By Jennifer Gregory Miller (bio - articles - email ) | Aug 12, 2022 | In The Liturgical Year
We celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary this Monday, August 15th. This feast day always evokes the best parts of summer for me, but it also is a signal that summer is waning and schools will be back in session.
Traditionally this has been a harvest feast, connected to the herbs and fruits of the season. There was a Blessing of Fruits and Herbs (including flowers) included in the older Roman Ritual for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The reason for the connection of the harvest blessing and the Assumption is that Mary is considered a “first fruit.”
But what are “first fruits” (sometimes written as “firstfruits” or “first-fruits”)? I have been pondering this term for a while...and there is so much room for wonder and meditation. As a modern culture we have been so separated from our agrarian roots that it makes that term not something in our everyday language.
The term “first fruits” begins in the Old Testament, reserving as sacred and offering as gift to the Lord the first and best of all harvest and flock. This sacred offering is mentioned in the very first book of the Bible, where Cain offers fruit that has fallen to the ground, while Abel offers fatty firstlings of his flock. The Sabbath observance is also a type of giving over first fruits to God. Later, with Moses as mediator for God’s covenant with the Israelites, the feast of Weeks or Pentecost was established, offering a sheaf of the first fruits of the harvest.
First fruits did not always mean harvests and flocks, but also first born of men, of families. But all first fruits were intended to be set apart for God.
Later came the imagery of the Old Testament talked about Israel being a first fruit of God, as the Prophet Jeremiah: “Sacred to the LORD was Israel, the first fruits of his harvest.” Other prophets repeated that God did not want hollow sacrifices and burnt offerings of first fruits, but a change in heart.
That is the historical and Old Testament basis of “first fruits.” For a farmer, it makes sense to offer “first fruits” of one’s harvest to God. I began to see the connection of some of the observances of the Liturgical Year, such as the traditional Ember Days and the Assumption with “first fruits.” But then I attended a funeral shortly after the feast and my ears perked up when I heard the Collect prayer for that funeral Mass:
Almighty God and Father,
it is our certain faith
that your Son, who died on the Cross, was raised from the dead,
the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep.
Grant that through this mystery
your servant (Name), who has gone to his/her rest in Christ,
may share in the joy of his resurrection.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
I realized that while the original images of “first fruits” related to harvest and first born, the New Testament and the Liturgy have used this term in different imageries.
Above all, Christ is the “first fruits”:
Brothers and sisters: Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through man, the resurrection of the dead came also through man. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when he hands over the Kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death, for “he subjected everything under his feet” (1 Cor 15:20-27).
But there are also other kinds of first fruits: there is the gift of the Holy Spirit, the first fruits:
We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies (Rom 8:22-23).
From the Pentecost Sunday Vigil Mass, Opening Prayer:
Dear brethren (brothers and sisters), we have now begun our Pentecost Vigil, after the example of the Apostles and disciples, who with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, persevered in prayer, awaiting the Spirit promised by the Lord; like them, let us, too, listen with quiet hearts to the Word of God. Let us meditate on how many great deeds God in times past did for his people and let us pray that the Holy Spirit, whom the Father sent as the first fruits for those who believe, may bring to perfection his work in the world.
The Preface VI of the Sundays in Ordinary Time:
It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God. For in you we live and move and have our being, and while in this body we not only experience the daily effects of your care, but even now possess the pledge of life eternal. For, having received the first fruits of the Spirit, through whom you raised up Jesus from the dead, we hope for an everlasting share in the Paschal Mystery. And so, with all the Angels, we praise you, as in joyful celebration we acclaim: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts . . .
Eucharistic Prayer IV
…And that we might live no longer for ourselves but for him who died and rose again for us, he sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father, as the first fruits for those who believe, so that, bringing to perfection his work in the world, he might sanctify creation to the full.(Video) #03 Understanding Human Nature
Through our baptism, we Christians are also first fruits also:
Dearest brothers and sisters: All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change. He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures (James 1:17-18).
And in a special way, the early martyrs were the first fruits of the Church.
