The Gospel According To Tomàs

Ash Wednesday | Our Lady Vulnerata | Extracted From The Gospel According To Tomàs | A Novel

Holy Mass | Ash Wednesday | Oliver Peers

Duly, we are ashed. Communion follows. Adedokun, serving, puts it all together, takes it all apart. Our thoughts rest, solemn, as we aren’t asked to sing our way out of it. It is one of the good times. Quietly, just sitting like that, it’s pretty good. Dry. All careful-minded. It seems they must see we are taking it the way it is meant to be – solemnly.

Lady, Lady.

We students leave for lunch, yet minding our tongues in the corridors. The priests have long dispersed… And there she is without us – there she squats. Blessed Virgin Mary: BVM. Her niche recessed in the reredos – over the tabernacle. A gnarled wooden thing, squat, as a latter-day Venus of Willendorf. Served with counter-reformational pomp to the weird faithful.

She is one thing –  even the main thing – the college is known for around town. Our Lady Vulnerata. The Wounded One. This instance of BVM – who crops up in so many places. Hacked by English swords in Cadiz, when Raleigh put down the Spanish. She was dragged from her church and desecrated, the Child reduced to dust and bits of hands and feet, Our Lady’s arms lopped, her face blunted. Thuggery. They must have had themselves a lovely time – butchering her. England’s shame.

We honour her now. She was brought here circa 1600, at the request of college priests and seminarians, who hoped to make reparation for the insults to Our Lady, inflicted by Englishmen whom, with their Queen, they studied to save or betray.

We offer prayers. Each week she receives a rosary. And we recite the litany. Mother inviolate, Mother undefiled. Tower of ivory, House of gold…  The fairyland bit of the dream – for the well-fasted. Mother so fragmented. Such apparitions, so many graven images, so much light. Odd to be a mother and pray to her. Queen of Virgins. Not like me. Mother most pure. Touch of guilt, that maybe touches them? It is the cross, though, they clutch when they fetishize – Mary is just beads. Lady of lost time, Lady of history’s lacunas. So multi-tasked. Who loved you all the way into this world. Stabat Mater.

Lady, forgive us for squatting you – carving you, painting you. Grandiloquent Lady. Good for when you don’t have the words. Hail, Mary… Forgive the merely human. And let my cry come unto thee.


A sinner’s prayer – the Jesus music – Easter Bible verse – Jesus love you – Psalm 50/51:

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.

O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.

For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.

Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.