Sacred Liturgy & Sacraments: August 2009 Archives

RM masthead.jpgThe US Bishops' Committee on Divine Worship launched a new website today (on the liturgical memorial of St Pius X, no less!!!) that pulls together tons of info on the proposed new translation of the Novus Ordo Mass. The aim of the website is to educate us on the forthcoming Roman Missal. All I can say at the moment: THANKS BE TO GOD! What I've seen of the work on the this website looks pretty good and I look forward to more. Poke around...and familiarize yourself with what the Church is proposing in terms of praying the Mass. Notice that we are no longer calling the "big red book used at Mass by the priest" the "sacramentary" but the Roman Missal. The first step is a good one.
On 22 August, Orlando's National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe will be formally recognized as a minor basilica at a Mass with the accompanying rites.

Florida's basilica is the 63rd minor basilica in the USA.

Another version of a blessing of herbs or flowers on the Solemnity of the Assumption. In this case though, the blessing is taken from the Byzantine ritual and so we ought to say the "Dormition", this is the proper term in the East for what the Latins call the Assumption of Mary. 

O almighty, eternal God, by your word alone You created out of nothing the heavens, earth, sea, and all things visible and invisible. You commanded that the earth give forth plants and trees for the needs of man and animal, each according to its need. In your infinite goodness You ordained that these plants serve not only as food for the animals but also as medicine for the sick body. We beseech you, bless these different plants and fruits and bestow upon them your blessing, and endow them with your power, so that they may serve man and animal like as a defense against all sickness and all that is impure: for You are our God and we give glory to You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever, and forever. Amen.

These flowers (or: plants) are blessed and sanctified by the sprinkling of this holy water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

It is customary in the Western Church, since at least the 10th century, for the priest to bless herbs on the Solemnity of the Assumption. The Eastern Church likely had a similar formulary much earlier.

As a point of liturgical fact, the Church asks God to bless herbs and flowers --and thus us-- to remind all of us of the gifts God has given us for our sustenance, healing and beauty. In many places the faithful had all their flowers blessed, especially those closely associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Herbs blessing, therefore, is another example of giving thanks, a key theological and liturgical point in our life of faith. While customary it is not likely to be used in many parishes. The collects for the herbs blessing rich and savory.

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (2001) says of herbs blessing:

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The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (15 August) is deeply imbedded in popular piety. In many places the feast is synonymous with the person of Our Lady, and is simply referred to as "Our Lady's Day" or as the "Immacolada" in Spain and Latin America.

In the Germanic countries, the custom of blessing herbs is associated with 15 August. This custom, received into the Rituale Romanum (200), represents a clear example of the genuine evangelization of pre-Christian rites and beliefs: one must turn to God, through whose word "the earth produced vegetation: plants bearing seeds in their several kinds, and trees bearing fruit with their seed inside in their several kinds" (Gen 1, 12) in order to obtain what was formerly obtained by magic rites; to stem the damages deriving from poisonous herbs, and benefit from the efficacy of curative herbs.

This ancient use came to be associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary, in part because of the biblical images applied to her such as vine, lavender, cypress and lily, partly from seeing her in terms of a sweet smelling flower because of her virtue, and most of all because of Isaiah 11, 1, and his reference to the "shoot springing from the side of Jesse", which would bear the blessed fruit of Jesus.

The Order of Blessing of Herbs is found here.

Transfiguration of the Lord

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Christ Jesus, the brightness of the Father and the image of His substance, upholding all things by the word of His power, effecting man's purgation from sin, has deigned to appear this day in glory on a high mountain.

Transfiguration Raffaello.jpg
The Church celebrates the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. It is one of two times in the liturgical year that the gospel tells the narrative of the Lord's being transfigured. The other time we hear the narrative of the Transfiguration is in Lent. The Franciscans built a church to mark the sight of the Transfiguration and the oldest monastery in Sinai, Saint Catherine's (an Orthodox monastery), has an ancient mosaic dedicated to this feast. As point of ecclesial comparison, the Orthodox Church observes today also as a significant feast of the Lord. Hence, the commonality of liturgical observances gives witness to a Christian reality.

Today's feast is a twofold reminder of the Lord's victory over death and the promise of the resurrection. You will recall that the one of the witnesses to this vision is Peter, and this vision of the Lord's glory happens after Peter's confession of who Jesus is and his belief in Jesus' messiahship. A very bold claim to make, indeed. One might say that the vision portrayed in the gospel today is a reward for faith, hope and love in the Lord's proclamation of the Kingdom. It also foreshadows the Lord's passion and death on Calvary. This event is preparatory for that great event on what we now call Good Friday and Easter Sunday. All the synoptics record the Transfiguration.

Rafael's beautiful painting is an enduring testament of the apostolic vision on Mount Tabor. The upper part of the painting is that of Jesus with Peter, James and John. The lower section relates the Lord's curing of a possessed child. It is said that Rafael was commissioned to paint the Transfiguration to celebrate the Christian triumph over the Muslims and to state in no uncertain terms what Christians believe: Jesus as the divine physician overcomes death of the body and in doing so gives us glory in the resurrection. The addition of the child's cure demonstrates for us this fact: that the Lord restores to life a sick child, thus conquering sickness and death.

In this way the Lord's Transfiguration fulfills what was told by the prophet Elijah and Moses who spoke of future glory.

What Rafael does for us is to invite us into the Lord's promise of immortality. He shows us that the Lord is preparing us to enter into the destiny that God the Father offered to us: communion with Himself.

O God, Who in the glorious Transfiguration of Thine only-begotten Son did confirm the mysteries of the faith by the testimonies of the fathers, and Who by Thy voice from the shining cloud did in a wondrous manner foreshadow the perfect adoption of sons, make us in Thy loving-kindness, we beseech Thee, co-heirs with Him Who is the King of glory and in that very glory call us one day to share.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Sacred Liturgy & Sacraments category from August 2009.

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