On the Feast of the Presentation of our Lady, November 21 1924, in the little Anglo-Catholic village of S Hilary in Cornwall, where Fr Bernard Walke so heroically worked and suffered to establish the Faith, one of his collaborators had a remarkable vision. Mother Theresa, Foundress of the Franciscan Servants of Jesus and Mary (the community now at Posbury S Francis in Devon), describes it:
"We were preparing to go to church as usual just before 9 p.m.. It was a dark misty night, there was no moon and the stars were not showing at all. As I came down the stairs from my bedroom, I saw through a long window on the landing that there was a great glow of light shining all round the house and lighting up the fields beyond the house. My first thought was that there must be a fire somewhere, though the light was not red but white, and I called to Emma to come out with me to see from where it was coming. We went out of the front door, which opened straight on to a lane, and stood in the middle of the lane to see better.
"At the side of the house there was a gigantic figure, veiled and crowned in a dazzling, perfectly still light. The figure seemed to reach from the sky down to the ground. It was the figure of a woman but we saw no features, the face, as well as the rest of the figure, was veiled in the pure light. We could see the other's faces and the hedges in the lane, and the fields beyond the lane, quite clearly in this light. The figure did not move at all, though we stood silently watching it for nearly ten minutes, It was still there when we left and walked up to the church, but there was no sign of it when we returned in about three quarters of an hour. We did not speak, either that night or for a long time after, to one another about what we had seen.
"I think, while I was looking at the figure, I did not reflect at all on what I saw. I hardly even wondered at it, I watched with a great sense of quietness within myself and with no surprise. Afterwards, while we were praying in church, there came into my mind and soul a certainty that what we had seen concerned our Lady and must have been an apparition of her ... "
I doubt whether Mother Foundress was familiar with the Byzantine texts for our Lady's Presentation, with their incessant emphasis on the theme of light. And it would be remarkable if she had been aware of the Orthodox perception that links the sojourn of the Mother of God in the Temple with the hesychast ('silent') tradition of prayer. So it is unlikely that this experience was a product of subconscious memories. Surely, it truly was Mary, Queen of Athos, the exemplar of hesychia, the prayer of Silence, who came to that Cornish lane, and said nothing, and stood in silent prayer, and gave her Son's gift of Silence ('... perfectly still light ... the figure did not move ... we stood silently ... I watched with a sense of great quietness ...').
The messages the Mother of God brings when her Son sends her among us do not always have to be verbal.