Thursday, September 5, 2013

ST. MARY THE VIRGIN: MOTHER OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, THE ROSARY, & RAVIOLI




August 15 is celebrated in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches as the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. Anglican and Lutheran churches honor Mary on her feast day in a variety of ways, although most do not celebrate it as the Assumption. For example, the Episcopal Church refers to August 15 as the feast day of St. Mary the Virgin Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. (For more Blessed Virgin Mary posts see The AnnunciationThe Boy Jesus in the Temple, and The Wedding at Cana.)

The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches teach that Mary was Assumed into heaven soul and body. Although, the Assumption does not appear in the Holy Bible or other canonical sources, the first apocryphal source appeared around the fourth century. The most referenced source is a text called De Obitu S. Dominae, The Falling Asleep of the Holy Mother of God, from the early 6th century. 

Told from the point of view of St. John, it describes Mary’s gentle death and burial and the rising of her body as she is Assumed into Heaven upon the hand of her son, Jesus Christ. They were surrounded by saints and angels as they rose, and many healing miracles occurred in the area near the tomb which was filled with flowers and a heavenly scent.

The common belief in the Assumption of Mary is so ingrained in Roman Catholic liturgy that canonical evidence is not necessary. However, to add a certain solemnity to the belief, on November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII declared the Assumption of Mary to be a dogma of faith: “We pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul to heavenly glory.”  

Pope Pius XII then elevated the House of Mary located in Ephesus, Turkey, to the status of Holy Place of Pilgrimage. However, many believe that Mary’s death and Assumption took place in Jerusalem. 

Some definitions:

Canonical – included in the list of sacred books officially accepted as genuine.
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Apocryphal (in the religious context) -- non-canonical. According to Martin Luther, “These books are not held equal to the Scriptures but are useful and good to read.”  Many denominations agree with this statement including the Lutheran, Anglican, and Episcopal Churches.

Dogma – a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.

So there’s no question that for Roman Catholics and members of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy the Assumption of Mary happened.

The belief in the Assumption is not really there for many Protestants because it wasn’t recorded in the Gospels, nor was it written by St. John the Apostle, but by someone else centuries later. Also, Protestants originally protested the way the Catholic Church required money to be paid to priests and bishops for intercessions prayed to the saints. Since that time, the veneration of the saints, including Mary, simply doesn’t happen in many Protestant churches.

As I learned in my post, All Saints, Jesus, and Rice & Beans the Anglican Communion (which includes the Episcopal Church) is half Protestant and half Catholic in makeup. Where members fall in their honoring of saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary depends on their specific denomination, parish, local customs, and personal beliefs.

Canonical evidence written by the actual St. John shows that when Jesus was painfully dying on the cross, he looked at his mother and his best friend and turned her over to his care:

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
                                                                                               John 19:26-27

(My research for St. Mary Magdalene  showed that John's Gospel was edited shortly after his death and it could be argued that Mary Magdalene was the disciple whom Jesus loved and that he turned his mother over to her. Either way, it's believed that Mary Magdalene and John traveled with the Blessed Virgin Mary after Pentecost.) 

There is apocryphal evidence to support that in taking care of Mary as if she were his own mother, St. John the Apostle took her to Ephesus in Turkey were they both eventually died – Mary’s body Assumed into Heaven and John’s buried under his basilica. Many Christians make pilgrimages to The House of Mary in Ephesus. (Muslims also make pilgrimages to the House of Mary as well because she is the only woman named in the Koran. Mary and this holy place form a connection and a place of peace between these two religions.)  

Another commonly held belief is that Mary’s death and Assumption took place in Jerusalem and many pilgrims travel to the Tomb of the Virgin Mary also known as the Church of the Sepulcher of St. Mary located in the foothills of the Mount of Olives. 

The Roman Catholic Church offers no dogma on which one was the site of Mary’s Assumption as ancient evidence and lack thereof supports both.

What’s an Episcopalian to believe? Well, according to the St. Mary the Virgin Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ page of HOLY WOMEN, HOLY MEN, CELEBRATING THE SAINTS, we can believe that “Later devotion has claimed many things for Mary which cannot be proved from Holy Scripture.” But, and I’m paraphrasing here, that’s no reason not to honor her for who she was on Earth and who she is in Heaven.

What do I, a practicing Episcopalian who honors her Roman Catholic heritage, believe? I believe it doesn’t matter to you, my dearworthy readers, what I believe; you’ll have to follow your own hearts on this one.

