near the Upper Room where they had shared the Last Supper with Jesus and had also received the Holy Spirit with Mary on Pentecost. In the charming medieval carving at the left, John still appears quite youthful, standing on the near side of her bed. Peter is wearing glasses and is reading to her. When she died, the apostles carried her to a tomb in the Garden of Gethsemane, which, tradition says, belonged to Mary's family.

Some time later, the apostles discovered that Mary's tomb was empty. This was not like the Resurrection of Jesus: Mary was not raised from the dead and did not appear to the apostles after her death; nor did an angel announce the news. Rather, her tomb was simply empty and they concluded that she had been taken directly into heaven ("assumed"), in much the same way that scripture and tradition attest that the greatest saints of the Old Testament--Enoch, Moses, and Elijah--were taken up bodily. In time, Thomas returned from India and the apostles told him what had happened, together with their conviction that Mary had been assumed into heaven. According to this tradition, Thomas once again played the role of the doubter and insisted that he would have to see the evidence before he would believe. At this point, we may perhaps be forgiven for thinking that the tradition is a bit unfair to Thomas. It hardly seems possible that this apostle who had traveled far and risked much to share his faith would make the same mistake twice. Nevertheless, the tradition has him going to the tomb of Mary where, instead of her body, he found the tomb full of fragrant flowers--one version of the tradition says the flowers were roses and lilies. And then, looking up, he saw Mary herself, going up to heaven. Looking back, she saw Thomas and dropped the girdle which had tied her robe and an angel delivered it into the hands of Thomas.

It was not until 1950 that the Assumption of Mary was defined as a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church, when Pope Pius XII proclaimed that "the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven." In reality, however, this dogma was nothing new. It simply made it a matter of obligation for Roman Catholics to believe what many Christians have always believed, namely, that God had "taken to himself," for eternity, the blessed woman who had borne his incarnate Son in time. All believers look forward to "the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come." At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the emperor asked the patriarch of Jerusalem to bring the relics of Mary to Constantinople so that they could be enshrined at what was then the center of the world. The patriarch replied that there were no relics because, as he said, the apostles had found that her tomb was empty and her body had been assumed into heaven: she had already gone where we all hope to go.

Some Christians have difficulty with this idea because it is not in the Bible (though, as we have already noted, the Bible does tell of others who have been assumed, body and soul, into heaven). Nevertheless, Mary's role in our salvation, and her particular relationship with God is a pivotal one on our behalf. Her "yes" to the Archangel Gabriel opened the way for God to take on our humanity, to become fully one with us in the flesh. As an ancient prayer says, God humbled himself to share our humanity in order that we might share in his divinity. In the moment that Mary said "yes" to God's plan, she was already one with God in a unique way, bearing within her body God himself. A connection such as this transcends by far the intimacy of human relationships. Indeed, it reaches beyond death--and so the Church believes.

At the Council of Ephesus in 431, Mary was given the title "Theotokos"--"God-bearer" or "Mother of God." Nestorius taught that the divinity and humanity of Jesus were distinct and never mingled, so that Mary was "Christotokos," the mother of the man Jesus, but not the mother of God incarnate. The teaching of Nestorius was rejected by the Council and Mary has been known ever since as Theotokos, in token of the fact that she carried God himself in her womb, and continued ever after to share a special union with him, both in life and in death. In the West, Mary's feast on August 15th is called the Assumption. In the East it is called Koimesis--"Dormition" or "Falling Asleep." Both titles are somewhat vague about the details. Indeed, in spite of the tradition concerning Thomas's vision of her ascent into heaven, the Church is officially silent on the way in which she got there. What is clear is that, as our Collect says, God took Mary to himself, to be with him and one with him for ever. And that is what we celebrate on this day.

There are two places in Jerusalem associated with the end of Mary's earthly life. One is the basilica in the Garden of Gethsemane (above) which houses her tomb. The other is a monastery on Mount Zion on the traditional site of her falling asleep. Dormition is the name the community of German Benedictines have given to the Abbey that crowns Mount Zion. A life-sized sculpture of the Theotokos in the crypt of the Abbey church shows the influence of traditional Byzantine iconography. In the traditional Orthodox icon, Jesus himself is depicted, standing by his Mother as she falls asleep, and holding her soul, like a child, in his arm.

Taking its cue from the experience of Thomas at the tomb of Mary, the celebration of this feast includes the blessing of fragrant flowers and herbs. Flowers have always been associated with Mary in a particular way. She is the Mystical Rose and many flowers are named for her or have popular names that relate to her. Here is a link describing many of Mary's flowers. And here is another link to a slide show with more information about Mary's flowers and Mary Gardens. A Mary Garden is a place to honor the Mother of God, as well as a place to go for quiet reflection and prayer. It could also provide a setting for your Easter Garden.  Mary Gardens may be found on the grounds of monasteries and churches, and also in the gardens of private homes. They are planted with flowers, herbs, and trees that are named for Mary or associated with her and her Son in scripture and tradition. They may also have statuary, icons, and other art and symbols that provide a focus for prayer and contemplation. Ideally, a Mary Garden is enclosed to provide a place truly set-apart, but even a dish garden can serve the purpose if properly used as a means of focusing prayer.

