Monday, November 21, 2016

England and the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today is the memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in both the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches (it's called The Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple in the Orthodox Churches). In fact, the Eastern Orthodox celebrated the feast before the Western Church, based upon the Protoevangelium of James. More about the feast here.

On such a great day, it seemed appropriate to draw your attention to this commentary in The Catholic Herald, "How England Took Flesh":

Walsingham was ranked with Rome, Jerusalem and Santiago de Compostela in medieval times, and was the only pilgrimage shrine entirely devoted to the Mother of God. Richard II – in an act commemorated in the stunning Wilton Diptych, a treasure of the National Gallery – dedicated England to Our Lady as her “dos” or gift or donation or “dowry”. There is also papal approval or confirmation of this title. Pope Leo XIII asked the English bishops in 1893 to consecrate their country to Mary, the Mother of God, recalling the “singular title” the land enjoyed of being “Mary’s Dowry”.For many, though, such talk belongs in the past: it is redolent of a “Faith of our Fathers” vision of England, incorporating a lament for a lost medieval unity, a dash of Chesterton and his “rolling English road”, and a kind of Marian devotion which many find rather flowery and excessive. . . .

Marian devotion is not something excessive or affected: it is part of the essence of our faith. And England’s destiny seems to be especially closely connected with Our Lady. Christ we know cared for his mother so deeply, remembering her in his agony to ensure she was cared for by St John. He can hardly have put a whole country specifically into her care as her own possession – for a “dowry” is that part of a man’s estate inalienably set aside for her use alone – without a very clear purpose. No other nation on earth claims this. What is it for?

To understand why England’s status as the Dowry of Mary is so important, we must go back to the beginnings of the nation. Legally speaking, there was no England until the 10th century. There was Offa of Mercia with his coin Rex Anglorum in the 8th century. There were the “English folk”. But we have to wait for the 10th century for “Engle-land”, or the land of the “Angles”, to have official, documentary recognition.

But all histories proclaim there was an England before this: an ecclesial England, a spiritual entity and reality. Schoolchildren still learn of the Synod of Whitby of 665/6, which ensured that the Roman rather than the Celtic method of church administration prevailed.

Please read the rest there.

Illustration: Limbourg Brothers, Miniature from Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, c. 1415 (Public Domain).

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