Reviewing this book in the Furrow I said that the Author of this exceptional text is of the conviction that the Apparition of 1879 is a powerful expression of the central mystery of our faith. In his introduction he says “as I move in prayer from figure to figure I find myself getting in touch with every item of the Creed that is dear to the Church”. The number of pilgrims coming to Knock will vindicate that claim. Pilgrims bear witness to the historical legacy of the Shrine for the faith-life of Irish men and women. Knock has the enduring capacity to touch and inspire and influence people today. In this very attractive book Fr. Tom Lane draws on this legacy and illustrates for us the secret behind Knock’s capacity to exercise such an influence. The book is not only informative and inspirational but also deeply nourishing and a support to prayerful pondering.
Knock conjures up a variety of images. It is the place where Mary appeared to a broken people in the aftermath of the devastation of the famine, yet these people were rich in faith.
In this work Fr. Lane highlights the centrality of Jesus as the Lamb of God who was slain for us. He does this in a simple but skilful utilisation of the iconography of the gable Apparition. At the centre of the Apparition is the Lamb who stands on the Altar of Sacrifice and who as he says “is particularly close to people at any time that can be called hard”. Around him are Mary, St. Joseph and St. John, while the angels send and descend, connecting heaven and earth via the Lamb of God on the altar. Here is a genuine embarrassment of biblical, liturgical and theological riches. They make the Knock Apparition utterly unique and of an exceptionally rich content. There is no other Marian Shrine in the world whose dramatis personae express a comparable fullness.
Christianity is a very incarnational religion since the Word of God “pitched his tent among us”. He is a God who delights in being among his people. This puts us on the alert as we reflect on the Apparition itself. The family into which Jesus was born, the mother from whom he took flesh, the apostles whom he formed were the first nucleus of the universal family with Mary as its centre. All help us to realise the dimensions of the mystery of that faith. Mary, Joseph and John constitute the warp and woof of the mystery of the Incarnation which necessarily involves the further drama of the struggle with suffering and sin, death and despair.
Tom Lane’s work carefully focuses the reader on the Lamb of God and his Eucharistic sacrifice for human kind. It invites us to gaze upon him (John 19:37) through the eyes of the family, both the Holy Family and all other families. These two prisms shed the light, love and compassion of the Lamb of God on the varying needs and sufferings, both spiritual and material of the human family. This is “a good news of the Lamb of God that has meant so much” to Fr. Lane in his ministry here at Knock Shrine.
The ten chapters of the book – “Reflections” is the word employed – focus on the Lamb of God. Each takes a particular dimension of the mystery of the Lamb. They include topics such as Knock as the Shrine of the Lamb, the Lamb as our Lamp, the Lamb who washes us white in his precious blood, the Lamb as both Lamb and Lion, multitudes coming before the Lamb, the Lamb who will conquer, where Mary is at home and Knock as an “atmosphere and a place”. These constitute little master pieces, connecting with our present day experience and opening us up to the depths of the Word of God.
I was particularly impressed by chaper 6 “Jesus both Lamb and Lion”. The modesty of the title hides the riches contained in the reflection. The author begins by outlining the popular perception of the word ‘lion’ which is backed up by the references to the lion in the Bible. In the Book of Revelation the Lamb and the Lion of the tribe of Judah are seem as identical.’ (Revelation 5:5). It follows that seeing Jesus as a meek and mild lamb needs to be counterbalanced with the aspects of his ministry that make him resemble the lion. Then he relates that to the constituency of culture as expressed in the form of the Lion of Narnia of C.S. Lewis fame. This leads on to the taming of ‘the lions of pride and passion’ within us, not to eliminate our vigour but to enable us attain ‘both gentleness and strength of steel, with all their drives under control.’ Fr Lane then mentions ‘the saints of tameness’, and understandably singles out his founder, St Vincent de Paul. Finally, the Eucharist is the cup that tames. There, ‘in the strength of that cup, we are enabled to drink the bitter cups of life as well as the cups that cheer”.
This work is eminently readable. Each “reflection” is self-contained and continues to expand and unfold the vision of the Lamb of God. The extraordinary riches, theological, scriptural, liturgical and spiritual, of the Knock apparition are made available with imagination and directness. And all this is done in a way that places the original message of Knock in the concrete setting of the Ireland of today. Fr. Tom Lane has done all of us a wonderful service as he invites, encourages and challenges us to reflect on the Apparition with which we have grown so accustomed.
On your behalf, on behalf of the thousands who come here for inspiration and encouragement I warmly congratulate Fr. Tom on the most interesting, very exciting and thoroughly informative presentation.