Sunday, August 14, 2011
Feast of Mary’s Assumption: August 15
The Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris is dedicated to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Following 1,300 years of church teaching, in 1950 it was officially pronounced as dogma by Pope Pius XII that Mary, body and soul, was taken (assumed) directly into heaven at the end of her earthly life. The Catholic Church honors her every August 15, the Feast of Mary’s Assumption, which is a national holiday in France.
On August 14 the Cathedral of Notre-Dame dedicates a full day to the Anticipation of Mary’s Assumption with a Mass held at 6:30 pm, led by the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, followed by a Marian Procession (7:30 pm) from the cathedral to the boat landing platform of the quay Saint-Bernard, on the Left Bank of the Seine. The life-size silver statue of Mary holding the Infant Jesus used in this procession was given to Notre-Dame Cathedral by French King Charles X in the 1820s.
At 8:00 pm the statue and thousands of pilgrims are loaded onto nine boats to begin a floating procession that departs the quay at 8:30. The boats follow a course around the two islands of the Seine, the Île de la Cité (on which the Cathedral of Notre-Dame is located) and the neighboring Île Saint-Louis. Observers line the bridges and quays in the immediate area to witness this “Procession Fluvial,” during which time the pilgrims sing and pray. After the statue is returned to the cathedral, there is an hour long Nocturne, a projection of Marian art images onto scrims set up in the nave of the cathedral, beginning at 10:00 pm (open to the public).
The following day, August 15, the Feast of Mary’s Assumption begins in the cathedral with a Gregorian Mass at 10:00 am, followed by Solemn Vespers at 3:45 pm. At 4:30 pm a two-hour Solemn Procession of the Assumption takes place on foot through the Île de la Cité and the neighboring Île Saint-Louis, followed by a Mass at 6:30. At 9:30 pm the Nocturne projection of Marian images in the nave is repeated (open to the public).