David Russell Mosley
26 September 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Dear Friends and Family,
Lauren’s parents left us bright and early this morning at 4:45 after a tearful good-bye. It’s been a good visit with lots of time to relax. This trip did, however, mean for me no time to do a proper post on how I spent my weekend before my in-laws arrived.
From the 13 to the 15 of September I stayed at Mucknell Abbey down near Worcester, Worcestershire. There I lived and prayed with the monks and nuns. Mucknell Abbey is an Anglican Benedictine Monastery with about 12 Brothers and Sisters. I went there both to refresh my soul and to discern the Lord’s will for some things coming in our future. What I got, in many ways was so much more.
One of the first things I realised when I had spent just a few hours at the Abbey is that I’ve become too dependent on technology to fill the silences in my life. I tend to describe myself as a self-abnegating neo-Luddite. Well I certainly despised myself for how often I would turn to my phone (having left my computer behind) during the silences in my room at the abbey.
I had brought a few books with me, two of them unnecessary as it turns out, as well as a couple of journals to record any thoughts or ideas I had while there. Nevertheless, having no one else there with me to talk to about these experiences made it difficult for me. I am most definitely a people person, but I need to learn to better appreciate disconnected solitude. In the end, I think I would have been better off bringing my computer so I could do some writing for my thesis or for fun. Equally, an option I did not take advantage of or perhaps should have, was to do some work with the monks and nuns of the abbey. I would have loved to work in the garden, but thought I should try for almost total seclusion. In the end, this was a bad idea for me.
The morning of the second day was perhaps the worst and the best. As I said, I went to discern the Lord’s will on some choices I had before me. In the silences of the abbey, my soul was laid bare. All the fears and doubts, all my trepidations were laid out before me. I could hear the voices telling me I wasn’t good enough, I was too sinful, this was too hard. I spent much of my time wandering about the grounds of the abbey, taking in the beauty, and arguing with myself, the tempters, and God.
In the end, the main thing that saved me were the divine hours. These monks keep seven hours, or at least seven in which I was allowed to participate: Readings at 6; Lauds at 7; Terce at 8:45; Eucharist at 12; None at 2:15; Vespers at 5:30; and Compline at 8:30. I only had one full day of the hours, but it was so very moving. In the divine hours time and eternity meet in Liturgy. You begin to understand what time is in the hours. You learn that time is, like you, a creature of the Creator, longing for its own transfiguration, longing to more resemble Eternity in which it participates. In the hours you learn that time was made for us, not us for time. Time is our brother, not our master nor out slave. We work together with time to proclaim the Lord’s Incarnation, the Lord’s death, the Lord’s resurrection, and the Lord’s promised return. Both before and since my time at the abbey, I have tried to keep three of the hours, for me, Mattens, Sext, and Vespers. I’m not always successful, but I will continue to work at it.
My time at the abbey was difficult. It was perhaps one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in a long time, but it showed me God. God’s glory, God’s will were in those brief moments I allowed myself of silence and in the longer moments when I read were made clear to me. In the weeks to come I will be able to divulge more about why I went to the abbey, but for now all I can is highly recommend going to a monastery if you have things you need to sort out with God, and to make sure that you work as well as pray while you’re there. Below are some more pictures from my time at the abbey.
David Russell Mosley