When we went to Ireland this past fall, we trekked up the west coast to the Shrine at Knock. The month before, A dear friend had prepared me with a book of the astounding story of how this shrine came to be.
On a very rainy and windy night in August of 1879, just outside of a church in the center of small farm community, a few villagers noticed something phenomenal. It was a vision of Mary, Joseph, John the Evangelist (wearing a Bishop’s miter or hat), and a spotless lamb on an altar. The area near the church where the figures stood silent, was not wet despite the torrent. The 15 official witnesses who remained and prayed for the duration of the two hours of the vision give testimony consistent with each other’s. After the destruction of the potato famine, this was an sign of much needed hope, communicated to fifteen witnesses, without a single word.
The Silent Message and The Spotless Lamb
Unlike other apparitions over the centuries, this particular vision was unique in that no words were spoken, although each mystical figure was definitely communicating something by their stance and motion. Also particular to Knock was the appearance of Joseph and John the Baptist. Finally and most profoundly, was the central appearance of the spotless lamb. As it stood on the altar in the middle of the vision, it drew the attention not only of all the witnesses, but Mary, Joseph and John were all seemingly directing attention to the lamb.
For me, the most illuminating part of the described vision were the angels that were reportedly surrounding, in particular the lamb on the altar, while swirling in adoration. Upon reading the description of these angels, I spent several minutes contemplating what it must have been to behold this vision.
It wasn’t hard to imagine upon arriving at Knock. The shrine itself has a replication of the scene carved in stone inside of a beautiful chapel covered by glass windows. I thought to myself how amazing the replication was, even the angels as part of the statuary. Before entering the chapel to pray, we walked through the garden with stations of the cross, lit candles, and picked up some cards in the gift shop. After filling some bottles with Holy Water from the font, we turned to walk toward the chapel to pray before our departure.
As we visited in the late afternoon, with the sun low in the sky to the west behind the chapel, I snapped a few pics with my phone before we went in to pray.
Later that night, I looked through my pictures and I noticed a glowing swirl all over the glass windows of the shrine chapel. Suddenly I felt a warmth over my heart. The angels. I could see them! I quickly looked up other pictures of the shrine and did not see these beautiful blue swirls in any other photo.
For me, it was a great gift. After two hours sleep in 36 hours, carving our way up the west coast of Ireland to a lesser known shrine, I was able to experience my own miraculous silent message of hope from a spotless lamb.
January 19, 2020 Gospel: Behold the Lamb
As you contemplate the gospel reading below this second week of Ordinary Time, I offer to you the gift that was given to me in this amazing image of the chapel at the Shrine of Knock, and hope it brings you the sense of hope and wonder it grants me.
Gospel JN 1:29-34
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
He is the one of whom I said,
‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’
I did not know him,
but the reason why I came baptizing with water
was that he might be made known to Israel.”
John testified further, saying,
“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”