I, John, looked and there was the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. I heard a sound from heaven like the sound of rushing water or a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. They were singing what seemed to be a new hymn before the throne, before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn this hymn except the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been ransomed from the earth. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been ransomed as the first fruits of the human race for God and the Lamb. On their lips no deceit has been found; they are unblemished (Rev 14:1-3, 4b-5).
The Collect from June 30, The First Martyrs of Holy Roman Church:
O God, who consecrated the abundant first fruits of the Roman Church by the blood of the Martyrs, grant, we pray, that with firm courage we may together draw strength from so great a struggle and ever rejoice at the triumph of faithful love. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
And the Collect from July 25, Feast of Saint James, Apostle:
Almighty ever-living God, who consecrated the first fruits of your Apostles by the blood of Saint James, grant, we pray, that your Church may be strengthened by his confession of faith and constantly sustained by his protection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
And December 28 The Holy Innocents, Martyrs, Communion Antiphon:
Behold those redeemed as the first fruits of the human race for God and the Lamb, and who follow the Lamb wherever he goes.
Back to the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, we find that the Church also recognizes her at the “first fruit” of Christ. The second reading for the Solemnity of the Assumption is from 1 Cor 15:20-27:
Brothers and sisters: Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through man, the resurrection of the dead came also through man. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when he hands over the Kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death, for “he subjected everything under his feet.”
Florence Berger eloquently describes this connection with Our Lady on this feast:
This day, as you know, is the principal and oldest feast of the Virgin. It is the first harvest feast of the year and correctly so, for Mary was a first fruit to be gathered into the Father’s barn. Whatever good men have done, whatever harvest God has reaped, is due in some measure to Mary: for through Mary we have “partaken of the fruit of life”: through Mary “true life flowed out to all.” So when the harvest was ripe Mary became first in time and eternity.
Which has me back to pondering Mary both giving herself as a first fruit, but also offering her first fruits.
These examples of first fruits is not exhaustive. I have actually been pondering this since last year’s feast of the Assumption! I am only scratching the beginning of “first fruits” in the language of our Scripture and Liturgy. In pondering first fruits, there is a both an appreciation of the first fruits given to us, as in Christ and the Holy Spirit, but also a self-examination. Am I giving my best, my finest, my first fruits back to God? And on this feast of Mary, I have both her example of giving herself, the first fruits, to God, but also her help and protection in aiding me to prioritize and give over my first-fruits to Christ.
Jennifer Gregory Miller is an experienced homemaker, mother, CGS catechist and authority on living the liturgical year, or liturgical living. She is the primary developer of CatholicCulture.org’s liturgical year section. See full bio.
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What is the doctrine of the Assumption? ›
Assumption, in Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic theology, the notion or (in Roman Catholicism) the doctrine that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was taken (assumed) into heaven, body and soul, following the end of her life on Earth.Is Mary in Heaven? ›
The Catholic faith states, as a dogma, that Mary was assumed into heaven and is with Jesus Christ, her divine son. Mary should be called Queen, not only because of her Divine Motherhood of Jesus Christ, but also because God has willed her to have an exceptional role in the work of eternal salvation.What is the origin of assumption? ›
and directly from Latin assumptionem (nominative assumptio) "a taking up, receiving, acceptance, adoption," noun of action from past-participle stem of assumere "take up, take to oneself" (see assume). Meaning "minor premise of a syllogism" is late 14c.Where is the Assumption in the Bible? ›
A: Like the dogma of Mary's Immaculate Conception, the dogma of the Assumption is not explicitly stated in the Bible. The teaching that 'at the end of her earthly course, Mary was assumed into heavenly glory, body and soul' was dogmatically defined by Pius XII in 1950 in Munificentissimus Deus.What does the Assumption of Mary teach us? ›
Roman Catholics believe the doctrine of the Assumption, which teaches that at the end of her life, Mary, the mother of Christ, was taken body and soul (i.e. both physically and spiritually) into heaven to live with her son (Jesus Christ) for ever.How long did Mary live after the death of Jesus? ›
According to ancient Jewish custom, Mary could have been betrothed at about 12. Hyppolitus of Thebes says that Mary lived for 11 years after the death of her son Jesus, dying in 41 AD.Does God have a wife? ›
God had a wife, Asherah, whom the Book of Kings suggests was worshiped alongside Yahweh in his temple in Israel, according to an Oxford scholar. God had a wife, Asherah, whom the Book of Kings suggests was worshipped alongside Yahweh in his temple in Israel, according to an Oxford scholar.How old was Mary when Jesus died? ›
How old was Mary when Jesus died? According to Christianity.com, Mary was 46 to 49 years old when Jesus died. Britannica states that she “flourished” from 25 B.C. to A.D. 75. Assuming this is in reference to her lifespan, according to Britannica, Mary was approximately 54 to 59 years old when Jesus died.What is an example of Assumption? ›
An assumption is something that you assume to be the case, even without proof. For example, people might make the assumption that you're a nerd if you wear glasses, even though that's not true.Who in the Bible was assumed into heaven? ›
Catholicism. Sacred Scripture teaches that Enoch and Elijah were assumed into heaven while still alive and not experiencing physical death.