I will say that I believe that Mary was Jesus’ mama. She loved Him and raised Him right. Then knowing what was to come, she let Him go.

So if there were any human on Earth who deserved to be carried off body and soul into Heaven, by her son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, surrounded by all the saints and angels, leaving miracles in her wake, it’s the Blessed Virgin Mary.

There’s also the possibility that the description of Mary’s Assumption was passed down orally for centuries before a written record was created and preserved.

On the other hand, even if her relics were buried long ago in an unmarked grave and absorbed by the earth, it doesn’t matter. I know she is in Heaven and she hears our prayers for intercession. I follow the guidance of a favored saint on this one:

“And we pray to Him by His sweet Mother’s love who bore Him, but all the help we have from her is His goodness.”
                                     St. Julian of Norwich,
 REVELATIONS OF DIVINE LOVE

As I’ve written here, I firmly believe that it's through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the intervention of St. Uriel the Archangel that Saints and Recipes exists. It’s a huge part of my mission from God. 

O God, you have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of your incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with the the glory of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
                                                              Collect, Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints
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Since learning about the origin of the Rosary when I studied the life of St. Dominic, and his devotion to devotions, I’ve tried out praying the Rosary for myself. Here’s the basic way to pray the Rosary:



Ingredients:

A Marian Catholic Rosary
A written guideline that suits your style

Beginning Prayers:

Sign of the Cross
Apostles' Creed
Our Father
Three Hail Mary’s
Glory Be

Then we begin the five decades of the Rosary in which we pray the Our Father, ten Hail Mary’s and one Glory Be. Repeat four times.

That’s the template. The variables are the four Mysteries. Each time we pray the Rosary, we focus on one of the four types of Mysteries. For each of the five decades, we focus on a particular mystery:

The Joyful Mysteries
        The Annunciation
        The Visitation
        The Nativity
        The Presentation
        The Finding Jesus in the Temple
       
The Luminous Mysteries
        The Baptism of the Lord
        The Wedding of Cana
        The Proclamation of the Kingdom
        The Transfiguration
        The Institution of the Eucharist

The Sorrowful Mysteries
        The Agony in the Garden
        The Scourging at the Pillar
        The Crowning with Thorns
        The Carrying of the Cross
        The Crucifixion

The Glorious Mysteries
        The Resurrection
        The Ascension
        The Descent of the Holy Spirit
        The Assumption
        The Coronation

As we pray the ten Hail Mary’s, we are to think about each of these mysteries. Further sources have broken each mystery down into ten scenes that we can recite before each Hail Mary.

The words of these scenes differ depending on each Rosary book or online source. There are also some sources that show only illustrations depicting each of these scenes in keeping with St. Dominic’s original intention for the Rosary -- that it allow those who can’t read a way to regularly devote themselves to the Life of Jesus Christ through the point of view and help of his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

At this time, I haven’t found a list of Rosary scenes that fully resonates with me. I’ve tried only two so far and neither of them worked completely. I may have to cut and paste to create my own list. I’ve ordered a couple of other sources and will try them out when they arrive. For now, I recommend the Dominican How to Pray the Rosary.

(Update: March 25, 2017 -- I've found the perfect Rosary book that completely resonates with me as an Episcopalian with a Roman Catholic heritage! It's called THE ROSARY WITH POPE FRANCIS and can be purchased from the publishers at www.pauline.org.

Last week, I prayed the Rosary four times, each time focusing on a different Mystery. It’s an excellent meditation for those of us whose minds tend to wander. It’s an excellent practice for those of us who want to increase the time we spend in prayer. It’s an excellent devotion for those of us who want to focus our attention on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Rosary provides a tactile devotion, words to pray, and the point of view of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the life of her son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.

I will continue devoting the time and attention needed to pray the Rosary because every time I completed the Rosary, I felt soothed and at peace. I remained quiet for a while, no internet, music, or conversation. I just listened. And I heard them -- the little and big answers to questions in my life.

……………………………………………………….

I thank St. Dominic for the idea of practicing devotions. I thank my grandmother, Antoinetta (Nettie) Nolletti, for teaching me the Lord’s Prayer when I was a child as she tucked me into bed whenever she spent the night with us. I remember her every single time I pray The Lord’s Prayer. She’s part of my connection to God. Her faith was daily and her devotion to God and her family seemed regular and practical at the time, but in reality they are awe inspiring.



