A woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to Jesus, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!’ But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!’
Luke 11.27, 28 (from Morning Prayer)
Today is the festival of The Blessed Virgin Mary, or Mary, the Mother of Our Lord, or the Assumption of Our Lady. I feel like sometimes Mary is misrepresented in popular devotion but I cannot deny that she has a special place in God’s plan of salvation. I have no theological problem with the rosary (and the like) but they are just not for me.
Early English anchorite writers often speak of the womb of Mary as the first enclosure of Jesus. The second, of course, is the tomb. So I am offering this icon for today’s festival:
I wanted to share this: Brother Walter. Fr Pat Shaw is mentioned in Yelton’s book on Fr Hope Patten and so is the anchorhold – which is, somewhat weirdly, called an “anchor hold”. The page also mentions another Anglican anchorite.
BTW: I do not like the distinction that is made between anchorites and anchoresses. Both genders live the one life devoted to Jesus.
I have not posted in a while. I have been emotionally exhausted and had an event that caused me some anxiety. But things are now returning to some form of routine.
I have been working on the Bible Study for this week – Luke 12:49-59. It is an interesting passage. On first reading, it sounds harsh. But, as it unfolds, Jesus’ words are an encouragement to live absolutely for him today in the choices we make.
It reminds me of this quote from Kierkegaard:
Also, I should mention that I have had a delightful email from the Archivist at Walsingham. It is about the anchoresses who lived there.
So today has been a plodding start. I did say Morning Prayer. I have had breakfast and a cup or two of tea. But apart from that, I have done very little. I watched some videos on TikTok about religious life in Anglicanism. It must be a TikTok thing but all the videos are about nuns – men are not smart enough to use social media. If you are interested, follow me @anchoriteexperiment. I have had an issue with my eyes that makes reading a little more complicated than usual. Yes, I should simply wear my glasses but, you know, where are they?!
I woke up this morning thinking about the Rule of St Augustine, especially the opening sentence:
Before all else, dear brothers, love God and then your neighbor, because these are the chief commandments given to us.
Augustine wrote for a group of men (who were unable to use social media!) so forgive the opening. My thoughts, this morning, were wondering if the sentence should not say, “love Jesus and then your neighbour”. I have been called a “Jesus only Christian” before and I am never sure what that means. I often feel that we hide behind a coverall term, God, to escape the responsibility of facing that God in the life and death of Jesus. Jesus says, “Follow ME”, and not “Follow God”.
Anchorites tended to embrace a much more constrained physical stability so that they were required to remain within a single small house or even a single room. Sometimes they were even locked or walled into such a place. Otherwise, however, both groups dealt with others (sometimes the degree of interaction was relatively extensive); similarly both were often approved to some extent by diocesan canons and local Bishops. Hermits (always men) who traveled from place to place were often granted the hermit tunic and permits to beg and preach by the local ordinary, for instance. But anchorites (who could include both women and men) lived their solitude within a fixed abode; hermits (who were, as you say, more marginal) could wander from town to town or otherwise live their solitude in less physically constrained ways. …
Because anchorites tended to live in the midst of villages with a window on the Church altar and one on the village square, they were often unofficial counselors, spiritual directors, a friendly pastoral ear, teachers, wisdom figures, preachers (as, again, were itinerant hermits), etc. Contrary to what you have concluded, while some were certainly secluded like the modern day Nazarena (oftentimes reforms were attempted by priests who wrote Rules for them limiting and regulating their contact with others) the very fact that such reforms were seen as necessary confirms that anchorites were, generally speaking, not so secluded as all that.
I have started a post three times in the last couple of days. But none eventuated into a published piece of writing. I have been thinking about life in general and my life in particular.
So I was super-amazed at how God works! It means that things for the future are becoming a little clearer. And it also means that my own sense of vocation has been confirmed by other people. I am still unsure what that will look like but it will look like something.
I do not get as much solitude in my new (old!) context! I have had little time to meditate or just read. My parents have been extremely kind and loving during the last two years so I am not terribly upset by the distribution of my routine.
I make time to read. I am reading a collection of Carthusian texts for novices. (As you do!) These texts are full of practical advice that is very useful. I am also reading Underhill’s Mysticism.