It has been great fun reading through the archives at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham website, and finding precious little nuggets of information pertaining to the persistent Orthodox presence at the Shrine.
Most interesting was this, from Our Lady`s Mirror, Summer 1938. I have put the bits of Orthodox interest in bold type.
THE BLESSING OF THE EXTENSIONS TO THE PILGRIMAGE CHURCH
By Saturday, June 4th, the Hospice of Our Lady was full of guests, and all that day and during Sunday pilgrims were arriving. On Whit-Sunday several Masses were said in the Holy House and the Chapels of the original building, the new parts remaining closed off until the hallowing on Whit-Monday.
In one sense the functions may be said to have commenced on Sunday with the High Mass in the Parish Church, when St. Mary’s was packed with parishioners and visitors. Bishop O’Rorke was present and preached a wonderful sermon which kept the large congregation spellbound.
Then later on the portable Altar Stones were anointed, the relics were enclosed, the cavities sealed and the Stones consecrated by the Bishop, and then placed in the Altars in preparation for the Mass to be said at the High Altar the next day.
After Solemn Evensong and during Father Alban Baverstock’s sermon, the Archbishop Nestor, accompanied by Archimandrite Nicholas Gibbes and Father Polski arrived and at the conclusion of the discourse were met and conducted to places in the Sanctuary for Benediction.
Great anxiety had been expressed whether the weather would be favourable or not, but Monday dawned a perfect day, cool, but brilliantly sunshiny. Masses commenced in the Parish Church at 6 o’clock and also at the Holy House, and motors and char-a-bancs began to arrive quite early in the morning. Parties from Birmingham, Yorkshire, Scotland, Cornwall, S. Leonard’s-on-Sea, Oxford, indeed from all over the country, poured into the village.
By half-past eleven, the streets were thronged by pilgrims making their way to the Parish Church to take their places in the procession.
At 12 o’clock precisely, as announced, the procession started, pausing for the singing of the Easter Angelus. It took exactly one hour less three minutes to pass a particular place on the route, where it was timed. First came troops of Scouts with their banners, then headed by marshals, behind whom walked the thurifer, cross and torches, leading the long rows of dark-habited nuns and other Religious, with the Abbot of Nashdom in the rear accompanied by one of his monks.
After the procession of the Religious, a group of children dressed in white carried the parish banner of Our Lady of Walsingham, bedecked with flowers and streamers of ribbon. Then came the procession of the Priest Associates of the Holy House, headed by crucifier and lights. A hundred and fifty of the two hundred and fifty associates were in this procession vested in soutane and cotta. The little procession of the Eastern Orthodox Clergy, again headed by cross and lights, came next. First walked the Archbishop Nestor in golden mitre and splendid robes, the train of which was borne by two boys from the little Norfolk village of Gresham; another boy carried his Episcopal staff. Behind His Grace, with train also carried by servers, walked the Archimandrite Nicholas and the Archimandrite Nathaniel, followed by Orthodox Priests.
Then led by yet another cross with supporting torches and preceded by the Verger of the Shrine in his scarlet robe, came the College of the Guardians, first the lay, then the Priest members and the Master. Behind the College attended by servers, and two Fathers from Mirfield who acted as Deacons of Honour, walked Bishop O’Rorke, vested in pontificals. Following the Bishop came the wives of the Guardians, Mr. Craze, the Architect, and then between three and four thousand lay pilgrims, many in the blue veils of the Society of Mary, others in the insignia of the different Societies of which they are members.
The village streets were festooned with flags and bunting. During the procession, the Priest-Associates acting as cantors, most ably conducted by Father Thomas, O.S.B., sang first the Litany of Our Lady and then the Litany of the Saints, to the traditional tones, the rest of the people making the responses.
Arrived at the pilgrim Church the Religious and Priests formed up on either side of the West doors, while the Bishop standing in the midst, said the opening prayers of the form of blessing Churches and Oratories, after which, accompanied by the Guardians, the Bishop and his attendants passed through the original building and then outside made the circuit of the new parts, aspersing the walls above and below with holy water, during which those in attendance upon him recited the “Miserere” and the crowds at the West end of the Church sang the popular hymn, “Faith of Our Fathers.”
