The Lord’s Ascension, Beans, and You

We have lovely customs in our wonderful Roman Catholic Church, including special blessings on certain feast days, often tied to the changing of the seasons… in Rome, that is.  It’s the Roman Church, after all.

Today, the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, was decorated with the opportunity to bless beans.

In Rome at this time of year the “broad beans” are at their peak.  I was recently in Rome and sated my longing for broad beans with pecorino and cold white wine… the combination of which is a material proof of God’s love.

But I digress…. but not really.

The connection of this time of year in the Roman calendar with beans is ancient indeed.  During May in ancient Rome the master of the house would walk around the dwelling on the nights of the Lemuria (9,11, 13) waving beans to ward of evil spirits.  On the Kalends of June (1 June) there was a pagan feast of the Sacrum Carnae Deae when beans and bacon were offered in sacrifice and consumed.  In fact, the June Kalends were called Kalendae Fabariae.  Latin faba is, of course, “bean”, and the Italian is still the same, “fave”.  The essentials don’t change much, as it only right.  For this feast the ancient Romans ate a mess of beans and bacon.  Any excuse, right?  In his Fasti the poet Ovid writes of beany blessings:

Pinguia cur illis gustentur larda Kalendis
Mixtaque cur calido sit faba farre, rogas?
Prisca dea est, aliturque cibis quibus ante solebat,
Nec petit adscitas luxuriosa dapes.

I enjoy Ovid… it just rolls and rolls out so effortlessly.  In any event, beans and bacon were as big back then as they are now.  It’s amazing how consistent we are.  You get much of the same effect with your fave and pecorino cheese (salty fat).

And don’t forget the awe inspiring fave in tegame.  I didn’t have a chance to get that during my last trip, alas.

The the ancient Roman cookbook complied in the 4th c. and attributed to Apicius (US HERE – UK HERE), there are various bean and pea recipes. A good one.  HERE and HERE

Pisam Vitellianam sive fabam (Peas or Beans à la Vitellius)

Pisam coques lias. teres piper, ligusticum, gingiber, et super condimenta mittis vitella ovorum, quae dura coxeris, mellis uncias III, liquamen, vinum et acetum. haec omnia mittis in caccabum et condimenta quae trivisti. adiecto oleo ponis ut ferveat. condies pisam, lias, si aspera fuerit. melle mittis et inferes.

Peas or beans with yolks are made thus: cook the peas, smoothen them; crush pepper, lovage, ginger, and on the condiments put hard boiled yolks, ounces of honey, also liquamen, wine and vinegar; mix and place all in a sauce pan; the finely chopped condiments with oil added, put on the stove to be cooked; with this flavor the peas which must be smooth; and if they be too harsh in taste add honey and serve.

If you don’t have a lot of liquamen, use garum (or substitute colatura or even Vietnamese fish sauce, which is similar).

A Bean Blessing is not, alas, in the Rituale Romanum, but another blessing, for any sort of food, can be used.  Bring lots of beans, perhaps along with bacon, to Father and ask him to bless them.

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.
P: The Lord be with you.
All: May He also be with you.

Let us pray.

Lord, bless + this creature, [beans], and let it be a healthful food for mankind. Grant that everyone who eats it with thanksgiving to your holy name may find it a help in body and in soul; through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

It is sprinkled with holy water.

There is a separate blessing for bacon (“lard”… ascension of the lard?):

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.
P: The Lord be with you.
All: May He also be with you.

Let us pray.

Lord, bless + this creature, lard, and let it be a healthful food for mankind. Grant that everyone who eats it with thanksgiving to your holy name may find it a help in body and in soul; through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

It is sprinkled with holy water.

I hope you will all be “full of beans” for this Feast of the Ascension of the Lord!

UPDATE:

Fr. Hunwicke has a fun post about Ascension Beans! HERE

He includes the blessing for grapes… “Benedic +, Domine, hos fructos novos vineae…”.

 

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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One Response to The Lord’s Ascension, Beans, and You

  1. Ipsitilla says:

    On a humorous note, this post offers the most convincing argument I’ve ever seen for the use of the Mr. Bean theme song in a liturgical setting: “Ecce homo qui est faba…”