Wednesday 4 May 2022

Our Lady in Eastertide

It was pouring with rain on the evening of 21st August 1879. At about 8pm a young woman, returning from her work as a housekeeper, saw a vision of three figures gathered around the gable wall of the parish church at Knock. Next to them on an altar was the Lamb of God, glorified beneath the cross, surrounded by angels. She alerted some locals, and so for two hours, fifteen people knelt in wonder in the pouring rain, reciting the rosary and looking upon the vision of Our Lady, flanked by St John the Evangelist and St Joseph. Our Lady gestured towards the lamb, but no word was spoken, there was no message given except what the people saw.

That village in the West of Ireland had suffered greatly from the dreadful famine which ravaged the country. Homelessness and emigration was rife, there was no food, no money, and even less hope. And there, in the midst of their suffering, Our Lady appeared.

In Easter time we are very much focused on the triumph of the Lamb who was sacrificed for us, dead no longer, but risen and glorified. We hear it in the readings each Sunday from St John’s Apocalypse, another vision of the victory won by the Lord. Our Lady points to that victory.

It has been said that that vision at Knock, rich in theological symbols, represents the Church — St Joseph, the carpenter, the patron of the universal church, her protector, and St John, dressed as a bishop in the vision, the theologian. Our Lady is the Mother of the Church, and by her calm presence she points us to her son’s victory, and to the Blessed Eucharist. There is a profound relationship, St John Paul II tells us, between Our Lady’s “yes,” her fiat, and the “amen” we say as we come to the altar rail to receive the Lord in Holy Communion. We receive him into our heart just as Our Lady had done so, even before she bore him in her womb.

Our Lady’s “yes” was her exceptional participation in the mystery of redemption, and our “yes”, our “amen”, whilst very ordinary, is no less significant for us. We participate in that sacrifice of Christ, a sacrifice which marks us, and we share in a foretaste of his glory which should in its own way shape how we live now. And we receive much strength from him as the food for our soul.

Our Lady points the way for us and by her intercession she helps us to get there and so we can say that we must be devoted to the Blessed Eucharist, the sacrament of Christ’s victory, in union with her.

The vision at Knock was intended to comfort a poor people who were suffering. That vision, like St John’s in the first place, is one of God’s ways of telling us, everything is going to be alright. We must follow Our Lady’s lead and allow that victory of the Lamb to shape how we live.