A Trysting Place
– 40 Days in Brede Abbey
Shrove Tuesday – Finding the Way Home
Tomorrow I shall not be among you any more; not ‘of you’ but mysteriously still with you, thought Philippa. As Lady Abbess of Brede had said, ‘People think we renounce the world. We don’t. We renounce it’s ways but we are still very much in it and it is very much in us.’
Now Philippa felt a strange love, strange because she would not normally have noticed any of the crowd, except as a conglomeration, as people in a frieze. Now the fat girl in the too bright, too tight, badly fitting cost and skirt looked wistful as if – and as often with over-fat people – another girl were prisoned inside, looking out of her eyes. The porter trundling a truck had dirty hands, stubble on his chin, but there was something brave and independent about him; the tired, petulant young mother with a still more tired and petulant small girl, an overdressed, whining little girl, had a pathos, Philippa felt – yet she had no affinity with young mothers and did not like whining small girls – who could? I’m looking past their faces, Philippa thought, looking into them. Perhaps it was the pulling up of her stakes, or claims, to her private loves, renouncing them, that had made room for these people in a kind of universal love, without any claims.
(In This House of Brede – Page 22)
From the Scriptures:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ 2 He called a child, whom he put among them, 3 and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
Today is the last day. The day when we put aside a few earthly pleasures and leave our old world for a season.
Like Philippa, and Thomas Merton on the corner of Fourth and Walnut, we are about to discover, for a short while what it means to be ‘in the world but not of the world’
It is a strange feeling this belonging to the Body of Christ. We know the One Who Loves us Best loves the whole world and the church only consumes a small part of that love. Yet, it is all too easy to be selfish with God’s generosity. Part of the purpose of Lent is not only that we improve ourselves (though that is one of the things for which we hope and pray) but also that we become more able to love others. After all is it not ‘as we love ourselves’ that we are called to ‘love others?’
Together we will be renouncing old activities and habits and, God’s grace willing, acquiring some new ones. In the next forty days as we become focused on the Opus Dei within us, we will not always have the time to look deeply on some of the things we take for granted. So, today before you enter the Enclosure of the convent we call Lent; look around you with eyes of love.
Walk a little more slowly, breathe the air a little more deeply, listen to the chatter of others a little more closely. Savour the world. Perhaps even permit yourself a small indulgence? Philippa had several stiff whiskies and a final cigarette before climbing the path to Brede Abbey so we can at least be a little more generous with the maple syrup on our Shrove Tuesday pancakes!
Above all, today, love.
O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God,
forgive us the many times we have judged others
without knowing or loving them.
Give us an awareness of our sins and shortcomings
and make us see ourselves as you know us.
Guide us in all our contacts with those around us
and ﬁll us with mercy and love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(The Church Army, England)
Quotations from ‘In This House of Brede’ are copyright © Rumer Godden 1969, 1991 Page numbers are from the 1991 Pan Book edition ISBN 0 330 33521 9
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Prayers are from ‘Prayers Encircling the World’ and are copyright © SPCK: 1998.
These Reflections, ‘A Trysting Place – 40 Days in Brede Abbey’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2019