According to Catholic Teaching, at the end of her earthly life, Our Blessed Mother Mary was assumed, body and soul, to Heaven. Catholics worldwide celebrate the Feast of Assumption on August 15. It is a Holy Days of Obligation, one of five or six (depending upon the calendar) throughout the year in addition to Holy Sundays. The Feast of the Assumption is a public holiday in 43 different predominantly Catholic countries.
Pope Pius XIII declared the Assumption of Mary as a dogma of Catholic Faith. Hers is not the only assumption into heaven. Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and “he was found no more because God had taken him.” Before he was taken up, he was attested to have pleased God. The other to be assumed was Elijah. 2 Kings 2:11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.
While Mary did suffer a death here on earth, she was called up to heaven, spared the decay of the body that naturally follows death.
The most notable tradition of this day from a culinary perspective is the blessing of fruits. I thought a Lemon Pie would be the perfect dessert to serve on this day of Obligation. Lemons are tart, like the tears of a loss. Yet the pie is sweet, like the realization that death is only a gateway to everlasting life.
Lemon Meringue Pie
1 box Refrigerated Pie Crusts or favorite recipe
Remove crust from the refrigerator, soften as directed.
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Make pie crust as directed on box for One-Crust Baked Shell using 9-inch glass pie pan. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
While the crust cools, make the filling.
3 Lemons, juiced
1 tablespoon Lemon Zest
1-1/4 cups Sugar
1/3 cup Cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1-1/2 cups Cold Water
3 Egg Yolks (see note)
2 tablespoons Butter
Note: Eggs separate most easily when they are cold, but the whites will whip best at room temperature. To take off the chill, set the bowl of whites into a larger pan filled with warm water.
Place lemons in the microwave for about 10 to 15 seconds. This will soften the fruit, yielding the most juice possible. Zest 1 lemon, then cut lemons in half and squeeze 1/2-cup of juice. Set aside.
In a 2-quart saucepan, mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Gradually stir in cold water until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
Separate the egg whites from the yolks. Reserve whites for the Meringue. In small bowl, beat egg yolks with fork. Stir about 1/4 cup of hot mixture into egg yolks. Gradually stir yolk mixture into hot mixture. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat. Stir in butter, lemon zest and lemon juice. Cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Pour into cooled baked shell.
3 Egg Whites
1/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 cup Sugar
Heat or reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
In small deep bowl with electric mixer, beat egg whites, cream of tartar and vanilla on medium speed about 1 minute or until soft peaks form. On high speed, gradually beat in sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until stiff glossy peaks form and sugar is dissolved. Spoon meringue onto hot filling; spread to edge of crust to seal well and prevent shrinkage.
Bake in heated oven 12 to 15 minutes or until meringue is light golden brown. Cool completely, about 1 hour. Refrigerate until filling is set, about 3 hours. Store in refrigerator.