One of my favourite places to visit in London is the National Gallery overlooking Trafalgar Square. In the Sainsbury wing there is a painting on two hinged panels known as the Wilton Diptych. It is an extremely rare survival of a late Medieval religious panel painting from England. The diptych was painted for King Richard II of England, who is depicted kneeling before the Virgin and Child.
It was Richard II in 1381 in Westminster abbey, in the tiny chapel of Our Lady of the Pew, who dedicated England to Our Lady. He sought her protection in the face of great political turmoil. It is said that this was the first formal occasion when England was known as ”Mary’s Dowry”. England has been known as Mary’s Dowry since Anglo-Saxon times. Successive kings and noblemen perpetuated the belief that this county was set apart for Our Lady for all time.
Often when we think of a dowry we imagine a payment to a bride or her family before her wedding but the term derives from the Latin word “Dos”, meaning gift or donation. England, therefore, was given to the Blessed Virgin Mary as a perpetual gift or donation.
In their November 2017 meeting the Bishops of England and Wales agreed to the re-dedication of England as the Dowry of Mary on or around the Solemnity of the Annunciation 2020. The re-dedication in 2020, unlike the dedication of King Richard II in 1381, will not be the gift of the country of England, but the personal gift of the faith of the people of England to the Mother of God, to seek her help in building a strong spiritual foundation for the New Evangelisation.
We call upon Our Lady to guide and protect our country in the years to come that the people of our country may work together to build a Common Good, as we seek to embrace the truth of the Gospel, that inspires us to create a culture that respects life, embraces the great diversity of our people, and inspires all to a greatness of heart that will serve our community, seeking the good of others before ourselves, especially the poor and the marginalised of our world.
The Re-dedication of England as the Dowry of Mary on Sunday March 29th , the nearest Sunday to the feast of the Annunciation, is both a personal promise of the people of our country and a renewal of the entrustment vows made by King Richard II.
As the website, https://www.behold2020.com, states, “This year, the Christians of England are called to make a personal dedication to Mary, taking up her example as Christ’s first disciple. History shows us that when the people pray a surrender to God’s will for their lives, society is transformed. By taking up this personal dedication in 2020, you can be a part of the renewal of this nation, drawing ourselves closer to the will of our loving God, through Mary.” I suggest that in our parish we do this at the end of the 11am Mass on that date.
Our personal promise will us closer to Mary, the first disciple of Christ. In this we unite in her joy by following her openness to God’s call. Our communal entrustment unites us together as the people of our country in prayer, by renewing the vows of dedication made to Mary by our ancestors.