Dignare Me Laudare Te, Virgo Sacrata

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Walsingham and The Dowry of Mary (on the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham)

The Wilton Diptych

(The following from a pamphlet titled "Walsingham: The Shrine of Our Lady - Spiritual Guide," which I obtained on a trip to the shrine of Our Lady in Walsingham, England in September 2004).

"On the Sunday after Corpus Christi 1381 in Westminster Abbey, King Richard II knelt amidst a great throng of his subjects to re-dedicate England to Mary, as her dowry. Westminster was the shrine of St. Edward the Confessor, traditionally held to have been the first to make this dedication and in whose reign Walsingham had been founded. Richard made at least two pilgrimages at this time to Our Lady's Shrine in Walsingham and to that of St. Edmund at Bury. The saintly Edmund, king of East Anglia, where Walsingham was situated, had been martyred for the faith by the Vikings in the 9th century. In the [Wilton] diptych (above) the three "dowry kings," as they are known, are depicted with St. John the Baptist, Richard's special patron. At the end of the Richard's reign Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote: 'The contemplation of the great mystery of the Incarnation has brought all Christian nations to venerate her from whom came the beginnings of Redemption. But we, as the humble servants of her own inheritance and liegemen of her special dower, as we are approved by common parlance, ought to excel all others in favour of our praises and devotion to her.' A hundred years later, the Pynson Ballad centres the spirituality of Walsingham on this same great mystery, seeing the Shrine as the very reason for the title 'dowry of Mary.'"

Statue of Our Lady of Walsingham, in the "Slipper Chapel"

"O England, great cause have you to be glad
Compared to the Promised Land
For you are graced to stand in that degree,
Through this glorious lady's intercession;
To be called in every realm and region
The Holy Land, Our Lady's Dowry
Thus are you called from all antiquity.
And this is the cause, as appears by comparison.
In you is built New Nazareth, a house
To the honour of the Heavenly Empress
And of her glorious Salutation.
First principle and ground of our Salvation,
When Gabriel said at old Nazareth: Ave!
This joy shall be remembered here each day."
(Ballad of Walsingham, c. 1490)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

St. Thecla, Protomartyr for Women

Maronite image of Saint Thecla, taken from Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church

(The following is excerpted from the 23 September entry in Volume XIV of the 1983 Marian House edition of the English translation of Dom Prosper Guéranger's 'The Liturgical Year' by the Benedictines of Stanbrook.)

"While honouring the first successor of St. Peter [St. Linus], Rome commemorates the protomartyr of the female sex. Together with holy Church, then, let us unite in the concert of praise unanimously lavished upon [Saint] Thecla by the fathers of east and west. When the martyr pontiff Methodius [Saint Methodius of Olympus] gave his 'Banquet of virgins' to the Church, about the end of the third century, it is on the brow of the virgin of Iconium that he placed the fairest of crowns distributed at the banquet of the Spouse. And justly so; for had not Thecla been trained by [Saint] Paul, who had made her more learned in the Gospel than she was before in philosophy and every science? Heroism in her kept pace with knowledge; her magnanimity of purpose was equaled by her courage; while, strong in the virginal purity of her soul and body, she triumphed over fire, wild beasts, and sea monsters, and won the glory of a triple martyrdom."

"A fresh triumph is hers at the mysterious banquet. Wisdom has taken possession of her, and, like a divine harp, makes music in her soul, which is echoed on her lips in words of wondrous eloquence and sublime poetry. When the feast is over, and the virgins rise to give thanks to the Lord, Thecla leads the chorus, singing: 'For thee, O Bridegroom, I keep myself pure; and with burning lamp I come to meet thee.'"

"'I have fled from the bitter pleasures of mortals, and luxurious delights of life and its love; under Thy life-giving arms I desire to be protected, and to gaze for ever on Thy beauty, O blessed One.'"

"'For Thee, O Bridegroom, I keep myself pure; and with burning lamp I come to meet thee.'"

"'I have contemned union with mortal man; I have left my golden home for Thee, O King; I have come in undefiled robes, that I may enter with Thee into Thy happy bridal chamber.'"

"'For Thee, O Bridegroom, I keep myself pure; and with burning lamp I come to meet thee.'"

"'Having escaped the enchanting wiles of the serpent, and triumphed over the flaming fire and the attacks of wild beasts, I await Thee from heaven.'"

"'For Thee, O Bridegroom, I keep myself pure; and with burning lamp I come to meet thee.'"

"'Through love of Thee, O Word, I have forgotten the land of my birth; I have forgotten the virgins my companions, and even the desire of mother and of kindred; for Thou, O Christ, art all things to me.'"

"'For Thee, O Bridegroom, I keep myself pure; and with burning lamp I come to meet thee.'"

"PRAYER: Grant, we beseech [T]hee, almighty God, that we, who celebrate the festival of blessed Thecla, [T]hy virgin and martyr, may rejoice in her annual solemnity, and make progress by the example of such great faith. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who lives and reigns with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen."