Yeah I know, it's the Dormition of Mary, aka the Assumption.
Dormition, dormitory -- all from the Latin for "to
sleep". One of the dormitories where I went to university was called
St Mary Hall, formally. It was just "Mary Hall" otherwise. Everyone
went there whether they had a room there (I didn't) or friends there
(I did) or not. Reason being, St Mary Cafeteria, or "Mary Caf" as we
called it -- the culture may include tendencies which may strike those
unfamiliar with it as unduly familiar, even slightly irreverent.
Thing is it wasn't a cafeteria at all but an on-campus restaurant and
What's up with that? Mary Caf was not the regular
cafeteria, where those with a meal plan, which being a rural campus
not in any town was just about everyone, ate. Rather, it was where one
ordered burgers and fries and stuff like that on one's own time, and
dime. So why is a restaurant called a cafeteria when it really isn't?
Well, the regular cafeteria wasn't called a cafeteria either, but a
refectory, so the word was available. And it did have trays.
Holy crap, what's a refectory? Comes from the Latin
reficere, to restore, which gave rise to the word refectorium, a room
where you get restored, ie eat. It's a monk thing, and being a
Benedictine institution we were all about that. Now, in a real
refectory, according to the Rule -- what's "the Rule", without
modifiers that's the Rule of St Benedict for monasteries, geez do I
have to explain everything? -- meals are eaten in silence, one guy
reads from Scripture or the saints (that's called lectio divina, or
divine reading) and no meat from mammals except if you're sick.
However, true to the very heart of the most
venerable tradition, Benedictine in particular and Catholic in
general, it ain't really like that. As more and more "feasts" came in
to the church calendar, the meals got better, and, by the time it took
four digits to write the year, aka 1000 AD, the obvious solution was to eat the
other, better, food in another room, and keep up appearances in the
refectory. Not have your cake in one room, then eat it in another.
And in a student refectory, where the teaching monks
ate too, as distinct from the monking refectory of the monkatorium
itself, there ain't no lectio divina and ain't much of anything done
in silence either.
So it don't get no more Benedictine than to have the
refectory and Mary Caf, the official restoring room and the other one
on the side. Hey, don't laugh, the Eastern Orthodox, as usual, amp it
up even more. In their monkeries the refectory is called the Trapeza,
always with at least one icon and sometimes a ruddy church unto
itself, altar, iconostasis and all.
And they got this Lifting of the Panagia to end the
meal too. What in all monking monkery is a Panagia? It's the
prosphoron from which you take a chunk in honour of the Theotokos.
What the hell izzat? The former is the loaf used in the Eucharist, the
latter is Mary. After the service, the refectorian (don't freak, it's
the monk who runs the refectory) cuts a triangle out of it, cuts the
rest in half, puts it on a tray, the boys go over to the refectory
with the tray in the lead. Then after the meal there is a ceremony in
which the refectorian says "Bless me, holy fathers, and pardon me a
sinner" and the assembled holy fathers say "May God pardon and have
mercy on you" (as if he had not already done so at Calvary, but I
digress). Then he says echoing the liturgy "Great is the name" and the
boys chime in with "of the Holy Trinity", then comes "O all-holy
Mother of God help us" and the reply "At her prayers, O God, have
mercy and save us" (as if he had not already ..., oh well). Then
accompanied by a dude with censer he offers it, each, uh, holy father taking a
piece between thumb and forefinger, running it through the incense,
and eating it.
Now that's some serious monking. Judas H Priest OSB,
we're a bunch of Bavarians, or at least the joint was founded by
them. Hell, the closest we came to anything like that was to make
went back for more of the good dark bread they bake before they ran out.
Closest I'm gonna come to any Lifting of the Panagia now is the
lifting of the Panera. Besides, Panera's got wi-fi too I think -- for
some digital lectio divina of course. I still don't like white bread,
though, and will take a wheat or dark bread every time. Every time.
And still call a dining room a refectory once in a while too. It's a
spiritual thing of course.
So we had our refectory and our "cafeteria" named
for Mary. Later, the food service would open a more night oriented
spot, Der Keller, which means the cellar or basement in German, in the
cellar of the old main building, though it took a new food service
director who was a Baptist from Alabama to come up with the idea. Now
that's my kind of Baptist! Also my kind of refectorian. Hell, with the
secular and ecclesiastical sides of the 1960s both raging, he was
more German and Benedictine at heart than the German Benedictines.
And Mary? Just as Gabriel said, full of grace, the
Lord was with her; blessed is she among women and blessed is the fruit
of her womb, Jesus. And if you're looking for an example, if your
cost of discipleship is seeming a little high, there is no better
example than her submission in faith to God, which she for all she
knew at the time ran her the risk of execution as an adulteress, only
to survive that only to see her son executed as a criminal. And no
better direction, rather than quasi-pious speculation about dormitions
and assumptions, than she herself gave to those wanting her to sort
things out one time at the wedding in Cana -- "Do whatever he tells
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