of God’s closeness and tenderness

During this time of lockdown due to Covid19, we have been live streaming our Mass. Now we begin, in addition to Mass, a virtual tour of our church. This series is called Treasure House of God’s closeness and tenderness. It has been inspired by the recent document of Pope Francis called Strong in Tribulation where he says that neither isolation nor fear at this time can keep us apart from God’s love, for God never abandons us. He is always with us.

In our church we have at least 50 different images of the Most Holy Trinity, Our Blessed Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Angels and Saints, not to mention the fourteen Stations of the Cross and the twelve Angels on the roof. Each of these images in its own way is able to bring us closer to God himself and to make us feel that we know him. They each portray a particular facet of God’s closeness and tenderness.

A few presentations will be streamed each week. They will be short and will be accompanied by a little prayer we can say together. In advance of this project, you may wish to draw up your own list of all the images you can remember that we have in this church. Then tick them off as Fr Archie presents them to you. The children especially might enjoy this fun exercise.

The role of the arts is vital in our understanding of the Incarnation, namely that God became man. It is through the arts that we learn about the closeness and tenderness of God.

Fr Archie looks forward to showing you this treasure house of our church. He hopes that you will enjoy being part of this little journey with him through the arts and history and prayer.

At this time of lockdown, we are all being given the opportunity to both receive and give closeness and tenderness, even when we are apart. We have time to come to understand who and what is important in our life. Perhaps these images of God’s own nearness to us will make us think that we too have our own stories to tell of our experiences at this time.


Treasure House One:

Rood Beam and Crucifixion Scene

One of the most iconic images in the church is the Rood Beam and Calvary within the gothic arch at the front of the sanctuary. It speaks to us eloquently of God’s closeness and tenderness.

The words of Christ to Mary his mother and to St John, This is your son,  this is your mother, can be a lesson to us about our own interaction with those close to us, and how to treat them with love and respect.

Before this scene we pray: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. Because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

Rood Beam and Calvary

Treasure House Two:

The Twelve Angels

The second image in our series is of the beautiful and magnificent array of twelve angels which adorn the wooden roof of this grade-A listed building.

They sweep down the length of both sides of the church and they take us right to the Calvary. They form a unity with the rood beam and crucifixion scene because they are carrying on their shields the instruments of Christ’s Passion. They are all dressed in heavenly armour of different colours according to their hierarchical order.

We pray: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.

The Twelve Angels

Treasure House Three:

The Tabernacle

In every Catholic Church it is the tabernacle that speaks to us most clearly and strikingly of the real presence of Christ with us. We come into that real presence every time we come into church. We draw great strength, knowing that Jesus is truly present and we experience the real closeness of God made man, a closeness that is very deep within us and very real for us. The tabernacle is where we reserve the Blessed Sacrament for communion to the sick and for adoration. This tabernacle has a door with a very beautiful depiction in enamel of the Coronation of the Virgin by the Blessed Trinity.  The figures form the shape of a heart, and we are struck by the human expression, and by the innocence and serenity of the Blessed Virgin.

The image of Mary being crowned by the Father and her Son and the Holy Spirit, teaches us surely about the beauty and the tenderness of God. To the God who is near to us, and who is tender and compassionate.

We pray: O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine.

On the inside back wall, words of St Thomas Aquinas,
‘O Godhead Hid, devoutly I adore thee.

Depiction of Coronation of the Virgin by the Blessed Trinity, in enamel on the tabernacle door.

Engraving on inside door of a winged St John the Baptist holding ‘Ecce, Agnus Dei’, ‘Behold the Lamb of God’

The Tabernacle

Treasure House Four:

The Lady Chapel

The Lady Chapel is a special and privileged place of prayer, which has hardly changed in over a hundred years and where generation after generation has experienced God’s closeness and tenderness through the images of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is adorned with very fine stonework, a wooden Rood Screen, a striking canvas above the altar of the Assumption of Mary into heaven with choirs of angels, and the much loved statue of the Immaculate Conception. It is where parishioners and visitors have lit candles for over a hundred years and prayed for those who are dear to them. On the walls of the four corners of this chapel are decorative transfers which carry the words of some of the verses of the Magnificat in Latin, the prayer of Mary when she visited her cousin Elizabeth.

The Lady Chapel and Rood Screen

Statue of Our Lady seen
from the sanctuary

We pray: My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death. Amen.

Detail of stonework and Magnificat

Canvas of the Assumption of Mary with Angels

The Lady Chapel

Treasure House Five:

Statues of Assumption of Mary and of Saint Meddan

The church itself is a symbol or an image of the presence of God. In his biography of Reginald Fairlie, the architect of this church, Patrick Nuttgens describes it as ‘standing out, magnificent and monumental, among the low residential streets of this Ayrshire resort, a symbol unchanging in the midst of things ephemeral.’ On the outside walls there are two stone statues, one of the Assumption which was erected when the church was opened, and one of St Meddan on a niche on the front wall which was carved by Hew Lorimer for the Golden Jubilee of the church in 1961. It is one of two images of St Meddan in the church. St Meddan is holding a cross, and on the cross there is a shamrock. Meddan was an Irish missionary sister, possibly a disciple of St Patrick. Many sisters from Ireland spread the faith in Troon and in this part of Scotland, converting pagans to Christianity.

