On Saturday, the 15th of August, the Church celebrated, as she always does on that date, the solemn feast of the Dormitio Sanctae Mariae, marking the outcome of the earthly life of the ever-virgin Mother of God, that is, her blessed falling asleep and going home to her Divine Son in heaven. I don't know how common this feast is in today's Lutheran church, but I can tell you that it was celebrated even by the Church of God which is at the tiny, seemingly insignificant parish of Saint Stephen, Milwaukee, where, because of the nature of this feast, the Holy Mass was adorned by the lighting of all the altar candles, and by the lovely odour and sight of incense. (Any liturgy that includes propers from the Apocalypse deserves incense.)
Here are some juicy tidbits from the Mass.
From the Introit:
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. O sing unto the Lord a new song, for He hath done marvellous things.
From the first lesson, from the Book of Judith:
O daughter, blessed art thou of the most high God above all the women upon the earth; and blessed be the Lord God, which hath created the heavens and the earth, which hath directed thee to the cutting off of the head of the chief of our enemies. For this thy confidence shall not depart from the heart of men, which remember the power of God for ever...Thou art the exaltation of Jerusalem, thou art the great glory of Israel, thou art the great rejoicing of our nation.
The Gradual, of course, is from Ps. 45, as is the Introit for the Vigil on the 14th.
The Gospel, continuing from Luke 1:
Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
The Offertory is from Genesis 3:
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed.
All generations shall call me blessed, for He that is mighty hath done to me great things.
In the Divine Office we have the following from Saint John of Damascus:
Today the sacred and living ark of the living God, she who conceived the Creator in her womb, comes to rest in the temple of the Lord, which was not made by men's hands. David her father leaps with joy, and with him the Angels lead the dance, the Archangels celebrate, the Virtues give glory to God, the Principalities exalt, the Powers are glad, the Dominations rejoice, the Thrones keep a feast-day, the Cherubim give praise, and the Seraphim proclaim her glory. Today the Eden of the New Adam receives the living paradise in which our condemnation was dissolved, in which the tree of life was planted, in which our nakedness was clothed. Today the immaculate Virgin, who was soiled with no earthly desires, but reared in heavenly thinking, did not return to dust, but since she was a living heaven was placed in the heavenly tabernacles. She from whom true Life has flowed to all men, how could she taste death? But she yielded to the law laid down by Him whom she conceived and, as daughter of the old Adam, underwent the old sentence, for her Son, who is Life itself, did not refuse it, but as the Mother of the living God, she was rightly taken up to His side.