Returning to the courtyard, further prayers were recited and then the Bishop proceeded to the fauld-stool before the High Altar, while the remainder of the Litany was being said. Unfortunately at this point there was a serious hitch; according to plan the Priest Associates and the Religious should have come into the Church behind the Bishop, but as so often is likely to happen, when it is impossible to have a full practice with all concerned in a function, for some reason or other a counter order was given and they remained in the courtyard with the result that the strains of the Litany could scarcely be heard within the Church. The Bishop blessed the Altar and Church, and then proceeded to circulate round the whole of the interior of the building, again aspersing the walls above and below, which the Choir in the gallery sang the three Psalms appointed. This aspersion having been made, the last prayer said, the Bishop and his attendants, withdrew to seats at the Epistle side of the Choir, and the Archbishop and the Archimandrites to places at the Gospel side. The Guardians attending occupied seats in temporary stalls put up for the occasion.
While the Altar was being vested the hymn, “Mother of Christ” was sung. The belated Priests filed in and took up their position behind the High Altar and above it in the Chapel of the Coronation (C.B.S.), and soon the whole building was packed from end to end by a standing crowd of over a thousand pilgrims; in the meantime others took up positions in the courtyard at the West front to listen to the relay of the Service in the Shrine, while others proceeded to the gardens in order to assist at the High Mass sung there by Father Raybould of S. Julian, Norwich. The Servers and singers were all members of the congregation of S. Julian with S. Peter Parmentergate, Norwich. Within the Church, the Mass was sung in the presence of the Archbishop and Bishop and assisting prelates, by Father Hope Patten, the Parish Priest of Walsingham, who is also Administrator of the Shrine, assisted by Father Thomas, O.S.B., as Deacon, and Father Derrick Lingwood, the Bursar of the College of Guardians, acting as Sub-Deacon. All the Servers and Choir, with the exception of Mr Oliver Richards, an old Choirmaster of the Parish Church of Walsingham who came to assist, were Servers and Choir of the Parish Church. Despite practices, a certain amount of confusion was almost inevitable, as the aisles on either side of the Altar, reserved for the Servers, were soon crowded by pilgrims, which does not tend to make serving under these unusual conditions, too easy. Mass ended, a Solemn Te Deum was sung as an act of thanksgiving to God for the completion of this further work in the restoration of the Shrine. A visit was then made to the Holy House where Our Lady was saluted by three “Hail, Marys” and the repetition of the Easter Anthem. The ceremonies were concluded by 2.15.
A rush was made to the Refectory and four marquees set up in the garden to secure lunch, while the village was also sought by many; numbers of pilgrims, however, preferred to bring their own picnic meals, and sat in groups on the grass. During the afternoon, the strains of the “Stabat Mater,” were repeatedly heard above the murmur of voices of the assembled pilgrims, as different groups conducted by their Priests made the Stations of the Cross. A continuous procession of people passed through the Holy House, stopping for a few brief moments to offer their prayers and then pass on to give room for others, while for hours on end a stream of people waited their turn to drink and be sprinkled at the Holy Well.
During the afternoon the Archbishop and his attendants with their Choir visited the Holy House and sang a Te Deum in honour of Our Lady; at the conclusion of which the Rosary was started, the vast crowds within and without the Church joining in; the whole of the afternoon as well as the Morning Services being relayed.
After a popular hymn, Father Biggart, C.R., delivered an oration, which will be found elsewhere in this number of the Mirror, and then followed Benediction of the most Holy Sacrament.
By 6 o’clock the cars and char-a-bancs were moving away crowded by happy pilgrims, making their homeward journey.
Monday, June 6th, was one of the most wonderful days in the history of the revival of the Holy House, and we trust a day that will bring much blessing and spiritual consolation to many a soul. Over six thousand people visited the Holy House on that day.
The following morning at 9 o’clock, Archbishop Nestor, assisted by the Archimandrites Nicholas and Nathaniel, and other Ministers and Servers, sang the “Holy Orthodox Liturgy” at which Bishop O’Rorke assisted in cope and mitre, attended by Father Patten and Father Lingwood, Prince Galitzine acted as lector and administered the lavabo to His Grace. During the Mass special mention was made by name of Bishop O’Rorke, Father Patten and Father Lingwood and the Archbishop not only personally came from the Altar to incense them, but also to give each of them the kiss of peace.
At the conclusion of the Liturgy bread was blessed and distributed by the Archbishop to all at the Altar and in the congregation.
This wonderful conclusion to the Blessing of the Extension was, we believe, the first time the “Orthodox Liturgy” has been offered in Walsingham ever, and we hope and pray that it may be the beginning of new relations culminating in complete reunion of the great Churches of the East with those of Canterbury and York and the Churches in communion with them.
It must have been a wonderful sight.
Of special interest is the fact that Archimandrite Nicholas Gibbs was the English-born tutor to the children of Saint Tsar Nicholas, who, inspired by their example, became Orthodox and kept the memories of the Imperial Family`s piety alive.