21 November 2010

Our Lady of Light (RECYCLED FROM 2010)

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.

12 comments:

Fr.Ogs said...

Dear Father,
Fr. Walke was, before St. Hilary, a Curate in the Parish of Lanteglos-by-Fowey (where I once served as hapless and totally unworthy Vicar): I am not sure where he lived in Polruan, but older folk remembered him ("He'd give you his own dinner!") not least for his two dogs (I was told) - a terrier and a wolf-hound; the terrier would chase the cats out of peoples' front gardens, and the wolf-hound would snap their backs. I have, what I am pretty sure, was his Missal (in need of a Binder) and have thought, when in Polruan, how he must turn in his grave, St. Saviour's Polruan being 'shared' with the Methodists who (of course) have a woman Minister (as does now, the Parish... as, I believe, does now too, his beloved St. Hilary). My parents used once, like a great many, to walk to St. Hilary, having done their duty and their joy earlier (8 o'clock for Communication, 11 o'clock for Adoration), to St. Hilary, for Evensong. It was Fr. Walke who encouraged Fr. Carr to have the Sanctuary of St. Mary's, Penzance, 'adorned and beautified' by the work of Procter, the Altar-piece he had exhibited at the Royal Academy (just imagine how ironic it would have to be now!), but which was destroyed by arson (as was the magnificent Organ) several years ago.
Eheu fugaces... well, eheu.

rev'd up said...

Your comments are like a breath of fresh air. God bless you!

Little Black Sambo said...

Here are some films of the apparition of the Mother of God in Cairo in 1968.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxFuhyzIBKM
(Sorry, don't know how to do proper links.)

Rubricarius said...

Interesting that the vision has similarities with Knock.

O that the Presentation was a Double of the Second Class...

johnf said...

A lovely story Father - I remember it from last year.
And good to hear from you again

Barbara Schoeneberger said...

Thanks for your blog. I always learn something that makes me appreciate God and Our Lady more.

umblepie said...

Thanks for this interesting post. Fr Walke's wife was a painter, Anne Walke, and I remember seeing a painting of the Crucifixion by her at an auction some years ago. Unfortunately I was unable to buy it, much as I would have liked to. I hope things are progressing well for you.

Anthony Symondson said...

What interests me about apparitions of Our Lady supposedly vouchsafed to non-Catholics is that they do not lead to a lasting cult. Our Lady of Llanthony, for instance, is largely a mid-c20 revival of a legend. Does it still continue? Walsingham pre-existed before Hope Patten. The subsequent history of St Hilary was a tragedy that could not have been willed by the Mother of God.
Yet the response to this apparition is impressive and, unlike Llanthony, appears not to have been orchestrated.

Poppy Tupper said...

What about Zeitoun in Cairo?

Anthony Symondson said...

The Copts are in communion with the Catholic Church.

Matthew said...

Fr Symondson: Some Copts are in communion with Rome; most aren't. The cult of Our Lady of Llanthony continues. Whether or not the events there in Aug/Sept 1880 were genuine apparitions of the Mother of God cannot be proved or disproved, but she was and is present there, as everywhere else, and "it is truly meet to bless" her "who didst bring forth God" there, as everywhere else. The cult was not a mid-20th century revival. It has continued in one form or another continuously since 1881, although the present ecumenical pilgrimage has only been going since 1972.

Dorothy B said...

Dear Father Hunwicke,
Very best wishes for a happy Christmas, and good things in the New Year.