A group of us at my church recently shared in a Quiet Day led by our Archdeacon Vanessa.
Her addresses were about different aspects of Prayer – Prayer and silence; Prayer and Place; Prayer and Time; Prayer and the Senses.
Each one has its own way of inspiring and creating reflection. We were encouraged to engage with the gift of silence to ourselves, each other, and especially to God. We were also encouraged to receive the Gift of prayer to us from God and seek the Holy Spirit at work within us. In a beautiful phrase we were to sense ‘God speaking to God from within.’
Looking at Prayer and Place, Vanessa prompted us to think of the places where God has been easily found. She herself, spoke to us of Lastingham in the Cleveland Hills in North Yorkshire. Here the Saxon monk Cedd, pupil of St. Aidan of Lindisfarne, set up a monastery. This same Cedd brought the Gospel to Essex, to Bradwell which was consecrated by his presence and his prayer.
I haven’t been to Lastingham for many years but Vanessa opened up the memory and the experience within me. Below is the poem that I felt encouraged to write.
With it is a poem by Piers who was at the Quiet Day. Inspired, this time by the Abbey of Bec Hellouin in Normandy. Bec in the past supplied us with three Archbishops of Canterbury, Lanfranc, Anselm and Theobald. Bec still has a special relationship with Canterbury Cathedral. Today, only the tower remains of the Norman Abbey but a community of monks live in buildings near the tower. A sister community of nuns live in a convent a short distance away and on Sundays and Feast Days, the monks and nuns worship together. The serene and beautiful worship in their chapel inspired the first of the poems.
Both locations express the essence of what Vanessa spoke of to us. Thin places where heaven touches earth and God feels very near.
l’Abbaye du Bec
In my mind’s eye, I return:
light bathing ordered stone,
the scent of sung prayer hanging low.
10 July 2021
I come to this place,
deep in the hills,
where silence and conversation
meld into stillness.
God is here,
his sanctuary a stone rainbow
over the seeker after meaning.
What am I looking for in this place,
where the one who drew others to their knees,
poured out his soul?
I sense and seek the company
of the one who prayed here first,
in the shadows of sweeping arches,
pillars and faint light.
Seemingly impermeable rock
– steeped in suffering and joy;
pain and perfection; faltering hope
and confident determination –
enfolds me as I kneel with Cedd:
…inhaling God’s blessing and his love.
10 July 2021
The Apse Chapel Pennant Melangell Church Mr.G
Abbey Church Bec Hellouin Piers Northam
Crypt, Lastingham Church. Parish of Lastingham