Thursday, April 25, 2013

Homily Archbishop Charles Brown, Apostolic Nuncio Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, Apostolate of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration

Saturday 20th April 2013

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68).

My brothers and sisters in Christ, it is a real joy and a privilege for me to be with you this afternoon here at the shrine of Our Lady of Knock, for the pilgrimage of the Apostolate of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration.  It is truly good to be here (cf. Mt 17:4).  Since my arrival in Ireland some fourteen months ago, I have made several visits to this holy and renowned place.  

My first visit as Nuncio was less than a week after arriving in Ireland, in February 2012, and since that first experience, I have become ever more convinced that the renewal of the Church in Ireland is, in a profound way, connected to this place of pilgrimage and to everything that it represents.  All of us know well the history of Knock; how in 1879 Our Lady appeared to simple people gathered in prayer outside the parish church, to comfort and console them in their struggles and difficulties.
Ireland in 1879 was a difficult place.  The effects of the famine thirty years before were still felt sharply in the lives of the people.  The countryside, especially here in the West, had been depopulated; hundreds of thousands of people had died or had emigrated, and in 1879 it seemed very likely that the famine might return.  And so, it was in those challenging and frightening circumstance that she appeared – to comfort and to sustain the faith of her people by her maternal and loving presence.

The apparition of Knock is somewhat unusual for the fact that Our Lady did not speak.  Rather we can say that, instead of speaking, she opened the eyes of those who were present that day to see what our physical eyes do not normally see – a vision not unlike the one given to the Apostle John, the Beloved Disciple, on the Island of Patmos, a revelation of heaven, a vision of the ceaseless act of adoration, which is what heaven will be.  At the centre of Saint John’s vision, recounted in the Book of the Apocalypse, is the Lamb “who seemed to have been slain” (Rev 5:6), that is, with his wounds still visible, surrounded by countless angels and by the symbolic figure of 144,000 redeemed people, coming “from every race and tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and the Lamb” (Rev 7:9).  

Here at Knock, the symbolic 144,000 are represented by just three of the redeemed, three saints: Our Lady, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Beloved Disciple himself.  And here too, as in the vision of Saint John in the Book of the Apocalypse, at the centre is the Lamb, Christ our Lord and our God (cf. Jn 20:28); the Lamb upon the altar; the Lamb of sacrifice.  The apparition here at Knock is, as I have said, a vision of heaven, and in that vision, the presence of the altar is very significant.  The altar, on which the Lamb is standing, connects the realty of heaven – the “life of the world to come,” as we profess ever Sunday in the final words of the Creed – with earth.  

The presence of the altar in the apparition here at Knock links heaven and earth.  And that connection is in and through the Mass.  The ceaseless act of worship, which is what heaven will be, already begins for us as Catholics here on this earth in the celebration of the Holy Mass.  In Holy Mass, we, as baptized Christians, are drawn into the heavenly liturgy of the saints and angels.  Our elevation into the adoration of heaven becomes very explicit in the Mass at the end of the Preface prayed by the priest, the prayer which leads us into the “Holy, Holy, Holy”.  Each of the different Prefaces always concludes with some reference to all the angels and saints of heaven and to their unending hymn of praise to God, and then we too here on earth truly join them in their song of adoration of the Thrice-Holy God: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts…”  This is the hymn of the angels, which becomes our hymn here on earth.  The Mass is our act of adoration in which we are united with the Lamb who offers himself to the Father for us.

Homily continued here:  Catholic Bishops website - Archbishop Charles Brown Homily at Knock Shrine 20.4.13

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