St Meddan is not unknown in Troon. The church stands in St Meddan’s Street, and the ground on which it was built was previously called St Meddan’s Farm. More of the life of St Meddan is recorded in the other image we have of her in church, which will be told in a later presentation. The missionaries shared their faith in the one true God who is tender and compassionate, a God who is close to us, and who wants us to know him and to love him, even as we are loved and cared for by Him.

Front of church with Organ Loft,
Belltower and Statue of Saint Meddan

We pray in the words of St. Patrick and of the saints and culture of his time: Christ be beside me, Christ be before me, Christ be behind me, King of my heart. Christ be within me, Christ be below me, Christ be above me, never to part.

Our Lady of the Assumption, pray for us. St Meddan, pray for us. St Patrick, pray for us.

The Assumption of Mary with Angels

Saint Meddan with Cross and Shamrock

Saint Meddan on right and Assumption on left

Statues of Assumption of Mary and of Saint Meddan

Treasure House Six:

The Stations of the Cross

These very beautiful wood carvings of the Stations of the Cross were made in Italy and erected in the 1940s. All fourteen Stations are outstanding. The Stations of the Cross is a devotion of Franciscan origin and is based on the Via Crucis or the Way of the Cross in Jerusalem. In each Station we can be drawn into the scene and learn about the nature of God. At the Sixth Station, Veronica wipes the face of Jesus, we see the tenderness and the nearness of God portrayed both in the face of Veronica and of Jesus. Veronica comes right through the crowd, and showing great love and pity for Jesus wipes his face with her veil, and the bleeding image of his holy face is imprinted on her veil. The name Veronica means literally True Image: the true image of Jesus’ face left on the veil.

Sixth Station: Veronica wipes the Face of Jesus

At this time in our world of great human crisis, as we look at this Station and see Veronica presenting her veil to Jesus, we can recognise those remarkable people today who present that veil or towel to others, and we dedicate this moment at the sixth Station of the Cross to them. Here we pray:

Lord, this act of thoughtfulness and fearlessness of Veronica was made unforgettable when you left on the veil the likeness of your sacred features. When I am moved to show kindness, may I never be put off, but help me to recognise your face in the face of my fellow brothers and sisters when they are in need. Let me always present the veil to them.

We adore you O Christ and we bless you.
Because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

Eleventh Station: Jesus is nailed to the Cross

Twelfth Station: Jesus dies on the Cross

Fourteenth Station: Jesus is laid in the Sepulchre

The Stations of the Cross

Treasure House Seven:

The Altarpiece

The Altarpiece or Reredos in the five-sided Apse is as iconic as the Rood Beam and Calvary. Just as the Gothic or pointed chancel arch enshrines the Rood Beam and Crucifixion Scene, the Romanesque or rounded arch frames the magnificent altarpiece which is flanked on either side by two gothic windows. It was made in the early 1930s, twenty years after the church was built. It is made of Bath Stone, inlaid with French marble and Italian mosaics. When the church was built in 1911 there was no decoration at all on the apse. The architect’s design was predominantly about the Passion and Death of the Lord: the Calvary, the Angels carrying the symbols of the Passion, and even on the outside the Apse was designed as a miniature of Holyrood church in Stirling – Holy Cross. Twenty years later Fr Hayes had this great and beautiful Altarpiece made.

He was using the arts at their best, to teach and edify the people through images of the life of the incarnate Son of God. He did it very beautifully, both architecturally and aesthetically. He chose three images which belong together. In the centre is the Ascension of the Lord. On the left we have not the last Supper but the risen Jesus with the two disciples at Emmaus and is recognised by them in the Breaking of Bread.

The Sanctuary with Gothic Arch & Rood Beam
and Romanesque Arch & Altarpiece in Apse

On the right we see Jesus giving the Authority of the Keys to Peter. As Pope Saint Leo the Great said, great truths and mysteries were revealed in the very special forty days between the Resurrection of the Lord and His Ascension.

The whole Altarpiece is a symbol of the Resurrection and Ascension and Glory of the Lord. Artists down the ages have portrayed the authority of the keys being given to Peter as a post-Resurrection event. Our Altarpiece complements and completes our cycle of faith. Together with the Rood Beam and Calvary and the twelve Angels with the symbols of the passion, they tell the full gospel story. Architecturally, theologically, aesthetically, and devotionally, the picture of this church and its images is complete. This great Altarpiece is able to reveal to us that God is compassionate and tender and merciful and close to us. He is with us as he was on the road to Emmaus and explains the Scriptures to us. We recognize him and encounter him in the Breaking of Bread. He rose from the dead and he ascended to heaven in his human body. He promises to be with us until the end of time and he gives the authority of the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to Peter. He will return at the end of time in the same way, as he said, in human flesh.

We pray: Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

The Ascension of the Lord

Emmaus: the Risen Lord is
recognised at the Breaking of Bread

Jesus gives the Authority of
the Keys of the Kingdom to Peter

The Altarpiece