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.