Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Robert Sevensky, OHC
Feast of Saint Mary the Virgin- Tuesday, August16, 2016
Flowers And Herbs From The Monastery Garden
Our Brother Robert preached without notes. What follows is a synopsis of his sermon:
Today the community celebrates the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin. Known by many titles (The Dormition or Falling Asleep, the Assumption, the Heaven-going), the solemnity celebrates the passing of the Virgin Mary into God's nearer Presence. Our Br. Robert preached at our Eucharist and spoke of the Slavic tradition of blessing herbs and flowers on this day.
There are many legends surrounding Mary's passing, and one very popular one speaks of the Apostles gathering together at her death. Thomas, as usual, is late, and asks to see the Mary's body one last time, now already in the tomb. When the tomb is opened for him, no body is found. Instead there is an abundance of flowers and sweet smelling herbs and spices. Perhaps that is the most adequate language we have to speak of the mystery of death and eternal life, Mary's and ours. It is certainly the most beautiful.
The sermon concluded with the traditional blessing of flowers and herbs, using prayers from both the Byzantine tradition and the Book of Common Prayer:
"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 human beings and animals, 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 humans and animals alike 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.
"We give you thanks, most gracious God, for the beauty of earth and sky and sea; for the richness of mountains, plains, and rivers; for the songs of birds and the loveliness of flowers. We praise you for these good gifts, and pray that we may safeguard them for our posterity. Grant that we may continue to grow in our grateful enjoyment of your abundant creation, to the honor and glory of your Name, now and for ever. Amen.
"These flowers, herbs and plants are blessed and sanctified in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary through the sprinkling of this holy water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."