17 March 2015

More Ireland for S Patrick's Day!

Well-informed readers will be aware of the celebrated 'Eucharistic Window' in my old 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 last week, while at the Shrine at Knock with the Brethren of the Irish branch of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, I had the immense privilege of celebrating at the Altar of the Apparitions. The very courteous young sacristan rearranged the altar furnishings so that I could celebrate 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 very typology which Canon Chamberlain had put into S Thomas's a generation previously!! I felt an acute sense of being one of that long line of priests who for centuries stood in the Jerusalem Temple and, each 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 (see post of 21 November 2014).

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 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 Great Man).

There surely must be something in the Akathist Hymn about our Lady as the Mother of the Lamb ...


Ben Whitworth said...

Indeed! In Fr Vincent McNabb's translation:
Oikos IV
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 carolled, saying:
Hail! Mother both of Lamb and Shepherd!
Hail! fold of ratinal sheep!

And you had the same insight as my seven-year-old, who on hearing the words "Lamb of God" during last Sunday's first Holy Communion class, swiftly pulled The Voyage of the Dawn Treader out of her bag and turned to Pauline Baynes' delightful illustration of that very scene.

B flat said...

I am happy to provide the relevant portion for everyone, with translation into english. It is easily found in the complete text, if you remember that this is an acrostic composition (in Greek).

῎Ηκουσαν οἱ ποιμένες τῶν ἀγγέλων ὑμνούντων τὴν ἔνσαρκον Χριστοῦ παρουσίαν· καὶ δραμόντες ὡς πρὸς ποιμένα θεωροῦσι τοῦτον ὡς ἀμνὸν ἄμωμον ἐν τῇ γαστρὶ Μαρίας βοσκηθέντα͵ ἣν ὑμνοῦντες εἶπον·

Χαῖρε͵ ἀμνοῦ καὶ ποιμένος μήτηρ·
χαῖρε͵ αὐλὴ λογικῶν προβάτων·
χαῖρε͵ ἀοράτων θηρῶν ἀμυντήριον·
χαῖρε͵ παραδείσου θυρῶν ἀνοικτήριον·
χαῖρε͵ ὅτι τὰ οὐράνια συναγάλλονται τῇ γῇ·
χαῖρε͵ ὅτι τὰ ἐπίγεια συγχορεύουσι πιστοῖς·
χαῖρε͵ τῶν ἀποστόλων τὸ ἀσίγητον στόμα·
χαῖρε͵ τῶν ἀθλοφόρων τὸ ἀνίκητον θάρσος·
χαῖρε͵ στερρὸν τῆς πίστεως ἔρεισμα·
χαῖρε͵ λαμπρὸν τῆς χάριτος γνώρισμα·
χαῖρε͵ δι΄ ἧς ἐγυμνώθη ὁ Ἅδης·
χαῖρε͵ δι΄ ἧς ἐνεδύθημεν δόξαν· Χαῖρε͵ νύμφη ἀνύμφευτε.

The shepherds heard the appearance of Christ in the flesh being glorified; and hastening as to a shepherd, they beheld him as a spotless lamb who had been pastured in the womb of Mary, to whom they sing praises saying:

Rejoice, mother of the Lamb and Shepherd;
Rejoice, sheepfold of spiritual sheep.
Rejoice, defense against invisible enemies;
Rejoice, key to the doors of Paradise.
Rejoice, for heavenly things are exulting with the earth;
Rejoice, earthly things that are dancing with the heavenly ones.
Rejoice, never-silent voice of the Apostles;
Rejoice, unconquered courage of the Martyrs.
Rejoice, faith's unshakable foundation;
Rejoice, shining revelation of grace.
Rejoice, through whom Hades is divested;
Rejoice, through whom we have been vested in glory.
Rejoice, O Bride unwedded.

People: Rejoice, O Bride unwedded.

Just before sending, I saw Ben whitworth's comment, but humbly submit this complete version of the pertinent oikos anyway. The stavrotheotokia for Wednesdays and Fridays in the Oktoechos also contain this theme of the ewe lamb lamenting over the sacrifice of the Lamb for an ungrateful people.

GOR said...

On a less lofty note but in the spirit of Irish humor, back in the early 60s I visited Knock with some other seminarians (one of many visits over the years…). Just before Benediction a call went out for singers for the choir which was rather sparse. Another student and I volunteered.

Afterwards, feeling we had acquitted ourselves rather well, we asked the Rector how we sounded. With an impish grin he replied: “People were saying they had never heard anything like it!”

Pride goeth before a fall…