Assumption of Our Lady

This feast is the memorial of Our Lady's death, burial, rising to life - her Passover and glorious assumption into heaven.

In ancient times, the churches of the west and many eastern churches, still today, begin the feast with an all-night vigil mourning the death of the Mother of Christ. Then at dawn, a great Mass celebrated her resurrection and assumption.

In pre-Reformation England, this was the most popular summer festival. It inspired all kinds of village fairs, parties and dances. King Alfred the Great made the feast of Our Lady's

Assumption a 'bank holiday' in his kingdom.

Russian and Greek Orthodox Christians call this feast the Dormition, or the Falling Asleep of Our Lady.

In both the East and West, Mary is the most important of saints - although little is known of her life.

St Matthew describes how, when the angel Gabriel came to her and said: "Hail favoured one, the Lord is with you", she replied simply: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be be done unto me according to your word."

When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, Elizabeth said: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."

It was on this occasion that Mary sang the Magnificat:

"My soul glorifies the Lord, My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour..."

The next mention of Mary in the New Testament comes when St Luke recounts the family's journey to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve. Mary, he says, kept everything she saw and learnt of her son in her heart.

From time to time, Mary is mentioned during Jesus' public ministry. At the wedding feast, she urges her son to do something when the wine runs out early.

At the crucifixion, according to St John, as Mary stood by the apostle watching her son die, Jesus said to her: "Behold your son," and to John: "Behold your mother." From that hour the disciple looked after Mary in his own home.

The last mention of Mary in the New Testament, is in the Acts when we learn that she was with the disciples at Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit came upon them all.

Many fiestas are held in Italy on this day, which is called locally, the Feast of Our Lady of Surprises.

Professor Ivo Sefton de Azevedo, in Brazil, once sent us this prayer.

To Our Lady of Surprises

O Mary, my mother and Our Lady of Surprises, what a happy joy you caused

the wedding guests when you asked your Divine Son to work the miracle of water into wine!

What a happy surprise for them since they thought the wine had run dry.

I too, Mary, love surprises and as your child, may I ask you to favour me with

one today? I ask this only because you are my ever caring Mother. Amen.