Monday, August 16, 2010

The Blessing of Seed, Herbs and Flowers at the Feast of the Dormition

As many will know, yesterday was the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also known as the Feast of the Dormition in the Eastern churches. John Vernoski, the editor of the excellent Byzantine Catholic site,, sends in for us the following note about a custom on the Feast of the Dormition:

From ancient times we have been taught that when Mary, the Mother God, fell asleep the whole company of the Apostles – except Thomas - was miraculously brought together in Jerusalem. Amid divine and heavenly praises they commended her soul into the hands of God and placed her body in a little tomb in Gethsemane. For three days a choir of Angels continued to sing above her tomb. And on the third day Thomas arrived. So that he could venerate the body that had given birth to Christ God, the Apostles opened the tomb. They found not the body of the Mother of God but the winding sheet and the most beautiful and sweet-smelling flowers. Mary’s body had been taken up into the heavens by her Son. Flowers were blessed from the earliest times in both East and West. Over time seeds and herbs used for medicinal purposes were also blessed, in commemoration of the many healings and blessings that were bestowed upon the pilgrims at Mary’s tomb. The Book of Needs (Trebnyk or Euchologian) contains several possible prayers to bless seed, herbs and flowers, one of which is below:

O Almighty, God from before all ages, by Your word alone You created out of nothingness the heavens, earth, sea and all things visible and invisible. You commanded that the earth bring forth plants and trees to serve both man and animal, each according to its need. In your infinite goodness You ordained that these plants serve not only as food but also as medicine for the sick body. We beseech You, bless this seed, these herbs and these flowers and bestow upon them Your blessing and endow thme with Your power. Make them to serve man and animal alike as a defense against all sickness and every defilement, for You are our God, and we send up glory to You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Detail of an Icon of the Dormition

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As John noted in his piece above, this custom extends to both East and West, and I took note on Br. Stephen's blog from Spring Bank, that they blessed some herbs from their garden for Assumption:

And here was the Abbey's feast for the Assumption:

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