Every year in mid August, Catholics in and around Greece unite to celebrate the memory of Virgin Mary (Jesus Christ’s mother), in a feast based upon ancient Marian beliefs that Mary’s body ascended up to Heaven on a specific day. That specific day is known to be August the 15th, a day many Catholics claim to be the date of Mary’s body assumption that dates back to the 300’s A.D.
Other than our Greek friends of course, the commemorative day is known to be celebrated in other parts of Europe, North and South America like the US or , as a form of symbolism centred around Mary’s body entering heaven, instead of going through the usual process of decay, most humans go through.
Now of course dear readers, none of us were around in that time period to indicate this to be true. In fact, it’s heavily debated that Mary’s body was even buried, to the extent where her body relics or burial tomb are nowhere to be found.
This unorthodox theory extends to the lack of a mention for Virgin’s Mary whereabout in the Holy Scripture itself, which leads us to this very question.Why do Greek Catholics celebrate this particular tradition, even though there’s close to no mention of this momentous occasion in the Bible?…
Well, it was decreed in November 1950 by the Pope Pius XII that this very day was to be celebrated, as the exact day that Virgin’s Mary body and soul, was accepted into Heaven. From there on in, Catholics worldwide were given an a day to commemorate this Eastern Orthodox, in their own religious fashion that observes this Assumption dogma, as a significant day in the religious calendar.
As we all know in the scriptures of the Bible, death is the end point of life, a term used to signify the end point of one’s lifespan. In Virgin’s Mary case, her assumption was symbolised as a reward for her faith, co-operation, perseverance and obvious role in the upbringing of the Prodigal son: Jesus Christ… which leads many to celebrate the Feast of Mary as a public holiday on the 15th of August every year.
As quoted by St John’s Damascene in one of his sermons…
“Your sacred and happy soul, as nature will have it, was separated in death from your most blessed and immaculate body, and although the body was duly interred, it did not remain in the state of death, neither was it dissolved by decay; your most pure and sinless body was not left on earth, but you were transferred to your heavenly throne.”
Notable quote one may say, I mean who’s to dispute St John, let alone the Pope now?
The event itself is celebrated with symbolic mosaics, food offerings that last throughout the day, liturgical services usually conducted in religious settings (ideally the Church, one will have you), processions and thus forth, just to ensure that visitors, let alone Catholics can commemorate the orthodox tradition in the right manner. This is done to ensure that the memory and wonderful life of Virgin Mary is respected and honoured in the best way possible, whilst maintaining the solemnity of the occasion for those celebrating her life, be it in an Eastern or Western church context.
For example, we see an delicately illustrated image of how Catholics assume Mary’s body, was eventually accepted into heaven through this image below here.
Greek wise, the civilians in the country choose to celebrate the Day of Mary’s assumption by turning the day into one joyous festival, with the event being nicknamed as “the Easter of the Summer”. The event leads to most corners and areas, being full of people going to church processions to pay tribute to one of the favourite saints in the Holy Scripture annually, with Virgin’s Mary being paraded throughout the country on posters, walls, altars and more during the day.
With the celebrations of Mary’s Assumption in Greece and elsewhere, the Saint has gathered a selection of titles that commemorate her sacred place among the saints often lauded in the Holy Scripture, much of which stems from the symbolism often placed on the the Dormition of the Virgin, as some nickname the festival. Here are some of the titles listed to Virgin Mary…
- Virgin of Tinos
- Mary of Jerusalem in the Holy Land
- Axion Estif of Mount Athos
Local festivals, street vendors and street bands are easy to be found, in the city of Agaissos during Assumption Day, as tourists, civilians and any random scooter of a human can enjoy the festivities at hand, for their own pleasure. That’s what makes Assumption Day so popular and festive for people to commemorate Virgin Mary’s Day so willingly- it combines the holy communion and spirituality of celebrating the mother of the prodigal son, whilst indulging in one of the joyous days of the Greek calendar, yearly.
There’s food, music, scripture readings and a whole lot of culture to take in, once you step foot in the Assumption Festival…. If you ask me my dear readers, what more can you really ask for??