December 23, 2010
A good anchorage
Marzena's recent enclosure made me think of the anchoresses of the Middle-Ages.
These were women who felt the calling to be enclosed on a permanent basis. They were tested by the Church; most importantly, they had to convince people that they had enough money to pay servants/attendants to come and bring them food every day for the rest of their lives.
Because they were enclosed,truly; and therefore couldn't nip down the shops for a pint of milk and a loaf of bread. Part of the enclosure ceremony was the permanent bricking up of their door by the bishop; and also included in this was a funeral ceremony during which they received the last rites. Because from here on, no priest would be attending to them. How could they?
But these women weren't leaving the world. The calling of the anchoress was to be solitary, yet anchored in the world. And so it was that there were three windows in the cell, which would usually be built on the side of a church. One of the windows was called a Squint, and allowed them to look through to the church and recieve the blessed sacrament. A second window was for the attendant to bring food, and to remove bodily waste, for which a chamber pot was used. The third window was for visitors, who came to the anchoress for advice, prayers or counsel.
Inside, the furniture would be a crucifix, hard bed and small alter.
It all feels rather particular in a way, and nothing like our lives. But the more I reflect on it, the more it seems exactly like our lives. The maintenance of a contemplative space within; and then the best use of our windows onto the world that we can manage.
We'll each have to make our own particular cell, and no two cells are the same. For some of us are all window, and no retreat within. And others of us are walled and all retreat, lacking any windows of relationship and connection with the world.The grand thing is that we can always change things; always adapt, because life is change, even in a cell.
Here's wishing you a good anchorage this Christmas, and in the year to come.
Posted by Mr Bojangles at December 23, 2010 03:19 PM