Historically, the Solemnity of the Ascension is an ancient and major feast for the Church (thus, its status as a holy day of obligation). In order to think of it and treat it with the same reverence as Christians of days past, it helps to understand it more deeply. Here are three aspects of Ascension Thursday that we can reflect on today.
Marian Gardens were small plots of ground dedicated to growing shrubs, herbs, and flowers that were representative of Mary and various events from her life. This was quite easy to do, as literally hundreds of plants were given Marian names in remembrance of Mary’s saintly life and glorious virtues.
If you’ve ever heard of Rosemary and Marigold, then you already know some plants named after the Blessed Mother. Each time one of these plants caught the eye, the faithful were sweetly reminded of the Queen of Heaven and Earth. As a sign of devotion to Our Lady, people began to plant gardens in churches, monasteries, convents, and family homes intentionally filled with plants named after her, which became known as Mary Gardens.
May, when the earth blooms in springtime beauty, is an ideal time for our thoughts and sentiments to be directed towards this supremely lovely Queen of Heaven and Earth, who busily labors from her heavenly throne to conquer hearts, minds, and souls for the greater glory of her Son. So, how can you honor the Blessed Virgin Mary in a special way this month, and allow her to conquer your own heart? Here are nine ideas.
Since we live in an era when customs and traditions have faded and tend to lose their meaning, it’s good to remind ourselves that, concluding the spiritual preparation of Lent, Holy Week is the annual commemoration of the Passion of Christ. It’s not just another religious tradition. We aren’t celebrating the fact that the Son of God suffered and died, but Catholics are recognizing and honoring His sacrifice, accompanying Him spiritually and physically, as if we had been there with Him, two thousand years ago.
Painting Easter eggs is a beloved ancient tradition for Eastern Catholic churches as well as Orthodox. The eggs are often dyed red to represent the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the cross. The Easter eggs are then carried to the church in baskets to be blessed by the priest at the end of the Easter vigil before being distributed to the faithful. Historically, Christians would abstain from eating eggs during a strict Lent, so Easter was the first chance to eat eggs again after a long period of abstinence. The egg represented the sealed Tomb of Christ, and cracking the shell represented Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
Towards the end of Lent you may notice purple cloths draped over crucifixes, statues, and images of saints in your church. In some churches, these items are actually removed from the sanctuary altogether.
This old custom of veiling religious images is a way of focusing on the penitential aspect of this liturgical season. It reminds us in a visual way that our faith is made possible only through the work of Christ in his suffering and death on the cross.
Although most popular during Lent, this season is not the only good time to pray the Stations of the Cross. It is always recommended to the faithful to meditate on Christ’s Passion frequently, especially on Fridays as a perpetual day of penance, to obtain graces and grow in holiness. “There is no practice more profitable for the entire sanctification of the soul than the frequent meditation of the sufferings of Jesus Christ.” – St. Alphonsus de Liguori
Fasting is an ancient spiritual discipline taught in the Bible, and modeled for us by Jesus himself during his forty-day sojourn into the wilderness in preparation for his earthly ministry. Why is fasting so important in the life of a Christian? Below are three reasons as described by St. Thomas Aquinas.
It should not surprise us that fasting is beneficial to our bodies and our minds as well as our souls, since as human beings, we are made up of all three. When something benefits one of our faculties, it benefits all of them. The integration of body, mind, and soul is, in fact, a goal of many spiritual pursuits. Actually, fasting has a long history as a healing tradition.