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A Trysting Place
 – Day 1 – Ash Wednesday – 40 Days in Brede Abbey

A Trysting Place
 – 40 Days in Brede Abbey

Day 1 – Ash Wednesday – Finding the Way Home

To Read:  

The motto was ‘Pax’ but the word was set in a circle of thorns.  Pax: Peace, but what a strange peace, made of unremitting toil and effort – seldom with a seen result subject to constant interruptions, unexpected demands, short sleep at nights, little comfort, sometimes scant food beset with disappointments and usually misunderstood, yet peace all the same, undeviating, filled with joy and gratitude and love.  ‘’It is My own peace I leave unto you.’  Not, notice, the world’s peace.

(In This House of Brede – Page 9)

‘I don’t think the Rule [of St Benedict] is meant to clamp down on one’s life [said Philippa to the novitiate]. It has to fit everyone, to be able to bend not break. That is its gift. It’s not meant to be rigid.’

(In This House of Brede – Page 88)

From the Scriptures:

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

(Philippians 4v6-7)


To Reflect:

Near to the entrance of every Benedictine House I have visited has stood the word ‘PAX’ as a welcome for tired souls.  And inside those houses I have always found that hospitality towards visitors is one of the community’s chief concerns.  It does not seem to matter at what time of day or night I have arrived or for what purpose the aim of the community is to be a haven of peace for me.

This does not come cheaply to the community.  For them to have open hands and hearts towards others only comes after having emptied their own hands and hearts towards God and towards each other.  Peace is forged in the heat of community.

The Benedictine vow of Stability, a commitment (once having been elected to become part of the community) to not leave the enclosure of the Rule – though there may be some movement between Houses – is a determination to forge, in a non-cynical sense ‘peace at any price’.  It is in the decision of the individual Religious to put themselves last, to serve the Community first, and to live the Rule as much for others as for themselves that peace is born.pax thorns

Peace, as shown by Brede’s thorn crowned motto, to be more than just a cessation of hostilities, is costly.  Cross-shaped costly.  To have a peaceful Lent will not come cheaply. It will mean refusing to have the first word (and the last word) in any argument.  It will mean not saying anything at all when expected and speaking up where we have been too frightened to proclaim the truth in the past.  Before peace settles upon us, there will be thorns.

A world that sees power and control as prizes and belittles those who empty themselves for others will never find peace.  We, in our small attempts at changing of habits, deeper devotions, greater generosity, who find our efforts rewarded by pain are the peacemakers.  Like our Beloved, we aim to bear the wounds of the world and turn hurt into healing and death into life.

This is what Lent is for.  It is not only to help wean us of unhealthy habits and irritating sins but to turn us into a people of peace that we may, come Easter with our Beloved be people who bring peace to others.

An anonymous Jesuit wrote in his journal on the night before his Solemn Profession ‘Lord, I will follow you wherever you lead me, just please don’t let it hurt too much.’  Or perhaps the quest for peace in Lent is more eloquently expressed in the film ‘Love Actually’ when love sick 10 year-old Sam says to his dad ‘Let’s go get the S**t kicked out of us by love’.

This is what Lent is about.


To Pray:

When the broken come to wholeness,
when the wounded come to healing,
when the frightened come to trusting,
the stone has been rolled away.

When the lonely find friendship,
when the hurt find new loving,
when the worried find peace,
the stone has been rolled away.

When we share instead of taking,
when we stroke instead of striking,
when we join around the table,
the stone has been rolled away.

(Francis Brienen, England) 

To Do:

1)  Write the word PAX in large letters on a card and leave it where you will see it every day this Lent.

2)  To live Lent well will hurt.  Look at the Lenten devotions you have planned and commit yourself to embracing their cost.  These are the thorns that encircle the peace we desire.



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

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 – Day 1 – Ash Wednesday – 40 Days in Brede Abbey

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