A Trysting Place– 40 Days in Brede Abbey
Philippa – The Journey Inward
Day 12 – Tuesday after 2nd Sunday in Lent
[Mrs Talbot is speaking] ‘I wanted to say “goodbye.”’
Goodbye before going out to lunch? Again that quiver came as Penny [Mrs Talbot’s typist] raised puzzled eyes to Mrs Talbot’s face. ‘Good-bye?’
‘Yes, Penny. I’m not just going out to lunch. I’m leaving.’
‘Leaving?’ The floor seemed to give a lurch and Penny clutched the back of a chair. ‘Leaving? But… when?’
‘Now. I’m not coming back.’
‘But… Mrs Talbot!’ and, ‘No!’ cried Penny sharply. ‘No I’
‘Not “no”, yes;’ said Mrs Talbot,
‘and I wanted to give you this. I believe you always liked it’. She picked up the clock and put it into Penny’s hands. ‘Don’t drop it.’
‘But, Mrs Talbot!’ Penny was incoherent. ‘Mrs Talbot… I… you…’ and in a rush, ‘I don’t understand. Don’t you want it?’
‘I shall have no further use for it,’ Mrs Talbot’s voice sounded amused. ‘It will probably surprise you, Penny, when I tell you I’m leaving to become a nun.’
‘A nun!’ Now Penny nearly did drop the clock and Mrs Talbot had to put out a quick hand. ‘If I were you,’ she said, ‘I should put that in your bag to take home.’
‘But… a nun!’ Penny – Pennywise, as [her husband] Donald often said – blurted out the first thing in her mind. ‘At your age!’ then blushed even more hotly than usual. ‘I’m sorry I mean but don’t nuns usually go in at eighteen or very young?’ Then, ‘I’m sorry,’ said Penny again, ‘that was rude,’ but Mrs Talbot was not angry.
‘You are perfectly right,’ she said. ‘I should have thought of it long ago.’
‘But a nun.’ Penny felt stunned. ‘And the clock! Are you sure?’
‘Sure I’m going to be a nun or sure I don’t want the clock?’ Then the amusement went out of Mrs Talbot’s voice. ‘I am sure Penny. Nuns don’t need clocks. We have bells – or large silver watches. And I’m sure I’m going to be a nun, a Benedictine of Brede Abbey in Sussex.’
‘But you… Mrs Talbot, no! Please no.’
(In This House of Brede – Page 16)
From the Scriptures:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
‘But you… Mrs Talbot, no! Please no.’
If we are fortunate there comes a blessed moment when, as we sung yesterday, ‘the things of earth grow strangely dim’, and in joy and relief we can let go of all the hollow and empty things (a clock, a cat and some dear little sins Philippa called them earlier) and chase after our Beloved.
There will always be many reasons why we should not say ‘Yes!’ completely to the love song of our Beloved so we must actively look for the day when we can turn our ‘no, please nos’ in to ‘yes, please yesses’. What the writer to the Hebrews calls ‘laying aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely’ and is part of the journey the other part is too willingly and lovingly embrace the call to give our lives away and ‘run with perseverance the race that is set before us.’
This call is there for each of us, member of a formal Religious Community or not, and until we have learnt to say a wholehearted ‘yes’ along with our ‘no’ to the things of the earth we will live a faith founded on penitence and punishment instead of discovering the ‘Glorious liberty of the Children of God’.
At the beginning of Lent we are encouraged ‘to leave the past in dust and ashes’ which we need and must do, however I find I too easily fall into a place where my Lenten devotions become all about how bad I have been and they end up holding nothing of love or laughter in them. Part of this is, literally due to the way we dress. All that sombre purple and Lenten array only ever drags me downward into a pit of my own ugliness.
Recently a parish in London gave our parish a set of Rose vestments for use on Mothering Sunday. Sometimes I wish we could wear them every Sunday in Lent. We need to find joy as well as penitence as we turn our ‘nos’ into ‘yesses’. That way it won’t be quite so painful and we might become addicted to doing the best things for God
Regular readers know that much of my personal life has been shaped by the grace-filled lyrics of Amy Grant. For decades she has taken all the ups and downs of her life and faith and worked love and joy into them.
Her song So Glad came to me as a gift one Monday morning when leading the Eucharist with the Benedictine Sisters of the Order of the Holy Paraclete in Rosettenvile, Johannesburg. It came at a time when literally everything felt as if it was tumbling down around our family and it was mostly my fault. Amy’s words called me onward and reminded me that the less I had to carry the more I was able to receive from the One Who Loves us Best.
I had laid some mighty plans,
Thought I held them in my hands
Then my world began to crumble all away
I tried to build it back again
I couldn’t bear to see it end,
How it hurt to know You wanted it that way.
And I’m so glad, glad to find the reason
That I’m happy-sad that
You’ve torn it all away
And I’m so glad, though it hurts to know I’m leaving
Everything I ever thought that I would be
Once I held it in my hand
It was a kingdom made of sand
But now you’ve blown it all away
I can’t believe that I can say that I’m glad.
Long before my plans were made I know a master plan was laid
With a power that superceded my control
And if that truth could pierce my heart I wouldn’t wander from the start Trying desperately to make it on my own.
And I’m so glad…
To move from no, please no’ to ‘yes, please yes’ takes large amounts of trust and a faith that knows that the hand of God holds us secure from which we can never ever be snatched. (John10v28-30)
What have we to lose save ourselves and our selfishness?
And now to him who is able
to keep us from falling,
and lift us from the dark valley of despair
to the bright mountain of hope,
from the midnight of desperation
to the daybreak of hope
to him be power and authority, for ever and ever.
(Martin Luther King Jr., United States)
1) Do something just for the fun of it today and thank God for joy and laughter.
2) What is your ‘Please yes.’ this Lent? Spend time praying asking God what one thing should become different about your life after Easter. Pray for strength that God’s will may find root and bloom in your life.
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