Tomorrow Holy Week begins and as every year, I am filled with a mixture of dread, longing and a sense of loss: dread for the inexpressible magnitude of the events we will celebrate; a sense of loss for the liturgy that hardly anyone bothers with any longer—the monastery spoiled me forever in this regard; and finally longing . . . for what cannot and should not be spoken.
It may seem paradoxical for someone who is as "ruthlessly realistic" as one friend recently called me in a positive, not a negative way, to want to be so immersed in liturgy and myth. But then, the life of silence seems to the one who does not live it paradoxical. For the one who "seeks to the beholding" silence cannot help but immerse one in the single movement that is both realistic and mythical. For those who seek there is no distinction, no paradox.
I'm entering this Holy Week already exhausted. The first volume of my book, Silence: A User's Guide, has gone to the publisher; with any luck it will be out in November. This book has been gestating for so many decades that it's almost a let-down that it is now well on its way.
Another reason for exhaustion is that I broke my usual pattern of not going to conferences and went to one in Durham. As conferences go, it had the best papers and discussions of any I have ever been to. It was well worth it. And it was wonderful to be in my favourite of all cathedrals—at least, early in the morning. After 9 AM it was filled with far too many officious "guides" and swarming tourists. Just to put the icing on the cake, they were having "messy cathedral" so the place was often filled with shrieking children. My last day the little chapel where the noon Eucharist was celebrated was so crammed with people intent on not giving anyone an inch of room that I had to leave. At that point I decided to bail. I had to pay double for a rail ticket home (I had come up in a car) but given that I collapsed as soon as I walked in the door, as it were, it was money well spent.
Now I'm transplanting tomatoes and doing other garden chores preparatory to leaving for Devon and Cornwall for ten days. The West Country is always restorative, and our fire on Easter Eve will go a long way towards resurrecting this tired old body.
May all of you, gentle readers, have a most blessed Holy Week and Eastertide.
Last night did Christ the Sun rise from the Dark,
Thy mystic harvest of the fields of God.
And now the little wandering tribes of bees
Are brawling in the scarlet flowers abroad.
The winds are soft with birdsong; all night long
Darkling the nightingale her descant told,
And now inside church doors the happy folk
The Alleluia chant a hundredfold.
O father of thy folk, be thine by right
The Easter joy the threshold of the light.
—Sedulius Scottus translated by Helen Waddell