2012 m. rugpjūčio 16 d., ketvirtadienis

Assumption Day

Assumption Day is held every 15th of August in Lithuania. The period of summer meeting autumn has been important in our culture since ancient times. It is the day we say goodbye to plants and flowers. Crops have been taken, fruit and berries picked, jams made, - all major harvesting works are completed. During this day, women would pick the most beautiful field flowers and herbs and then Mother Earth for harvest and beauty. Farmers would bake bread from fresh grains and make beer or kvass. During this day the entire family gathered and the dead were remembered. It has also been a worldwide pagan festival, because on this day the Romans would worship Diana, the Greeks would worship Artemis- flora and fauna goddesses. With the introduction of Roman Christian faith in Lithuania, this day became associated with Assumption Day- Virgin Mary’s Being Taken to Heaven Day. It is said that when she died, Apostles held wake by her grave and Peter saw her rising from the dead and being taken to Heaven by God. When they opened her sarcophagus, the body was not there-instead, they found many beautiful flowers. And there appeared a sign in the sky- a woman clothed in the Sun, Moon under her feet, and 12 stars on her head, as described by John the Evangelist. The dogma about Assumption was passed only in 1950 but the liturgical celebration of it has been known since the 5th century. Every year there are celebrations in Lithuanian churches for this day. Herbs, flowers, crops, vegetables, etc. are blessed in churches. Dried flowers were kept with icons to protect from thunder or illness.

The topic has inspired many great artists and has been, in my opinion, the second most popular topic for painters after Annunciation.

Assumption by Guido Reni. Source: http://www.wikigallery.org/wiki/painting_237615/Guido-Reni/Assumption-of-the-Virgin

 So, what EXACTLY is going on at Assumption in Lithuania?

Well, there are several places that have miraculous paintings of Virgin Mary and during Assumption it takes several days for the church feast. There are currently more than 200 churches in Lithuania that bear the name of Assumption. The one in Krekenava, now officially a basilica as well, has the church festival for 8 days. Next year, for a more exciting spiritual experience, I am going to choose a famous Assumption fest place because in smaller places this fest is not reflected best. So, this was how I spent that day.

First of all, one must obtain some bouquet of flowers/herbs to take to the church. There were many sellers of them. Prices were reasonable, but people frowned at Japanese tourists and photographers (me included). Some people just can't take in that once they are in  a public place nobody has to ask for their permission to take photos of them. Such permissions are usually granted when you buy something, but sometimes I'm just interested in a photo only. But back to the point, one needs a bouquet:





Next was making up one's mind about which church to go to. More popular churches (like the Cathedral) are usually crowded on such days and they are not very cozy (if only a church can be cozy, that is). So, I headed to St. Nicholas church. BTW, do you believe in Santa Claus? Nicolas was a Greek bishop and he had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus. He is also a very, very busy saint if to trust Wikipedia, as Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, children, and students in various countries in the Balkans and Eastern Europe (Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Greece, Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia), as well as in parts of Western Europe (Belgium, France, Netherlands, Portugal). He is also the patron saint of Aberdeen, Amsterdam, Barranquilla, Bari, Beit Jala, Fribourg, Huguenots, Kozani, Liverpool, Paternopoli, Sassari, Siggiewi, and Lorraine. St. Nicolas church is the oldest surviving (Gothic) church in Lithuania, built in the Old Town of the capital city Vilnius, built in the 14th century for German merchants who came to live in the city. 

Pay attention to typical Gothic brick decoration of the doorway.

Windows are not yet totally arching Gothic as this is still the early days of this period.

Gothic master's signature on the brick.
The Mass took 1 hour. It was lovely. The small church was full but there was enough place for everybody to sit down. The priest was also very good, he read what he had to read but he also spoke sincerely from his heart. The Mass also celebrated a 50 year's wedding anniversary of an elderly couple. It was quality time spent, no doubt.  However, I never stop wondering how prayers have changed in text during the past 10 years!

I was hungry to hunt beautiful decorations, but many Roman Catholic churches we went to that day didn't have any. We visited several Russian Orthodox churches but they have Assumption of their own in about two weeks time only (that day they celebrate St. Stephen the Martyr).  But St. Ann's church, honouring mother of Mary, was decorated with ribbons:



Central altar painting can be seen in the distance.

So, this is it. Do you have similar traditions in your country?


1 komentaras:

flowers in lithuania rašė...

I have been in Lithuania last summer and saw these beautiful wild flowers. This is very symbolic that the farewell to summer and welcome autumn festival sold wild flower bouquets.