Beyond the experience of duality

Arrival in Scotland

Pluscarden Priory

January 31st 1952

My Dear Dorothy,

This is to wish you very many happy returns of your birthday and to assure you of my special prayers for you on Sunday.  I had hoped that we might have spent it together, but the Lord is apparently determined that we shall not meet on either of our birthdays.  I was so glad to see you, though, at Charing Cross, and that really made up for a lot.  I don’t think I have ever felt to miserable as I did, going up on the train from Farnborough and it made all the difference having you to see me off.  I think you must have said a good many prayers for me, as I received a wonderful grace in the train that night: the burden was completely lifted from me.  I had the most overwhelming sense of God’s protection: it was while I was saying my office, and almost every word of the psalms seemed to speak to me.  I don’t think that I have had such a complete assurance of grace – of the sense of being ‘right’ with God since I was received into the church.  The result is that I seemed to have become completely detached, and I am not worried about Farnborough or Prinknash or anything.

On my arrival in Aberdeen I felt that most piercing cold and discovered that there was no breakfast on the train: so I hastily returned and put on a sweater and had a cup of tea and some chocolate, and I arrived in quite good form.  I found the cold here devastating at first: it penetrates everywhere and into everything.  We have had snow most of the time and intense frost with occasional storms and blizzards.  But I need not describe it, except to say that it is like Aberdeen!  But it has its compensations.  We have the most brilliant sunshine for a period almost every day and the countryside looks exquisitely beautiful. Having had no working clothes (they arrived today) I have been allowed to go for a walk every afternoon, and I have fallen in love with this valley.  It is enchanting at all times, but under the snow it is a dream of beauty and the sun catches the larches and birches at this time of the year and turns them into golden candle-sticks and burning bushes, so that you expect the Lord to speak out of them.  I have also become acclimatised now.  I no longer need an oil-stove in my cell and I find an hour’s walk sets me glowing with heat.

Father Norbert has, of course, been very kind and it is a very happy community here.  I like the chapel more and more – the chapter-house and refectory are both must beautiful rooms.  it is really the most perfect setting for monastic life.  My cell has bare rugged walls of rough-hewn stone and looks out onto the ruined church, so that I feel rather like St Jerome living in his cave at Bethlehem.  

I have begun writing too, which is a great joy.  Did I tell you of my plan for a book on the New Creation?  It consists of studies of the Seven Sacraments, each in relation to one of the principal themes of the Old Testament. First, Paradise Regained and the new Adam (Baptism); then the Promised Land and the Cloud of the Presence (Confirmation):

3)        The Exodus and the New Covenant (Eucharist)

4)        The New Land and the wandering in the wilderness (Penance)

5)        The Kingdom and the Bride (Marriage)

6)        The New Temple (Priesthood)

7)        The New Jerusalem and the City of God (Extreme Unction)

I have written one introductory chapter on the New Creation itself, and am in the middle of a second on the idea of the Mystery and the Sacrament.  It is a fascinating work, but I find it isn’t exacting.  The ideas are there but often they will not assemble, and words often don’t come easily.  I think I shall try to write it all out once, and then go over it again and rewrite it. Do pray that the inspiration may not fail: it is a golden opportunity while I am up here. 

Thank you for the End of the Affairs and for Don Camillo: it was very kind of you to give me them.  I like Don Camillo but I can’t honestly say that that kind of humour appeals to me!  I am reading Jane Eyre and have just finished Wuthering Heights. What a book!  As a work of pure genius, it seems to me to be equal to anything in English literature.  Jane Eyre in pale in comparison.  But how dreadful it is!  It is full of a sort of demonic power, yet terribly real and true.  It has the beauty of a thunderstorm.

With my best wishes and love,

Yours ever,

D Bede

This letter was written to Dorothy Rance