The Assumption of Mary is A Celebration of Food Abundance, Not Food Waste

Today is the Assumption of Mary, a big celebration for the Catholic and Orthodox Christians around the World.  In the Eastern Orthodox World, the Day goes by the name Dormition or sleeping of our Lady, and it is a Nameday celebration for all the women who carry the name Mary, Maria or Marie, by far the most popular female Christian name. It is also a celebration of food abundance, and when it comes to food festivities, the Catholic and the Orthodox traditions are anything but austere and puritan in natuure.

The holiday celebrates the ascendance of Mary to Heaven, upon her death for her body and soul to be reunited. Introduced around the 4th Century A.D., the holiday was to be in place of the earlier pagan harvest festival. In many regions around Europe, the day still goes by the name of “Feast of Our Lady of the Harvest”. It some areas it connected with the Blessing of Fruits and Herbs, in others of Wheat.

As we have previously writtenall religions across the globe had a large section of their practices and rituals devoted to fertile harvesting and food abundance. Food security is a major theme in all faiths known to mankind. Practices range from animal sacrifices, feasts of abundance to meal prayers. All polytheistic religions had a special god in charge of agriculture and stock farming. Later, in Christianity for example, these functions were assigned to the various saints and endowed in regional celebrations.

Regardless of our religious sentiments and predisposition, it is obvious that occurring in the second part of summer, August 15th is fundamentally an ancient feast of food abundance and plenitude, a rite of passage to the upcoming cold and barren months. In many of the Christian countries, the Assumption of Mary is an official holiday and a time for a family and communal gatherings connected with festive food consumption. As we have mentioned before, religious holidays often go hand in hand with exuberant food preparation and result in a significant amount of food that left uneaten.

But because of the relative food security in many Christian countries, there is a growing disassociation between religion and food provision. Yet we still tend to manifest food abundance on days of festivities in a pagan ritualistic way, as if our survival depends on it.

Meal grace is an unfamiliar concept in most modern households. We are not suggesting to embrace this ritual, which for many of us appears a remnant of a bygone era. Though we urge you to realise, that we are those first historically lucky generations. We are food-wise extremely privileged, by no particular merit of ours, other than living in those parts of the world, where food insecurity is not an issue.  For us, August 15th is a true blessing of plentitude, food abundance and food security.

Pope Francis, whose sayings tend to resonate as words of wisdom, way outside only the Catholic community, guides us to avoid our ‘throwaway culture’The pontiff has challenged us to shun the quest for more, more, more in favour of solidarity. His words can be related to the celebration of  “The Feast of Our Lady of the Harvest”, as buying less, preparing less and sharing more with those less fortunate.

The words of the pontiff can be related to our awareness that as we sit down to our family tables topped with plentitude, there are just under a billion (800 million) people who still live in hunger. “This culture of waste has made us insensitive even to the waste and disposal of food, which is even more despicable when all over the world, unfortunately, many individuals and families are suffering from hunger and malnutrition,” the Pope said.

Yet, we waste enough food to feed those hungry four times over.“Once our grandparents were very careful not to throw away any leftover food. Consumerism has led us to become used to an excess and daily waste of food, to which, at times we are no longer able to give a just value,” the Pope speaks his words of caution.

So, on the occasion of today’s abundance celebrations let’s be grateful for the food we have and let’s resolve to do with less, because less means more, for all of us.

Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of the poor and the hungry

-Pope Frnacis

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