Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven


Jerusalem, August 15, 2012

Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven

As every year, the faithful have the grace to gather at the “Tomb of Mary” in the Kidron Valley and at the foot of Gethsemane, in order to celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. The Church, from the Crusader period, is now under the guardianship of the Orthodox.

The celebrations began the night before, on the Vigil, with First Vespers, in the garden near the Sepulchre of the Madonna and across from the Basilica of the Agony. During the Vigil service, animated by the Franciscans, readings from some passages of the Gospel were alternated with Marian hymns and reflections by the Fathers of the Church.

After these prayers, participants processed with lit candles, to the Basilica for the final blessing, passing around the Garden of Olives.

The most important part of the celebration, the Solemn Mass, was held in the Basilica on Wednesday morning. The Eucharist was presided over by the Custos of the Holy Land, Fra Pierbattista Pizzaballa, and concelebrated by the Custodial Vicar, Fra Artesia Vitores, Bishop Joseph Kelelian, Bishop of the Armenian Catholic Church, and priests of the Custody and other Religious Communities.

In the Basilica, filled with both pilgrims and the local Christian community, Fra Firas Hijazin gave the homily, in Arabic, pointing out the significance of the Dogma of the Assumption proclaimed by Pius XII in 1950, and asked the intercession of Mary for peace in Syria, a country tried and in great need at this time.

In the afternoon, the Custos presided at the 2nd Vespers in the Cave of the Arrest, near the Church of the Assumption, where once can see a fresco near the altar representing the Assumption of Mary. The small cave was packed with pilgrims, local Christians and foreigners who live in Jerusalem and its environs.

It was a profound moment of prayer, both solemn and collected, which ended with an invocation to the Queen of the Holy Land: “…Remember that here you were made our tender Mother and the giver of graces: watch over with special protection your earthly homeland, dispel the darkness of error because here shown the Sun of eternal Justice, and may the promise of your Divine Son be fulfilled, to form one flock under one Shepherd…”

The pilgrimage to the Sepulcher of Mary continued in silent procession down the long staircase, ending in front of the Tomb. The interior still retains the austere and solemn style of the crusader period.

The assembly gathered in an intense time of prayer, interspersed with Marian melodies of Western tradition, an almost single echo of prayer poured forth in this holy place, over the course of centuries.

Those present took their turn in approaching the stone table, the only sign left of the empty tomb of Mary.

This is the only day that the Latin rite is allowed to preside over a brief liturgy in this church, known as the Tomb of the Virgin, which is currently under the control of the Orthodox, Armenian and Greek. The Friars Minor, after a period of exclusive possession, was expelled in 1757.

There are no canonical texts describing how Mary spent the last years of her earthly life, but there are some apocryphal texts, all traceable to an original document, a Judeo-Christian prototype from the second Century. This contains a range of information about the last days and the death of Mary saying, among other things, that the Apostles laid the body of the Mother of Jesus in Gethsemane in a new tomb and, after three days, they found it empty.

The Tomb has been guarded and venerated by the Judeo-Christians from the earliest centuries, which was eventually isolated and enclosed within a church. Veneration and devotion to Mary in this place has not been wanting, despite all the changes to it and its environs. The empty grave has born and nourishes the faith of Christian people on the Assumption of Mary into heaven.

August 1st, begins the month of Mary and the “Lent of the Madonna”, a fifteen-day fast in preparation for the Feast on August 15.

After the final blessing, an enjoyable time of fellowship and sharing was held in the garden above the Tomb of Mary.