15 April 2023

Mary Month in Ireland

Mr Biden has visited, I gather, the Shrine of our Blessed Lady at Knock. Let me explain why I have a very soft spot for that Shrine.

Well-informed readers will be aware of the celebrated 'Eucharistic Window' in my old Anglican church of S Thomas the Martyr in Oxford. Above the Blessed Sacrament Altar, the window has, in its lower register, a priest vested for Mass and standing versus Orientem at an altar vested with lighted candles. The priest is in the act of elevating the Chalice. Above, so that His Blood could flow into that Chalice, is the Lamb slain in Sacrifice. Canon Chamberlain inserted that window soon after he had restored the use of Mass vestments. It was controversial. They stoned him in the streets. (Nowadays, I imagine, some Roman Catholics would have fits about the ad Orientem. Amazing, the skills and versatility of the Evil One.)

For two happy mornings in 2015, while at the Shrine at Knock with the Brethren of the Irish branch of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy and Cardinal Pell, I had the immense privilege of celebrating at the Altar of the Apparitions. I had heard rumours that the Shrine authorities were ill-disposed to the Old Mass, but such was certainly not my experience. The very courteous young sacristan rearranged the altar furnishings so that I could celebrate the Aunthentic Form of the ancient Mass facing the fine carving of "an altar and the figure of a lamb with a cross reclining on his back" (as one of the visionaries described what she saw). That same typology which, in sober Anglican Oxford, Canon Chamberlain had put into S Thomas's a generation previously!! 

I felt an acute sense of being at one with that long line of cohanim who for centuries stood in the Jerusalem Temple and, morning after faithful morning, sacrificed the Tamid lamb for God's People, until the Lamb Himself came, the New Isaac, and shadows gave way to Reality. And I think I even felt a hint of the Vision at the end of The Dawntreader, of the Lamb that stands at the Uttermost East, with His sweet invitation Come and have Breakfast. Marana tha.

Readers will not suspect me of any indifference to shrines in which the Glorious and Immaculate Theotokos is placed centrally. Yet there is tremendous power in the nakedly, almost bluntly, Christocentric Apparition at Knock. And there is much didactic potential in the Typology of the Lamb, as a little book on sale in the Shrine Bookshop makes clear. Interestingly, particularly given the polylogia of the Irish, our Lady spoke not a word at Knock; as the supreme Hesychast, she "kept all these things in her heart", just as she did as Our Lady of Light in her Appearance at S Hilary in Cornwall.

Knock is as splendidly Irish as Walsingham is wonderfully English and Lourdes superbly French. The tower of the old Catholic Parish Church dates from 1828, the year of Catholic Emancipation, and reminds me of what, in Co Kerry, I expected a Church of Ireland church tower to resemble ... Gothic rather than Gothick but in the plain ungrammatical style of Gothic before the Pugins and the Carpenters took it in bookish hand. I suppose the similarity must indicate that many Church of Ireland churches were built around that same time. (Did the Emancipation lead to a lot of church-building among Catholics?) By the way: pilgrims should not miss three small but fine Harry Clarke windows in the three East windows of the Church. (Like other Clarke windows I have noticed, they are not in Nicola Bowe's list, even if signed. The other windows in the church may be 'Studio of' and from the 1950s, but, although a cut above the generality of 1950s church windows, they merely echo the work of the Great Man).

From the Akathist Hymn: The Shepherds heard the Angels extolling the Christ coming in the flesh; and running as to a shepherd they see him as a Lamb unspotted being fed on Mary's breast, to whom they sang, saying: Hail! Mother of both Lamb and Shepherd; Hail! fold of rational sheep!


Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. Authentic Form of the ancient Mass

Well, that is certainly memorable and apt. Kudos.

May your memorable descriptor become popular

Matthew said...

The Mother of God was also notably silent at Llanthony, the year after her visit to Knock, but if that and her Cornish appearance are anything to go by perhaps she doesn't talk to Anglicans. The apparitions chapel is highly atmospheric -- more than one can say for the basilica, where some 30 years ago I coincided with the Archdiocese of New York on pilgrimage. The eucharistic celebration began with a protracted exchange of official greetings, which were obviously of such importance that the main part of the proceedings seemed something of an anticlimax.

Banshee said...

Our Lady of Pontmain was also an approved apparition during which Mary never spoke, although a banner with words on it appeared also. Only the kids of the town saw her.

√Čamonn said...

"...given the polylogia of the Irish"

Excuse me, but I resemble that remark!

Shaun Davies said...

Interestingly, on the exterior (south side, if I remember correctly) of the old Parish Church - there is a prophetic tablet which states : My church shall be a house OF PRAYER FOR ALL NATIONS- it was put up prior to the appearances, which indeed have drawn all nations to that house of prayer. It was shown to me by the late Deirdre Manifold a veteran traditionalist and a long time Knock pilgrim. She used to organise monthly prayer vigils from May to October which finished with a Traditional rite Mass in the parish Church.

Bill Murphy said...

Various cruel commentators have raised the incongruity of the pro-abortion President Biden visiting Knock. Others have kept quiet, as they have kept quiet about his English ancestors.