Is the Assumption a holy day? ›
Assumption Day is considered a Holy Day of Obligation, but if it falls on a Saturday or on a Monday, it is not obligatory by the church to attend mass. This was amended in the church calendar by US (United States) bishops in 1991.What's the difference between Assumption and ascension? ›
The most important difference between the Ascension and the Assumption is who the active party is. In the Ascension, Jesus ascends of His own power and will. Because He is divine, He acts of His own volition to ascend to the Father. On the other hand, Mary is passive.What does the Assumption of Mary mean for Christians? ›
Assumption Day commemorates the belief that when Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, died, her body was "assumed" into heaven to be reunited with her soul, instead of going through the natural process of physical decay upon death.Where in the Bible does it say to not assume? ›
Deuteronomy 17:13. 13 And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously.How was Mary assumed into heaven? ›
St. Juvenal, who was Bishop of Jerusalem told the emperor “that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven,” the saint recorded.What is the meaning and significance of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption? ›
The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary, the mother of Christ, was conceived without sin and her conception was thus immaculate. Mary's sinless conception is the reason why Catholics refer to Mary as "full of grace".Why is Mary so important to Catholics? ›
Mary's role in salvation and redemption
Particularly significant is Mary's presence at the Cross, when she received from her dying Son the charge to be mother to the beloved disciple. Catholics interpret that through the disciple, Christ is giving care of Mary to all Christians.
They may have been: (1) the sons of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Joseph (2) sons of the Mary named in Mark 15:40 as "mother of James and Joses", whom Jerome identified with the wife of Clopas and sister of Mary the mother of Jesus; or (3) sons of Joseph by a former marriage.What was Jesus's wife's name? ›
|Saint Mary Magdalene|
|Born||Possibly Magdala, Roman Judea|
Her body arose on the third day after her death. She was then taken up bodily into heaven. For a long time, the Catholic Church was ambiguous on whether Mary rose from the dead after a brief period of repose in death and then ascended into heaven or was “assumed” bodily into heaven before she died.
