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A Trysting Place
 – 40 Days in Brede Abbey – Day 19

A Trysting Place40 Days in Brede Abbey

Living in Community – A Trysting Place

Day 19 – Wednesday after 3rd Sunday in Lent


To Read:

Dame Colette looked round, saw it was one of the Japanese, Kazuko and smiled. Kazuko, as though drawn, came a step nearer. Droppers-in were not welcome in the vestment room; the least dust or draught blowing in a smut could ruin a breadth of silk, ‘also we have to concentrate,’ but Dame Colette was now a councillor and all the councillors knew about Kazuko. Dame Colette nodded encouragingly. ‘Would you like to see?’
‘Yes… if you please,’ but Kazuko still hesitated.
‘Come in. Come in.’
‘I… can… incoming?’
‘Of course.’ Kazuko came and with the small steps all of [the Japanese] used went up to the stand.
‘You can look,’ Dame Colette was going to add ‘not touch’, but Kazuko had already taken the silk of the chasuble in her hands. Dame Colette almost cried out peremptorily – none but those concerned dared to touch her work – but something in the way Kazuko ran one hand over the silk while the other held it beneath was not only careful but expert.
‘S-silk, pure ssilk!’ Kazuko spoke with strange satisfaction. She looked more closely at the weave, ‘inspected it,’ Dame Colette said afterwards, paused at a minute unevenness and clicked her tongue disapprovingly, but, running over the rest, approved it. ‘Good… very good.’ Then, she came over to Dame Colette’s loom.
‘You want to see?’ Dame Colette rose off the high bench and Kazuko slid into her place.
‘It’s called a loom. Loom.’
‘Yess. In Japanese “hata”,’ Kazuko said it serenely. She also said something else Dame Colette did not catch; the next second to Dame Colette’s fright and consternation, Kazuko began to work the loom.
‘Sister?’ but Dame Colette’s cry was lost in the busy clacking.
‘Sister! my silk…’
‘Is good,’ Kazuko almost shouted and, confident, wove on…

‘You see, Sister, this is where our Abbey earns some of its living, in our church work-room,’ [Dame Colette] told Kazuko, ‘and if you can help to do that, it is your gift to us.’
‘And I always thinking I have no gift,’ said Kazuko, and she said with a return of her sullenness, ‘Mariko bring much much money?’
‘But not in her fingers, like yours.’
‘No.’ The gloom lightened and soon Kazuko, they noticed, no longer spoke of horn nails.

When the silk woven red vestments were finished they were put on show to the community and Kazuko, now in her black veil as a junior, bowed again and again in gratitude and delight as the nuns admired them and congratulated her.
‘Is Dame Colette,’ Kazuko insisted by smiling broadly. ‘is Dame Colette.’
‘Is Sister Kazuko,’ said Dame Colette in equal delight.

(In This House of Brede – Page 349 – passim) 

From the Scriptures: 

10 A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from far away.
15 She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her servant-girls.
16 She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid for her household when it snows, for all her household are clothed in crimson.
22 She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the city gates, taking his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them; she supplies the merchant with sashes.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. 

(Proverbs 31v10-25)

To Reflect:

Kazuko has struggled to settle into the life of the Abbey. She comes from a working class background unlike some of the others and presumed that, unless you bring some gift with which to endow the Abbey, you are literally worth-less. It is knowing this that causes her to withdraw and she runs the risk of not being professed.

‘And I always thinking I have no gift,’ said Kazuko, and she said with a return of her sullenness, ‘Mariko bring much much money?’

‘But not in her fingers, like yours.’  

It is a strange community that sets up a hierarchy based on an accident of birth or nurture, yet that seems to be the way of the world. A way that Kazuko and her sisters must learn to dispense with. All are valued for what they bring be it a dowry or music, a love for the garden or a desire to sweep a room as part of a devotion.

George Herbert’s hymn, as did Dame Mildred, reminds us that God is present in all we do however menial or complex. Kazuko learns this and the loom sings God’s praises as she weaves her silk.

Not that this means we will never be challenged to learn other skills, or yield our place to others, Dame Colette had become just a little over-protective of ‘her’ vestment room. For Silk George Herbertthis reason the Abbess and her councillors hold an annual ‘Chapter for the Deposition of Offices’ during which every office holder in the Abbey is literally ‘dispossessed’ of her duties whilst it was decided if they are to stand down, take up a new task, or continue were they have been. This is to stop the nuns from stopping growing.

For the most part, though, it should not surprise us if God calls us to work in areas of our common life that not only are we competent at, but which we even enjoy. We do not come to our communities of faith as some sort of tabula rasa with no prior experience or gifts. God brings particular people with particular gifts to particular places for particular tasks. In the end even those skills that Philippa hoped to have left behind in Westminster with Mrs Talbot (‘arranging, deciding, settling – that arrogant creature’), are used to further the work of the Abbey.

Wherever we are, whatever we are capable of, whatever we are tasked to do, drudgery is made divine when we realise that we do all that we do not to prove ourselves better than another but out of love for our Beloved.


To Pray: 

Unsleeping friend,
when I come to the end of my strength,
and my work has no blessing in it,
help me to remember you,
to reach for the hand of a friend
and find your love is here.

(Bernard Thorogood, United Kingdom)


To Do:

1) Thank someone today whose work is a ‘thankless’ task.

2) To prevent cultivating a sense of self-importance, ask God if there are any tasks you do in your church which need to be laid down or any that you need to take up.



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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