Saturday, August 14, 2010

Two Feasts in Mid-August

Today, August 14, and tomorrow, August 15, mark two Christian celebrations, the first being primarily Roman Catholic (but commemorating a martyr who could well be celebrated by the universal Church) and the second being indeed a celebration of the Church throughout the whole world.

Today is the anniversary of the martyrdom, the heavenly birthday, of a Polish Franciscan friar who sacrificed his life by way of the Nazi yoke in 1941. His name is Maximilian Kolbe. Briefly, after the Nazis divided Poland with the Soviets in September, 1940, Fr. Kolbe took up resistance activities, including sheltering refugees, Jews and others, from the Nazis. In February 1941, he was arrested by the Gestapo and transferred to Auschwitz in late May of that same year. A little later, a prisoner disappeared and the Commandant, thinking that he had escaped, decreed that 10 prisoners would be starved to death in retaliation. One of these men cried out in distress for his wife and children and Fr. Kolbe, having not been initially chosen, volunteered to take this man's place.

Father and the other men were confined together in one cell. He celebrated Mass for them as long as he could, using unleavened bread and wine smuggled in by sympathetic guards, andvhe comforted the men with his words and presence, leading them in songs and prayers. He told them that they would soon be with the Blessed Virgin Mary in heaven. Fr. Kolbe had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother, "the Immaculata" or "sinless one". Finally, he alone survived, and was then killed outright with an injection of carbolic acid. The full story, from Wikipedia, is found here. According to Jesus, "Greater love no one has than this, that one lays down their life for their friends."

August 15, of course, marks the dormition, the "falling asleep" and the assumption of the Blessed Virgin, body and soul, into heaven. This is indeed a celebration of the universal apostolic Church. The blessed Mother of our Lord, "the first of the redeemed," is first in all things after her Divine Son and completely shares in both his suffering and his glory. Thus, she is the first to experience the resurrection after him in that her soul and glorified body are reunited in heaven. A fuller account, from Orthodoxwiki, is found here.

From the Byzantine Rite, here is the Kontakian (Tone 2) for the Dormition of the Theotokos, the Mother of God:

"Neither the tomb, nor death could hold the Theotokos,
Who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions.
For being the Mother of Life,
She was translated to life by the One who dwelt in her virginal womb."

"Through the prayers of the Theotokos, Oh Savior, save us!"

No comments: