Our Lady of Pew

As to exactly who or what she was see the Westminster Abbey site.

Last Friday I attended a mass venerating Our Lady of Pew in the Abbey. I only knew about the event because my friend Greg Skidmore was directing the choir and mentioned it. I thought I'd go because he always conducts superb performances and it sounded intriguing. I hadn't the slightest idea what to expect, and if I had had it certainly wasn't what I encountered.

My wife and I arrived at 1830 to see a large queue forming to enter the Abbey after it closed. At length we were admitted by super-efficient vergers marshalled by near-invisible earpieces (!) and directed to the choir stalls. The evening sun streaming in throu the west window was a real trip in itself.

I have been present at a great number of indifferent religious ceremonies in my life; but this was quite different. Once the mass started we were conscious of being in the presence of  committed believers, and the sincerely conducted ritual lead by the Dean, accompanied by superb singing of renaissance settings by the Lacock Scholars, caused the whole nature and energy of the ceremony to break open a hyper-reality. Somehow the officiants moving quietly and efficiently around and behind the altar reredos made me think of the sense of wonder GM Hopkins captures  in his visionary poem The Starlight Night.
    This piece-bright paling* shuts the spouse
    Christ home, Christ and his mother and all his hallows.
*the starlit sky

The core perception that I took away from the mass was seeing throu a perfectly aligned wormhole in time into a profound truth: namely, the means by which transcendence is manifested in time, and how such manifestations can only be preserved if they remain as pure transmissions. In other words, the specialness of this occasion could only exist because it was an esoteric ritual of faith preserved from deep time (into which I had interloped) - and which could never have withstood the glare of an exoteric daylight.

This is perhaps why Celts believed that religious truth could only be imparted experientially, and we can only really intuit what their view of the cosmos was?

Afterwards the congregation of 300+ filed out to venerate the statue of Our Lady of Pew in a nearby side chapel. (George Fox would've had conniptions.) This iconic image in alabaster perfectly fits its role of connecting believers to an aspect of the eternal feminine, but is in fact modern and was carved in the 1970s by an Anglican nun (Concordia Scott OSB) who has focused her skills like a medieval sculptor to create an image both deeply personal and wholly transpersonal.

The unified commitment of clergy and congregation created a powerful Presence. It was like encountering the upwelling of an underground river that had apparently been dormant for centuries and was momentarily visible before just as mysteriously disappearing. As we entered the tube afterwards Clancy and I were glad we had each other there to be sure we hadn't dreamt it.