...for a quiet day at Minster Abbey with a friend. We arrived early so as to join the Sisters for their morning office (they had already been up for a good while, having sung an earlier office and had time for silent prayer....). By mutual decision, D and I had agreed not to chat during the day, but to spend the time in reading or quiet work. It is beautiful to pray with the Sisters in their lovely chapel which in its simplicity blends seamlessly into the original Saxon buildings of the Abbey. A particularly fine carved dark wooden statue of Our Lady stands to one side of the chancel: light gleams on the single central jewel in her crown, aligned with the golden cross that forms the halo of the Christ-child who sits enthroned on her lap. It is an image at once serene and queenly.
A new young postulant was among the Sisters and will be clothed with the white veil shortly. They all enter the chapel quietly from their various tasks and take their places in the choir-stalls to chant the psalms of the Offices, one Sister accompanying them on an instrument which somehow has a Medieval sound. Beyond the altar - the base of which is one large gnarled and polished tree-trunk, matching the lectern and the wooden stand that holds St Mildred's relics - tall trees rustle in the wind from the sea, and birds sing. As evening falls, Vespers has a more formal feel: the sisters enter in procession, the chanted psalms are in Latin. Compline is after dark and we had set off for home by then, rain lashing the car as we drove back to London.
I have begun work on a long cross-stitch kneeler, designed for the bridal pair at weddings. Starting the work the evening before the trip to Minster was pleasing - the long folds of material drape down to the floor as one sews, and it all has a restful, and dignified feeling. Busy with it again at Minster I realised that it really is going to be a mammoth task - and D observed that her mother made a similar cushion which is now in her possession "It took her the whole of the Second World War..."