7 May 2021


Today, in the Julian Calendar the Friday in Bright Week, Byzantines celebrate the role of the Mother of God in pouring Christ's healing streams of grace upon us. Originally Zoodochos Pege (the life-receiving fount) referred to one of Constantinople's greatest basilicas (next door to the imperial residence), Blachernae. Our Lady appeared there at the hagiasma (miraculous stream), standing with her hands raised in the orans posture. After an ikon was created to portray this and placed in the church, water began to flow from her hands. One is reminded of similar imagery and ideas at much later Western shrines such as Fatima and Lourdes, and of linked motifs of water and of grace flowing from her hands. The congruence here between East and West is quite uncanny, and it can only be a glorious intimation of the fact that both East and West drink from the same wholesome wells.

Zoodochos Pege is is also the dedication of that nice little Orthodox chapel up the stairs at the back of the Anglican Shrine Church of Our Lady of Walsingham. Suitably so, because a big part of the pilgrimages at Lourdes and Walsingham is the use of the water which our Lady showed to her servant. 

What a pity there is no Catholic Byzantine chapel at Walsingham! The Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer on Papa Stronsay have a history of biritualism ... a shame that, I think, their lovely little Ukrainian chapel has not been used since the Brethren regularised their canonical position. And in England there are Melkite Catholics. It would be beautiful if Byzantine Christianity were better known to English Catholics! I would love to have the faculties and facilities to serve the Liturgy in memory of a dear friend long-departed, Christopher Commodatos, Bishop of Telmissos, also associated with the Camberwell New Road! And of the Little Brother Lazarus.

It seems to me that the symbolism of Zoodochos Pege is an expression of what we Westerners have in mind when we call Mary Mediatrix omnium gratiarum, or refer to her Omnipotentia supplex.  

May she pray for the unity of all her Son's people.


Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. ABS assists at The Divine Liturgy of Mary Mother of The Light, a Maronite Parish in Tequesta, Florida, Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn. While it is a beautiful Liturgy, celebrated by a very holy and inspirational Priest, Father Gary George C.Ss.R, it has been "renewed/updated/whatever" by Vatican Two and some of the very solicitous, generous, and kind parishioners are not all appreciative of the changes.

However, it is difficult for ABS to disagree with a fellow communicant who said to him in the parking lot a few Sundays ago Why do we ever leave this Church? I wish we could remain inside forever.

It is that good, true and beautiful.

frjustin said...

In one of his theological Treatises, St Symeon the New Theologian makes the same association between water and a stream of grace:

"So if we wholeheartedly believe and ardently repent, we receive the Word of God in our hearts, as has been said, like the Virgin, if of course we bring with us our own souls chaste and pure. And just as the fire of the deity did not consume the Virgin since she was supremely pure, so neither does it consume us if we bring with us chaste and pure hearts; on the contrary it becomes in us the dew from heaven, a spring of water, and a stream of immortal life."

frjustin said...

Dear ABS: if you're ever in the area, you might want to check out St. John Fisher Church
3100 Sanctuary Point Blvd, Orlando, FL, 32825. It's in the Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter.

Anonymous said...

what a wonderful title for a wonderful woman.
Our Lady of the Healing Waters of Life

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father Justin. Thank you, that sounds like a smashing idea.

Stephen said...

I often think that vibrant sign of unity would be bi-ritual ordinaries and canons. Individual parishes could well remain dedicated to a single particular rite, but the center of a given eucharistic community should very well have the facility to conduct services in one or more. Preference could be given to one, but at least you could have some expertise kicking around in the other. What on the books now might prohibit this? Or is all just cultural? For all the nonsense some clerics seem to have endured in seminary(and perhaps no less later in their careers in the chancery), it would be a wee bit of hope to think that some of the western Roman canon could be taught in eastern-rite seminaries (not much older than the Gloria anyway,now, is there?), and some appreciation for eastern-rite liturgical practice in western-rite seminaries (could we not all share an Apostles' Fast?).