Continued from Part 1
2. Vision of Peace
An intense love for the "ever Immaculate Mother of God" and her children suffering in purgatory - these were the two characteristics which strongly marked the deep piety of Venerable Archdeacon Cavanagh, Parish Priest of Knock at the time of the apparition.
"Several months before the apparition, Archdeacon Cavanagh found he could gratify his holy desire of saying one hundred Masses for the souls in purgatory whom our Blessed Mother most wished released. The great poverty of the people deprived him of the temporal help which other priests have from the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice for the intentions of the people. He made it known that he rejoiced to find he was free to follow his desire and to offer the adorable sacrifice for these holy souls in purgatory" (1) .
On the morning of the twenty-first of August, 1879, this saintly priest, standing before the altar of Knock church, had the happiness of completing his incomparable gift of mercy in favour of the holy souls - the last of the hundred Masses had been offered (2). In the evening of that same day the exterior of the south gable-end (3) of the church and some space around it were enveloped in a radiance not of earth.
In the profoundest spaces of this light there was a vision which, in serveral of its features, has rightly been considered apocalyptic in character. The vision had a focal point of supreme significance: a Lamb, facing towards the other figures of the apparition, was standing on a fullsized altar. Behind the Lamb and away from Him, a large cross stood erect on the altar. Triumphant over death and radiating the splendours of his glory, this Lamb clearly represented Jesus - the risen and glorified Lamb of God - who redeemed us by His sacrifice.
From the silent summits of contemplation that overlook the eternal city Our Lady gazed with immortal rapture on the divine Lamb and she was so transformed in His beauty and gladdened by His presence that it seemed as if a fountain of joy had broken in her heart. She appeared as if completely, yet serenely, held by the wonder and glory of her vision which shone upon her in a revelation which eternity will never exhaust. She did not speak. The beauty of her vision had ravished every human utterance from her lips.
We confine ourselves to these few features of the apparition which are especially relevant to our present purpose.
It should be noted that in its varied components the glorious spectacle was moulded to exquisite harmony (4) and reflected that tranquility of order which is eternal peace. The entire scene reposed in that silence which is one with beauty and breathed the calm of evelasting love. It pointed unmistakably to "rest and life everlasting" and a "rejoicing in the glory of heaven for evermore" (5).
The more we consider this aspect of the apparition the more reasonable does it appear to say that in imagery and symbolism adapted to the weakness of our human comprehension, it was a showing forth of the glorious vision for which the souls in purgatory are continually yearing and to which many of them had already attained through the Sacrifice of the Mass which had just been offered the hundredth time for them in the church at Knock.
So vast are the spiritual resources of Knock, so endless is its wealth of mystery and meaning, that, in our opinion, it lends itself convincingly to this interpretation without the least prejudice to other aspects of the apparition. Such admirable harmony can only be explained by the presence of truth informing and enriching its design.
There is another way of showing that the apparition owes its singular design to the intercession of the holy souls. In a very special sense, Knock is a manifestation of the eucharistic mystery, for it reveals the Lamb of God, standing as One glorified, on the altar of His own sacrifice. In this we see that the Mass which had been so often offered in Knock church for the relief and release of the holy souls is very significantly shown forth in the apparition; very significantly, we say, for while the souls in purgatory are helped "chiefly by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar" (6), the reception of its fruits in the Holy Eucharist is the most effective means by which we may avoid purgatory (7). The holy souls thus show their deep interest in our spiritual welfare.
But God willed that the souls in purgartory should seal the apparition whith a further sign that it was due to their interecessory power. For Our Lady, in whose hands had been placed the fruits of the hundred Masses offered for her suffering children, appears at Knock as Queen and Mediatrix contemplating, in the glory of Heaven, the sacred mystery of the Lamb's redeeming sacrifice. For her and for her children the Lamb of God is salvation, everlasting life, blessedness and rest.
In these three aspects of the apparition which we have just noted there is intrinsic evidence - that is, evidence in the very design of the apparition itself - that it was due to the intervention of the holy souls.
Thus did these saintly sufferers who "wait with silence for the salvation of God" (Lamentations 3:26) mark unmistakably the blessed vision of peace with the voiceless grateful accents of their powerful intercession. While God would draw the apparition back into the abyss of His own hiddenness, its grace will ever breathe a deep sense of joy; Knock will forever be a kiss from the loving, yearning hearts of purgatory.
To be continued