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)


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