Monday, October 15, 2012

Our Lady of Walsingham

The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham is the most renowned sanctuary of the Mother of God in the whole of the British Isles.
     Walsingham itself is a village in a remote part of East Anglia some 125 miles from London.  Here in the year 1061, (when England was still considered part of the One Orthodox Catholic Church) Richeldis, Lady of the Manor, received a vision in the fields near her home.  The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to her and carried her in spirit to Nazareth.  There, Our Lady showed her the little house where the Annunciation took place, and directed her to construct an exact copy. In confirmation of this vision, a spring of water suddenly appeared at Richeldis’ feet.
     Richeldis obeyed, and so a chapel, after the model of the Holy House at Nazareth, was built beside the spring in honor of the mystery of the Incarnation.  By God’s blessing Walsingham grew into a great center of prayer.  Pilgrims came not only from distant parts of England or Scotland but from all over Europe, to pray before the venerable image of God’s Mother in the Holy House, and to drink from the waters of the spring. England’s Nazareth, as it was called, became famous for miracles of healing.
     The Mother of God is honored at Walsingham not only by Anglicans and Roman Catholics, but by Orthodox as well. Before World War 1, Archbishop Seraphim, of the Russian Orthodox Church in Paris, blessed a plot of land close to the nave of the Shrine Church, where it is hoped one day to establish a permanent place for Orthodox worship (this chapel has not so far been built). In 1938, at the consecration of the enlarged Shrine Church, a delegation from the Russian Church was present, led by Archbishop Nestor and Archimandrite Nicolas Gibbes. Then at Pentecost, 1944, a temporary chapel within the walls of the Anglican Shrine was blessed by Archbishop Sava of Grodno, of the Polish Orthodox Church. This continues to be used by Orthodox pilgrims. Although small, it has an icon screen and all the features necessary for Eastern Orthodox worship.
     Among the Orthodox who visited the Shrine after the war was the saintly Serbian Bishop, Nicholai Velimirovich. For several years a Serbian priest, Father Nadjanovich lived permanently at Walsingham. Since 1961 there have been regular Greek Orthodox pilgrimages. In 1964, the Orthodox Confraternity of Our Lady of Walsingharn was set up, under the patronage of Metropolitan Athenagoras, with Greek, Russian, Serbian, and English Orthodox representatives on the Council.
From Fr. Patrick Cardine, St. Patrick Orthodox Church  www.SaintPatrickOrthodox.org

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