06 December 2015

A day-dream or vision


When much younger, my friends and I enjoyed mispronouncing certain laudable names so as to lampoon the hyper-reverential way in which certain place names where pronounced.  We would deliberately say Preenk-naaash instead of Prinknash, or we would accent the wrong syllable of Pluscarden.  Boys, mere boys (even of great age) can find such things very funny, and I find myself chortling, yes, chortling when I sit down to listen to a beautiful older recording from Prinknash or Pluscarden. It is good to be light-hearted and filled with the memory of days easier than the present as one is about to hear the sacred chant of angels sung by men.  

I have also found it to be true that when ill-humour overtakes me there is no tonic so swift and powerful as to change my mood and attitude for the better than by listening to an old vinyl record (or more recently pressed CD) of the Nuns of Stanbrook Abbey (who have now moved to a modern comfortable facility in Yorkshire). Their voices combined in sacred chant take me to  sense of joy so profound it is as if I am in the very middle of it surrounded by divine joy on all sides.

As the old Abbeys have had to be sold because the numbers and ages of the religious have dwindled and buildings have needed major repairs, I have been filled with a deep sorrow to see such changes.  But I understand the need and wisdom behind such decisions.  I am very happy to see communities in new buildings they can manage well.  I suppose it is simply hard to age and see change in places that once communicated the stability of God.  But no, stability in God is something altogether different and more profound than an old Victorian building.

Nonetheless, I recall the sale of one such sacred place in Scotland where sacred furnishings were happily sold to passers-by or auctioned off as that community decided to abandon Scotland.  A friend who was a priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church regarded the event as a sure sign of the End (but managed to buy quite a few things).  At the time I tried to say something encouraging to friends who were saddened by the departure, but I too felt it ... that dread ... of the tide going out with the Church sailing in her barque away from European lands and isles toward her only ports of welcome in Africa.

All of the above is simply preface to a strange and wonderful daydream I had in the last few days.  In it I saw old Stanbrook Abbey in Worcestshire —once again a monastery— overflowing with women religious with Angels praying, living, and working alongside them ... and then Syon Abbey overflowing with Bridgettine nuns and priests (!) all in the company of what appeared to be Holy Angels.   Was this Heaven?  No, something deep inside me said this was not Paradise or Heaven.

'Is this the past?' I wondered, but then I saw lay-folk entering into a cathedral I had never seen near Syon Abbey.  The manner of dress of the lay-people was nothing I had seen either in historical books or in the present day.  The cloth shimmered and seemed to change shade and hue with the movement of the unusual garments. The way the men and women were dressed was entirely unlike anything we see today. Strange, very strange, and yet beautiful even wonderful.

Then instantly I seemed to be flying over Scotland from beloved parts of Aberdeenshire towards Pluscarden.  But the view upon arriving was great and shocking.  Pluscarden was as it once had been before the Reformation, whole and entire, but it was not an ancient scene.  There were new buildings in the same ancient style around it, but it was definitely a future time I was seeing.

A very new thriving village was growing around the sacred precincts.  Again, I saw an enormous number of men religious who were dressed in several different monastic styles as though white-robed Benedictines and several other communities were all working together in the holy place.  Also, it appeared again that Angels were working among them... visible and interacting with the monk as well as the farmer at his old-looking plough in a field.  

On a nearby carriageway a vehicle without wheels floated above ground carrying four religious sisters in scarlet habit with blue cloak with white veils -- I have never seen the like -- and with the sisters were about a dozen young children.  There destination was this new village of Pluscarden.  Simply amazing it was to me.

Then as suddenly as this experience began it came to an abrupt end, and I felt as if I had suddenly been dropped into my chair.  I would like to think it was some promise of a brighter future than our present day.  A few of my friends think it merely nostalgia and imagination run amok.  

I seem to be alone in feeling that I was given some glimpse of promise ... a glimpse of a world overflowing with Faith and life and beauty... almost a pre-Industrial beauty ... as if all of the brutal mechanistic things of man had been swept away and replaced with an abundance of faith and a technology in harmony with the land.

I admit it sounds like nostalgia and religious imagination run amok.  But in a world where every other commentator and author speaks of dystopian futures, I am grateful that the Living God gave me something of faith and hope for the future to share with you.  In that, I feel the presence and mark of the Lord Jesus Christ who would insist to each one of us that right now the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.  

Maranatha!  Come, Lord Jesus.

God give you a blest and holy Advent.