Saturday, November 21, 2015

Marian Chivalry in Merry Old England

From Mary Victrix:
Most loved of all who interceded for man was the Virgin. The Gabriel bell rang at evening to call Christians to recite Ave Maria, and the pilgrims flocked to see the replica of her house in the Augustinian priory at Walsingham, believing that the heavenly galaxy, the Milky Way, had been set to guide them there. The cult of supplicating Mary to intercede for human weaknesses which only a woman could be expected to forgive was then first reaching the height of its immense popularity. The great events of her life, the Annunciation, Purification, Visitation and Assumption, had taken their place among the feasts of the Christian year; at the Purification in February, known as Candlemas, everyone walked through the streets carrying candles blessed at the altar in her honour. She was thought of as the embodiment of every womanly virtue; tender, pure and loving and so pitiful that even the most abandoned could hope for forgiveness through her aid. “A woman clothed in the sun with the moon under her feet and upon her head a crown of twelve stars,” a preacher called her: “this great sign and token stretched down into the depths of Hell, for all the devils there dread the name of this glorious Virgin.”

In no land was Mary so honoured as in England—our Lady’s dowry, it was sometimes called. The number of churches and shrines dedicated to her was past counting; no other name figures so often in the lists of the royal oblations. When William of Wykeham founded his colleges at Winchester and Oxford he placed them under her protection, and at both the bishop still kneels in stone with outstretched hands before her to beg a blessing on his endowments. Nearly every church of importance possessed her image in silver, gold or alabaster given by some benefactor, and along the highroads and pilgrim ways were wayside chapels where travellers could tell their beads and say their Ave Marias to the Queen of Heaven. (Read more.)

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