Monday, July 16, 2012

"Behold, a little cloud rising from the sea" ... Kings 18:44

Image depicting Kings 18:44

"In the bush seen by Moses, we recognize the preservation of your glorious virginity, O blessed Mother of God." - Antiphon; Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Church Fathers tell us the advent of the Messiah was foreseen by the Prophets in the scripture I've cited here.  For centuries, iconographers have depicted these events by giving form to the prophecy of Isaiah, "The virgin shall be with child"; and from another place, "The woman shall encompass a man." - Jer 31:22   Hence, the archetype, prototype of the Virgin of the Sign is frequently included in icons of the Virgin of the Burning Bush, Carmelite icons, and so on.

Consider the passage from Kings, the cloud rising from the sea - no bigger to Elijah's sight than a man's fist... So how is it?  How, O how, does one see the Holy Virgin in that manifestation?  Or in the bush seen by Moses?  Or Gideon's fleece?*  I say it is by faith.

Yet today - when the ordinary and simple, but devout, are convinced they see an image of the Virgin in a tree trunk, they are roundly mocked and called 'loons' and are an embarrassment to the sophisticated Catholic 'hierarchy' of the highly educated and pedigreed... the 'magisterium of approved Catholic bloggers'.  I'm reminded of one of the canticles or psalms from the Liturgy of the Hours, "This is the one I approve, the lowly and afflicted man, who trembles at my word." - Isaiah 66:2

"I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, even the stones will cry out.” - Luke 19:40 

Or, why not a tree trunk?

Personally, I'm not 'into' pareidolian phenomena, nor would I even try to promote this type of spirituality or devotion, neither do I suggest people ignore diocesan authority:  Although, as I suggested in an earlier post, such incidents may have happened in the past - from whence approved devotions developed, and fervor spread.  Nevertheless, I find it odd that ordinary people who struggle, often like sheep without a shepherd, can be so easily dismissed and mocked for their simple piety and cultural instincts.  Especially considering how Medjugorje continues to be promoted amidst investigations and allegations of fraud; or dubious mystics are promoted for sainthood (Cora Evans); while New Age spirituality infects diocesan programs and parishes, retreat centers and convents, all over the country.  Indeed, in our day, even those who should know better, deny the Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so it is nothing to mock 'the lowly and afflicted', who show reverence before what is holy.

*       I will put this fleece of wool on the floor: if there be dew on the fleece only, and it be dry on all the ground beside, I shall know that by my hand, as thou has said, thou wilt deliver Israel. And it was so. And rising before day wringing the fleece, he filled a vessel with the dew. And he said again to God: Let not thy wrath be kindled against me if I try once more, seeking a sign in the fleece. I pray that the fleece only may be dry, and all the ground wet with dew. And God did that night as he had requested: and it was dry on the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground. (Judges 6:37-40)

"When the Son of Man returns will he find any faith on earth?"


  1. ....Very Nice perspective, Terry, thank you...Humbling. Lou

  2. Beautifully put, Terry. (Also, your icon of Elijah and Our Lady of Mount Carmel is breathtaking…do you have any prints of it?)

    1. Thanks very much. No - I'm sorry I don't have any prints left.

  3. Thank you for all of the beautiful posts accompanied by magnificent sacred art in preparation for this feast day!

  4. Thanks Terry for sharing. I'm not sure I fully understand why the local faithful in Newark have been ridiculed as your post suggests. Has there been a significant amount of backlash?

    The Fox News article reads typical for sensitive issue like this. Simply create a story with elements of drama and tension –Us (the people) vs Them (the Church Leadership). Make it more about authoritative expertise and less about faith. Although the Archdiocese response is rather tepid, and likely condensed for sound-bite news approval, surely we must consider that some phenomenon occur naturally? I’ve seen hundreds of tree wounds and cankers in urban forests. They happen a lot. Nevertheless, I am completely comfortable with folks being truly inspired and humbled by a rather striking image of Our Lady of Guadalupe! Hail Mary…


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