In the oldest part of Westminster Abbey, London, stands the tiny chapel which is pictured above. It is opposite the tomb of Saint Edward the Confessor and is surrounded by the tombs of numerous Kings and Queens of England, as well as a huge number of illustrious figures from the worlds of the arts and literature across the centuries.
This statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been touched so much in the past thousand years that the face is partially rubbed away and much of the fine detail has been lost. And yet even now, so very long after the statue was first placed there, still it is adorned every day with lit candles and a votive lamp. Such is the depth of affection with which the Blessed Virgin in held in the hearts of so many.
This shouldn’t really come as a great surprise. England is, after all, ‘the Dowry Of Mary’. It belongs to Her. It has always belonged to Her. And that sense of belonging, of consecration, was renewed just a few years ago in Westminster Cathedral, where Her statue was solemnly crowned anew. A similar consecration was made here in Scotland around the same time.
For the ancient statue in the Abbey, each touch of a human hand is a gentle caress – one that over time, has left it’s mark upon the stone from which that statue was carved. Each caress represented a prayer, a hope, an intention placed at the feet of the Mother of God.
But this happens not only in the spectacular grandeur of Westminster Abbey. In every parish Church we do much the same when we light a candle at Her altar; that little flickering light represents all we are placing there in Her hands, with confidence in Her motherly care for us and in Her power before the Almighty to obtain whatever we stand in need of.
Catholics – together with our brothers and sisters in some of the other Christian denominations – are greatly blessed to have grown up with a deep devotion to the Mother of God; for not all share this love of Her, which is a great pity. And yet regardless of any devotion we may have toward Her, She has a deep and abiding love for every single one of us – no matter the faith or denomination, nor even the absence of it.
And to us from Her, comes the gentlest caress of all.