Here she is trying to teach us how to make homemade ravioli with the giant equipment in my parents’ bakery. I remember laughing and laughing with my grandmother on that day as she tried to teach us this skill with the wrong equipment. Grandma had one of those laughs that barely made a sound.

“Then you let the dough rest,” she said.

“Why? Is it tired?” 

“Then you,” silent laugh, silent laugh, “Then you . . .”

“What? Make the dough exercise?”

Silent laugh, breath, silent laugh. “Then you roll out the dough with the rolling pin. Look at how big this thing is!” Silent laugh, silent laugh, silent laugh.

Of course, my brothers' and my laughter was anything but silent that day. Oh, and we haven’t tried to make homemade ravioli since.

Why bother when frozen ravioli are so easily available at the grocery story? Because, as it took me all this time to learn, cooking something homemade for your family and friends takes time, attention, and focus – it’s a devotion.

NETTIE’S RAVIOLI



Ingredients:

Dough:

4 eggs
1 egg yolk
¼ cup olive oil
Pinch of salt to taste
4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons water

Filling:

32 oz container Ricotta cheese
1 egg
½ cup Parmesan cheese
¼ cup fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Equipment:

Pasta maker (machine or press)
Ravioli mold

A word on equipment:

I hesitate to suggest you buy any equipment because it can get expensive. But without some equipment, the ravioli dough tends to end up too thick.

I recently asked my godmother, Delores, how my grandmother was able to make the ravioli so well in her own kitchen with just a rolling pin, a knife, and a fork. She said, “Grandma was strong like an ox. No one else could do it.”

So if you’re strong like an ox, and you have more than a copious amount of time to devote, go for it -- all the way homemade.

Otherwise, I suggest some equipment. If you already have a Kitchen Aid mixer, they offer a pasta making attachment.

I decided to go with what I like to refer to as gadgets. Expensive, but not as much as the mixer attachment. Also, with the gadgets, there’s a bit more going on in the hands-on department. The gadgets I purchased at our local William Sonoma worked out really well, except for when the pasta press didn’t quite clamp down onto my countertop all the way and was, therefore, a bit wobbly. Fortunately for me, my 17-year-old son happened by and I enlisted his help. We a had nice time together discussing the merits of homemade ravioli making in his future college dorm room.

Seriously, this project is more fun with two or more people. But whatever you do, stay focused on the task at hand. I made the mistake of answering the phone and trying to chat while I started this project. Instead of a lovely photo of a flour crater with an egg lake, I had a mess on the kitchen floor to clean up as my egg lake overflowed.

Here are the photos I did manage to get followed by the instructions:






Instructions:

Dough:

1.     Measure out the 4 cups of flour in the middle of a clean counter space.

2.     Create a crater in the middle of the flour pile that can hold 4 eggs, 1 egg yolk, ¼ cup olive oil, and 2 tablespoons water. That’s a pretty big lake. Perhaps beautiful photos notwithstanding, maybe you’d better start the dough out in a bowl.

3.     Mix the ingredients with your clean hands.

4.     Knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes, adding a bit more water as needed until you have a smooth elastic ball of dough.

5.     Place in bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour.

Filling:

1.     Place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.

Follow the directions on your gadgets, whatever they are. For example, my gadget had me flatten a handful of dough into a disk and place it through the press once at each of the six settings.

Then I laid the flattened dough across the ravioli mold, filled each one with about ½ teaspoon of filling. Then I pressed another handful of dough, which I laid across the top of the filled dough. I rolled a tiny rolling pin over the mold, sealing and separating each one. I placed them on a tray with parchment paper and slid the tray into a large plastic bag so they wouldn’t dry out while I finished the project.

If you aren’t using gadgets, use a standard-size rolling pin to roll the dough out until it is as thin as a dime. Dot with small spoonfuls of filling and cover with another sheet of thin dough. Cut into small squares with a pizza cutter or knife. Use a fork to press down on each side of each one to seal. Slide a spatula under each one and transfer to parchment paper covered tray.

Cook:

1.    Place ravioli in a boiling pot of water, for about three minutes or until they float.

Serve with any type of sauce. For my first batch, I used meat sauce, although garden-fresh tomato sauce as well as pesto sauce would work great.

This recipe makes a large batch. Layer the extra on parchment paper in a big plastic container and store in the freezer.

Enjoy!

Sources:

James Kiefer's Christian Biographies
HOLY WOMEN, HOLY MEN: CELEBRATING THE SAINTS
Solemnity of the Assumption