A Trysting Place– 40 Days in Brede Abbey
In the Novitiate – Falling in Love
Day 10 – Saturday after 1st Sunday in Lent
Every day, after None, Dame Clare as zelatrix gathered the postulants and novices together to teach them how to mark the places in their choir books and how to read the Ordo Divini Officii, ‘for tomorrow,’ said Cecily on the afternoon of [Abbess Hester’s] funeral, and she burst out, ‘We go on as if nothing had happened.’
‘No, we don’t,’ said Dame Clare. ‘We just go on.’ Her long white fingers deftly turned the pages of Cecily’s book, putting in the markers, helping her to keep up with the others, until the quivering grief grew quiet; then, ‘This is what Mother would have wished, would have done herself,’ said Dame Clare. ‘We are Benedictines, and St Benedict himself laid down that “nothing should be preferred to the work of God”, which is the Office, Sister, our, Opus Del. Now try and use your markers and see if you can follow the order.’
(In This House of Brede – Page 72)
From the Scriptures:
I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.
I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law.
Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous ordinances.
Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.
I hope for your salvation, O Lord, and I fulfil your commandments.
My soul keeps your decrees; I love them exceedingly.
I keep your precepts and decrees, for all my ways are before you.
This Lent Churches Together in Felixstowe are studying the movie ‘Darkest Hour’. The story revolves around the Speeches Churchill made soon after he became Prime Minister at the beginning of World War II and there are several scenes of him dictating to his secretary Miss Layton. In one scene she stops typing and breaks down in tears expressing her concern to Churchill about current events. After wiping her tears she asks the Prime Minister, ‘May I be excused?’ to which Churchill, who had just passed her his own handkerchief, says peremptorily ‘You may not!’ Sometimes we have no choice but, as the man himself said, to “keep b****ring on’.[i]
It is the same at Brede Abbey. They may not be facing the urgency of a world at war, yet in the face of the death of Abbess Hester, even for Cecily the most recent of new novices, they ‘just go on’ not ‘as if nothing had happened’ but because everything has happened and the only thing that can hold everything together for them is the Opus Dei.
I am writing this on the evening of the horrendous murders at two mosques in New Zealand[ii]. How the world responds to this tragedy will unfold over the next weeks and days but people of different faith, of uncertain faith, and of no faith have turned to prayers for peace.
We are living in the middle of the Opus Dei. It isn’t that our prayers carry on as if nothing has happened; instead they carry on because everything has happened.
In convents and monasteries, ashrams and synagogues, mosques and temples, cathedrals and chapels across the world tonight the cycle of prayer carries on not as if nothing has happened but because everything has happened.
But what do we pray?
This afternoon, together with a score of faithful elderly residents, I led a communion service in their home. Talking through the events in Christchurch we settled on three words for our prayers, for our continued response to a world that has not yet found its way home to God. Words that we should pray everyday but should especially pray today.
Make them your own.
O God of many names,
lover of all peoples;
we pray for peace.
Peace in our hearts and homes,
peace in our nations and our world;
the peace of your will,
the peace of our need.
Through Christ the Prince of Peace
(New Zealand Prayer Book – He Karakia Mihinare O Aotearoa)
1) Consider having a regular fixed form of daily prayer. The New Zealand Prayer Book is very easy to follow and its prayers are intentionally inclusive and open.[iii]
2) Memorise the three word prayer ‘Salaam Shalom Peace’ and use it as a prayer heart beat in the days ahead.
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.
These Reflections, ‘A Trysting Place – 40 Days in Brede Abbey’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2019
[i] The study notes for this course are available at https://suffolkvicar.wordpress.com/2019/01/13/looking-for-the-dawn-a-lent-course-on-the-movie-darkest-hour/
[iii] A copy of Midday Prayer can be found here: https://anglicanprayerbook.nz/147.html