The 15th of August is a special day for Catholics around the world. On this day, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. It is indeed one of the oldest Marian feasts in the Roman calendar.
In the East, our brethren have a different name for it; they call it the Feast of the Dormition. When Pope Pius XII proclaimed the belief in the Assumption of Mary with body and soul into Heaven as a dogma in his bull Munificentissimus Deus of November 1, 1950, he avoided the controversy as to whether Mary died or not before being assumed into Heaven and stated thus: “that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” (MD 44).
Eight parishes on the main island of Malta, the National Sanctuary of Ta’ Pinu, the Parish Church of Żebbuġ in Gozo and the Cathedral Church of our Diocese of Gozo honour the Blessed Mother of God in the mystery of her glorious assumption. Therefore, the 15th of August is not only a special day for these particular parishes but for the entire Maltese archipelago which has revered the Mother of God since time immemorial. It was then Bishop Publius Maria Sant who in 1844 declared Mary assumed into Heaven as the special Patron and Protector of the Maltese islands.
From these columns, we would like to wish the entire Catholic community, but especially our sister parish in Victoria – the Cathedral parish – il-festa t-tajba! What follows is a poem by English poet John Donne – an Anglican priest born to Roman Catholic parents – a poem which is in itself a proof that the Virgin enjoys a special devotion not only among Catholics and Orthodox Christians, but also by our Anglican brethren.
O fruitful garden, and yet never till’d!
Box full of treasure, yet by no man fill’d!
O thou which hast made Him that first made thee!
O near of kin to all the Trinity!
O palace, where the King of all, and more,
went in and out, yet never open’d door,
whose flesh is purer than another’s spirit,
reach Him our prayers, and reach us down His merit!
O bread of life which swelld’st up without leaven!
O bridge which join’st together earth and heaven!
Whose eyes see me through these walls, and through glass,
and through this flesh as through cypress pass.
Behold a little heart made great by thee
swelling, yet shrinking at thy majesty.
O dwell in it! for wheresoe’er thou go’st,
there is the temple of the Holy Ghost.
(John Donne, To the Blessed Virgin Mary)
Photo: Ray Grech