Sunday, May 23, 2010

Veni Creator Spiritus

I suspect that I had something like this in mind:

You know what I mean -- candles flickering, a community of monks singing in unison, their voices bell-like in the cool, frankincensed air. Unfortunately, that wasn't to be. Tonight I walked into Buckfast Abbey church, which was empty except for one monk who sat up in the chancel, reading.  I took one each of the service books that were stacked on a table near the entrance -- Vespers, Ferial Vespers for Sundays and Weekdays, and something else that escapes my memory.  I walked to the front of the church and sat down. Shortly thereafter, the organist arrived. Eventually, a priest came in a side door, followed by his acolyte, another seven monks, and one nun.  They all filed into the chancel and the service began.

It really had been a long time, and I wasn't sure what the order of service was, but after a few minutes, I heard "Veni Creator Spiritus" start, and I thought Okay now. I know that. I can find my place. No. Not really. I scrambled through the books, hunting for that hymn, but didn't find it until it was history. I did finally find my place, at about the third psalm along, and from then on I sang quietly along with the monks, but the service was not a highlight of my visit, musically speaking. It was an interesting experience, without a doubt, but I felt superfluous to whatever was happening on the other side of the velvet ropes, and I wanted to tell the monks to put a little life into their chanting, please. Instead I reminded myself that this wasn't a performance, that these men sang vespers every day, it was their job, and most of them were even older than I. (I never heard the nun's voice even once). But did they have to sound so bored?

When Vespers was over, I turned to leave the church. It was then that I found out I had not been the only member of the congregation. There were three other people there -- two men, one woman. I hadn't heard a peep out of them during the service, so apparently I was the only lay person actually singing. Heh. Maybe I wasn't supposed to sing.  ;>)

I think I'll stick to the C of E services, preferably at the cathedrals, where they take their music very seriously indeed.

In all, my morning walk

and the walk Robin and I took this afternoon around Blackdown Rings were rather more uplifting. I put slide shows on YouTube because I couldn't decide which photos to use - except this one, which I simply love.
When we first got to the Rings (which, by the way, are the remains of a hill fort dating to about 400 BCE) it was around one o'clock in the afternoon, and the sun had warmed the hillside. It smelled wonderful up there, and I sat down in the grass to try to figure out just what was producing that exhilarating fragrance. I don't think it was the bluebells -- all I can assume is that one of the grasses was very sweet -- but it didn't really matter. Once I was down there, inhaling the sun-warmed perfume, I didn't want to stand up again. I took several pictures from a sitting position, then lay down and pointed the camera up into the meadow. It was only when I realized I was getting a bit sunburned, sprawled there on the south slope, that I tore myself away. (I was also beginning to remember that scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy falls asleep in the field of poppies...)


Maribeth said...

I had to laugh because Vespers affected me them same way in a different monastery.
Loved the video and photos.
Giggles and Guns

Barry said...

You weren't kidding about the bluebells!

As always I'm really enjoying your vacation (from the comfort of my La-Z-Boy).

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