August is the wrong time to plant any kind of garden, but Marymas would be a good day to begin planning and marking out a Mary Garden. Some plants and seeds and bulbs do best if planted in the fall, and others can be added in the spring. Here is a link that will help you choose appropriate plants for your Mary Garden. In addition to the online resources linked above, Vincenzina Krymow's book Mary's Flowers is a beautifully illustrated text about the flowers associated with Mary and their legends. It includes information about how to create your own Mary Garden. Krymow has also written a companion volume, Healing Plants of the Bible. (Click here to find both of these books in our Bookshop.)
Llandaff Cathedral in Wales has a unique variation on a Mary Garden which we like a lot: each of the niches in the reredos of the Lady Chapel has a sculpture of a flower named in Welsh in honor of Mary.

From ancient times, in every culture, herbs and various flowers have been known to have healing properties. The blessing of herbs and flowers on Marymas is a way of "baptizing" the wisdom of traditional healing and combining it with the Christian wisdom that recognizes that God is the true source of healing and that salvation (wholeness) is ultimately found only in the Son of Mary, Jesus Christ. Thus, it was customary for the faithful to bring bunches of herbs and wild flowers to church on this day. They were blessed at the beginning of the Eucharist and then taken home to be used for healing and protection through the coming year. For the renewal of this tradition, an abbreviated form of the traditional prayers are found on ourMarymas Prayers page (click on the title).

In many parishes and especially at shrines, this is a day for processions and for celebrations that continue after the liturgical observances have been completed. Traditionally, working people had a holiday from work, so that there were also family celebrations. Today, we must be more creative about marking these holidays in our homes, and it may be necessary to transfer some of the celebration to the weekend in order to keep the spirit of a fully homely divinity alive and healthy. If your parish does not have a procession on this day, or if you are unable to attend, why not have a family procession? Hymn singing does not require an organ for accompaniment, and does not need to rival the Kings College Choir in order to praise God in joyful song. (You will find an assortment of good hymns on our Sing of Mary page.) Homemade banners can be as simple as strips of cloth waved by children, or as elaborate as those with greater skills can make them. Our homes can be filled with fragrant flowers and herbs. In the northern hemisphere, this is an outdoor feast. If you do not have a Mary Garden, any garden or park will serve--even the back porch, fitted out with potted plants and cut flowers and herbs, will serve quite well.

An especially good, yet relatively simple way to celebrate this feast is to have a tea party. A festive table can be set in your version of a Mary Garden, which is already full of flowers. Perhaps a few Mary flowers could be put in a small vase on the table. For drinks, we suggest teas that are scented with herbs or made entirely with herbs, as well as a fruit and herb punch from our friends at Catholic Culture that children will enjoy. For those who like old fashioned black teas, there are teas that are flavored with roses--a natural for the feast of the Mystical Rose. Earl Grey tea is another good choice as it is infused with Bergamot, a variety of Monarda, or Bee Balm, which is also known as Sweet Mary. For food, at the tea party, we suggest nasturtium sandwiches and strawberry shortcake. It is a little late in the season for local strawberries but, with modern refrigeration and transportation, it seems that almost any fresh fruit or vegetable can be obtained year-round. The strawberry was known as the "Fruitful Virgin" because it blooms and bears fruit at the same time. Another lovely European tradition says that the strawberry is sacred to Mary who accompanies children to keep them safe when they go strawberry picking on St. John's Day. The nasturtium is known as "St. Joseph's Flower." It is an edible flower and can be combined with cream cheese to make tea sandwiches. Tea should be accompanied by prayers appropriate to the occasion, such as the Collect of the Day which begins this article. Children should be told the story of Mary's heavenly birthday--how else will they learn it? Tomie de Paola's beautifully illustrated book Mary: The Mother of Jesus (available in our Bookshop) tells the story reverently and well. Finally, everyone will enjoy a walk in the garden which could easily be made into a game, with an award, such as a Mary-blue ribbon, for the person who identifies the most flowers and herbs that are named for Mary.
For more information about Mary on FHD, click on the links below and also visit our pages on Marymas Prayers and Sing to Mary.

Feasts of Mary
Here is a list of some of the Feast Days which celebrate Mary and her role in our salvation:
December 8th - The Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

December 12th - Our Lady of Guadalupe
December 18th - Santa Maria de la O
December 25th - The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

February 2nd - The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple,
also known as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Candlemas

March 19th - Saint Joseph (Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

March 25th - The Annunciation of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary

May 31st - The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

July 26th - The Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Joachim and Anne

August 15th - Saint Mary the Virgin
(The Assumption, or The Dormition of the Mother of God)

September 8th - The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
(Our Lady of Glastonbury)
September 24th - Our Lady of Walsingham
October 1st - The Protecting Veil of the Mother of God
November 1st - All Saints' Day (formerly Saint Mary and All Martyrs)

And here's a peek-through to the SSM Breviary; rather than clicking the link above, you can just scroll through the day's offices here, if you'd rather:

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