May 3, 2011, 2:54 PM
Monday, the 15th August was marked as the feast of Our Lady of the Assumption, commonly called Sang-Marie day. It was a holiday of obligation in the Church and a public holiday in The Gambia. The latter has been observed from 1958 through a government declaration until 1976 when it was revoked. In the following year the national holiday was once again invoked through an appeal by the local Church.
For the Catholic Church the feast being a holiday of obligation means that it is observed like Sunday in which Christians go to Church to worship and celebrate the day without working on it. The feast of the Assumption was declared by Pope Pius XII in 1950. This was what he said in declaring the feast, “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory”.
The Pope in these words affirmed what has been the teaching of the Church for many years. This means that after her life on earth, Mary the Blessed Mother of Jesus was raised or assumed into heaven. In the first instance, the teaching of the Church on Mary especially about her Immaculate Conception states that at her conception in her mother’s womb, Mary was kept sinless. She being sinless made it a privilege for her to gain the favour of God to be raised to heaven.
The choice of Mary by God is also because God chose her of all women to be the mother of the Saviour, Jesus Christ. In the gospel of St Luke, the angel Gabriel who was sent to Mary said this as a confirmation: “Do not be afraid Mary, you have found favour with God” Luke 1:30-31. When Mary heard about this she cooperated with God’s message and in agreement said, “I am the hand-maid of the Lord, let what you have said be done unto me”. Luke 1:38
The feast of Mary’s Assumption when celebrated always bring to light many fundamental teachings of the Church. So it appeared in the homily of the day as delivered by Bishop Robert Ellison. The feast day was marked with a high mass at the Cathedral in Banjul because it is the Church’s patronal feast. Many Catholics celebrated also in their individual parish churches but some went to the Cathedral. The mass at the Cathedral was well animated by the three choirs of St. Cecilia, St Anthony and the Baati-Linguere Choral Group.
After mass the congregation was invited to a breakfast sale orgainsed by the St Cecilia’s Choir at the Pope John Paul II hall. The rest of the afternoon spent on devotional prayers and vespers beginning at the Holy Spirit Church, Box Bar Road. This was followed by a street procession via Independence Drive to the Cathedral with the recitation of the holy rosary. At the Cathedral, the congregation concluded with benediction. The rest of the evening was occupied with a match past by the Army Band to entertain all who came. After this, people treated themselves to more feasting on delicious variety of food, drinks, dance and companionship.
The day’s celebration was joyous and so it made everyone to be in a joyful mood as the popular hymn of Mary indicates “Ngurul Mbok Mariama”. At the end of the day’s celebrations, all who were present wished each other joyous Sang-Marie.