A Trysting Place– 40 Days in Brede Abbey
Living in Community – A Trysting Place
Day 22 – Saturday after 3rd Sunday in Lent
When Abbess Catherine walked away, her hands under her scapular, she was so deep in thought as she turned the corner to her room she almost walked over Sister Ellen, down on her hands and knees, polishing the floor of the alcove.
‘Sister, I’m so sorry. I must have hurt you.’
Sister Ellen could not deny it. Abbess Catherine must have weighed nearly eleven stone, and she had trodden on Sister Ellen’s fingers, but the Sister managed to wrap the tingling hurt in her apron for a moment, squeeze her hands together and then go on with her work with the other hand.
‘My Lady is worried’, was all she thought.
(In This House of Brede – Page 355)
From the Scriptures:
Marks of the True Christian
9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Today was a hard day for me.
In response to the suicide of a close family member I wrote a poem and posted it on Social Media. I received many lovely caring responses but they were soured when a Christian who lives and worships nearby posted the words ‘Romans 1’ without any other comment. Feeling already clobbered by the suicide of a young person I was not expecting to be hit by one of what are known as the ‘Clobber Texts’, and for a while afterwards I sat weeping before my tears turned to anger.
I have much yet to learn from the patient, caring, ever-faithful Sister Ellen, who, when she receives undeserved and unmerited pain turns it into a prayer, instead of anger, for the one who brought her hurt.
‘My Lady is worried’, was all she thought…
Ouch! And then there is me nursing a grudge against someone because of a stray comment on Facebook – and that someone with whom (DV) I am destined to spend eternity! When will I learn the truth of Richard Rohr’s words ‘If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it?’
The lesson of the cross is that the answer to the world’s pain is to wear it. Sister Ellen, the simple woman who did not have enough Latin to sing in the choir yet had enough humility to be taken for granted as she scrubbed floors, lives this truth.
I don’t know about you but I find it easy to pray when I have something in common with the person I am praying for. I find words come to my lips readily when those I am praying for have been overtaken by life and have little or no control over how things have unfolded. I can even pray, well formally at least, for ‘my enemies’. But to own the pain of someone who, professing faith, yet still spreads hate and venom and causes me pain that is a totally different ballgame…
…but in the end it is the only game in town.
So, I will try to love my ‘Romans 1’ friend more deeply even if it means I have to rub my bruised hands and wipe my tears with my apron. For the Body of Christ is always one, even if it does not behave as if it is, and when one of our members suffers we all suffer. Of all the hatreds we carry the hatred of a fellow member of the Body of Christ must be one of the hardest sorts of suffering to bear? How will any of us find healing if our only response to hurt is to wound?
Our response to pain, especially unwarranted pain, caused by another must be prayer and compassion, even if we find ourselves biting our tongue and holding back our tears. For in so doing we bear yet another blow for the love of our Beloved who bore so many blows for us (1 Peter 2v19-24).
Goodness is stronger than evil;
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death;
Victory is ours through him who loves us.
(Desmond Tutu, South Africa)
1) Which person in your church fellowship causes you pain? Pray for their pain.
2) To whom in your fellowship have you brought pain? Ask their forgiveness.
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