Who is God's daughter? ›
The Four Daughters of God are a personification of the virtues of Truth, Righteousness/Justice, Mercy, and Peace in medieval Catholic religious writing.Who is God's sister in the Bible? ›
In the biblical narrative of The Exodus, Miriam is described as a "prophetess" when she leads the Israelites in the Song of the Sea after Pharaoh's army is destroyed at the Sea of Reeds.Does God have a gender? ›
Though Church teaching, in line with its Doctors, holds that God has no literal sex because they possess no body (a prerequisite of sex), classical and scriptural understanding states that God should be referred to (in most contexts) as masculine by analogy.What was Jesus last name? ›
What was Jesus's Real Name? - YouTubeDid Mary Magdalene and Jesus have a child? ›
Some wish the ceremony that celebrated the beginning of the alleged marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene to be viewed as a "holy wedding"; and Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and their alleged daughter, Sarah, to be viewed as a "holy family", in order to question traditional gender roles and family values.Where is Mary buried? ›
In the Kidron Valley, at the foot of the Mount of Olives, near the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations, lies Mary's Tomb.Why is the Assumption so important to Catholics? ›
Assumption Day commemorates the belief that when Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, died, her body was "assumed" into heaven to be reunited with her soul, instead of going through the natural process of physical decay upon death.What's the difference between Assumption and ascension? ›
The most important difference between the Ascension and the Assumption is who the active party is. In the Ascension, Jesus ascends of His own power and will. Because He is divine, He acts of His own volition to ascend to the Father. On the other hand, Mary is passive.Is the Assumption a holy day? ›
Assumption Day is considered a Holy Day of Obligation, but if it falls on a Saturday or on a Monday, it is not obligatory by the church to attend mass. This was amended in the church calendar by US (United States) bishops in 1991.Is the Assumption a Holy Day of Obligation? ›
The Feast of the Assumption is one of the most important feast days of the year and a Holy Day of Obligation on the official Roman Catholic Church calendar.
What is the importance of the Assumption? ›
Assumptions Guide Argumentation, Evidence Generation, and Conclusions. One reason, why assumptions are important, is that they frame and guide,directly or indirectly,the processes of argumentation, evidence generation, and conclusions.What is the best message of Mary's Assumption to Christians? ›
The Assumption of Mary reminds us that God salvation is holistic in body, soul, mind and spirit. We are heaven-bound, for it is the place for saints. The Assumption of Mary clarifies and confirms that the Heaven of the New Testament is a place where the saints experience the presence of God.What does the Catholic Church say about the Assumption of Mary? ›
What Does the Church Teach About the Assumption of Mary? - YouTubeWhat is it called when Jesus ascended into heaven? ›
Ascension, in Christian belief, the ascent of Jesus Christ into heaven on the 40th day after his Resurrection (Easter being reckoned as the first day).What does it mean to be seated at the right hand of the Father? ›
The “right hand” is seen as a place of honor and status throughout the biblical text. When the Bible makes statements that Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of the Father, it is affirming that he has equal status to the Father within the Godhead (Hebrews 1:3, 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22; Acts 7:55-56).Does the Bible record Mary's death? ›
We believe in the free flow of information
In the New Testament, there is nothing about her birth, death, appearance or age. Outside of the accounts of the birth of Jesus that only occur in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, she is specifically mentioned at only three other events in the life of her son.
Assumption celebrations are accompanied by festivals, colorful street processions, fireworks, and pageantry. While a “feast” isn't actually required, there is a longstanding tradition of blessing the summer harvest. There are even special “Assumption” recipes incorporated into family dinners. Sounds heavenly!What do people eat during Feast of Assumption? ›
Taste the tradition by heading to the clam stand on the corner of East 123rd Street and Mayfield Road for a dozen clams. But plenty of other faves such as cavatelli or Italian sausage will be in abundance. If you have a sweet tooth, treat yourself to a slice of cassata cake from Presti's Bakery.How old was Mary at the Assumption? ›
While unproven, some apocryphal accounts state that at the time of her betrothal to Joseph, Mary was 12–14 years old.What are the holy days of obligation in the Catholic Church 2022? ›
- Mary, Mother of God - Saturday, January 1, 2022 (Not a holy day of obligation)
- Ascension - Thursday, May 26, 2022.
- Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Monday, August 15, 2022.
- All Saints Day - Tuesday, November 1, 2022.
- Immaculate Conception - Thursday, December 8, 2022.
- Christmas - Sunday, December 25, 2022.
Why is the Assumption of Mary on August 15? ›
On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII declared the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which the Church celebrates every year on August 15. Simply put, the dogma of the Assumption states that at the end of her life, the Blessed Virgin Mary was taken, body and soul, into Heaven.Can I eat meat today Catholic? ›
However, today is March 19, which is the feast day of St. Joseph, which is considered a solemnity by the church. According to church law —specifically canon law (1251), if you're curious — you can eat meat today.