Oct 14, 2009


Angels figure very prominently in the Marian apparitions of Garabandal, Spain, mainly distributing 'Holy Communion' to the four young visionaries. The essential message of Garabandal, apart from the now familiar call to penance and conversion, is respect for the Eucharist, reverence for priests and the necessity of 'obedience to the Church,' making this Marian visitation more than palatable to the Vatican leadership of the Church. This is in stark contrast to the ecumenical message of Medjugorje, which originated in Communist Yugoslavia in the 80's and witnessed to the necessity for respect and tolerance between religions, particularly Islam and Christianity, some years before the outbreak of the horrific religious/ethnic wars of the 90's. This brings up a very insightful comment made by William Lindsey in response to an earlier post here (September 10):

This makes me wonder about everyone's certainty that the Lady/Gospa is the Virgin Mary. I understand the identification of the person the visionaries saw/see with Mary.

But implicit in that identification is a whole set of assumptions about the "kind of" Virgin Mary that people see when they encounter Mary, which may not be true to the original experience at all. As an example: was the lady with roses whom Juan Diego encountered the Virgin Mary of European iconography, or someone completely different, an Aztec maiden with a different form and message?

I think this comment is spot on. The religious right so quickly assumes that these visitations  (and the Lady behind them) are a vindication of their own positions on so many issues within the Church, but significantly a large number of 'rightists' are outraged by Medjugorje's ecumenical tolerance (I've decided not to link to the comments, because they are quite toxic). On the other hand, Garabandal (among the minority who are aware of it) is universally taken to be an endorsement and confirmation of conservatives' outrage at many of the reforms of Vatican II and what they take to be a resulting neglect of the sacred gift of the Eucharist. Comments tend to focus on the diminished  reverence for the Sacrament, the use of inappropriate vessels, the relegating of the Eucharist to a side altar, etc. However, in fairness to the conservative view, I have to say there is a point to this, an inevitable loss of 'attunement' to the charismatic dimension of the Eucharist, but a loss which is perfectly understandable during a time of reform and re-balancing of emphases within the Church. It is a question of finding the right balance and not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Personally, I have a great devotion to the practice of "Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament" and was quite overwhelmed by the Eucharistic vigil at the Church of the Assumption at Stara Boleslav on the eve of Pope Benedict's visit and mass the next day (an experience I keep trying to get back to and reflect on).  This is very much a 'conservative' devotion and very much in vogue here in the Czech Republic. However, this radical gay fairie has a very heterodox relationship to the Eucharist, which I touched on (only very briefly) in a previous post, Emmaus Walk, yet I felt an instant and very powerful connection to the apparitions at Garabandal when they first hit the news in the 1960's without fully understanding the connection. I visited the village in Northern Spain twice, once during the same summer as the election and death of John Paul I and once some fifteen years later, after having passed through a very powerful, transformative experience regarding the Eucharist, which placed me very far outside 'orthodox' conceptions of the sacrament. It was only on this second visit that I clearly understood why the sense of connection was so powerful. Garabandal is the Marian apparition of the Eucharist par excellence and this very heterdox gay fairie was being assured by the 'Lady of the Pines' that the particular charism of the Eucharist that characterizes an essential part of my vocation was more than included in her embrace and blessing at Garabandal (according to  my own fallible, subjective experience, of course). In other words, Our Lady of Garabandal is much larger  and all-inclusive than the "Virgin Mary" of traditional Catholic piety. Which is why Bill's comment resonated with me so powerfully: implicit in that identification is a whole set of assumptions about the "kind of" Virgin Mary that people see when they encounter Mary, which may not be true to the original experience at all.

Without getting into details, (which I hope to elaborate on at a later date), I believe we are at a momentous turning point where the Sacraments of  Eucharist and Ordination are concerned. Somehow, the Eucharist needs to be freed from its present very rigid ecclesiastical control and its absolute dependence on a restricted rite of sacramental ordination. This is such an enormous issue theologically, and one does not tamper lightly with this most sacred element of the Roman Catholic tradition, nor fly in the face of this tradition's profound sense of sacerdotal mystery and the concomitant need for a minister who is specially blessed to officiate and represent the community at its own Eucharist sacrificial celebration. Nonetheless, we are at a radical turning point in the evolution of this sacrament. It began with the Jewish tradition of consuming the sacred temple bread only once a year and only by the high priest alone, with the sacred bread only reserved in the great temple in Jerusalem. It evolved through Christian creative adaptation into daily celebration and consumption of the sacred bread and wine, and its reservation in  Churches worldwide (and I'm not implying any sense of Christian supersessionism over Judaism here). It is my deeply held conviction that we are slowly (and clumsily) moving into the next stage of spiritual evolution of this Sacrament, where the Eucharist will move out of exclusive residence in Churches and  will be increasingly celebrated within intimate Christian communities and families, with parents celebrating the Eucharist with their children much like the Jewish seder and with the Eucharist reserved in Christian homes. It may take a century or more for this development to occur, but I believe we are riding the wings of the Spirit and this profound liberation is at hand.


Terence Weldon said...

Jayden, I agree that you and William Lindsey have uncovered something profound. I certainly recognise that our perceptions are heavily coloured by what we expect to see. The simple fact that peasant visionaries (are they ALWAYS peasants?) identify their vision with the Virgin Mary, does not guarantee that that is indeed precisely what they saw.

I am also intrigued by your thoughts on the Eucharist. I too have twice surprised myself with profound experiences of the Adoration on retreat. The first was intense but isolated, which nevertheless changed forever my previous scepticism about the whole devotion. It may have been just a preparation for the second experience, which was abundantly more intense, and was the effective start of the extraordinary retreat experience that followed - and that I have written about elsewhere.

I certainly agree that we need and will see a dramatic overhaul of the entire conception of ministry. I sense an outpouring of energy from laity and from women religious, just as the abuse and other scandals are distancing us from the established priesthood.

Whether this will lead to the kind of domestic Eucharistic celebration you envisage, I am not sure of - but would most certainly welcome.

colkoch said...

In my own personal long long trek, Bill's question has been answered for me. When a person has these kinds of transcendant visions and experiences you can only initially interpret them from the symbol structure and understanding your brain received as a child.

The trick is in letting a relationship develop, not staying put with pre defined ideas. I suspect one of the other problems with Medjugorge is that the visions are on going and have been for forty years or so. This implies a relationship between the visionary and the light being called Mary. All other Marian apparitions had definite endings.

My personal thinking is that you can only take a relationship so far and if the receiver can't develop with the message, the visitations are graciously ended to protect the message.

Juan Diego saw a woman of light he recognized as an Aztec, The clothing of the Virgin is loaded with Aztec symbols. For instance, Juan knew she was pregnant because she wears a black belt above her stomach. The Virgin of Guadalupe appeared in a guise which would be instantly recognized to the Indigenous population of Mexico, and again, her appearance short circuited what could have been a major genocidal disaster for both the Spanish and the Indigenous populations.

Who ever this Lady of Light is she frequently appears before a potential tribal or religious war. There was another Marian appearance in Kibeho, Uganda right before the genocide with a similar message to Medjugorge. The new messages seem to affirm one's personal spiritual practice while asking for the same for others. In this message Guadalupe was the fore runner. Sorry I went on so long, but this topic is more or less a lot of my life---not that you'd know it from my blog. LOL