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By Patrick Leigh Fermor

Whereas nonetheless undefined, Patrick Leigh Fermor made his manner throughout Europe, as acknowledged in his vintage memoirs, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water. in the course of global battle II, he fought with neighborhood partisans opposed to the Nazi occupiers of Crete. yet in A Time to maintain Silence, Leigh Fermor writes a couple of extra inward trip, describing his a number of sojourns in a few of Europe’s oldest and such a lot venerable monasteries. He remains on the Abbey of St. Wandrille, an exceptional repository of paintings and studying; at Solesmes, well-known for its revival of Gregorian chant; and at the deeply ascetic Trappist monastery of l. a. Grande Trappe, the place priests take a vow of silence. eventually, he visits the rock monasteries of Cappadocia, hewn from the stony spires of a moonlike panorama, the place he seeks a few hint of the lifetime of the earliest Christian anchorites.

More than a background or shuttle magazine, in spite of the fact that, this pretty brief e-book is a meditation at the which means of silence and solitude for contemporary lifestyles. Leigh Fermor writes, “In the seclusion of a cell—an lifestyles whose quietness is simply diversified through the silent nutrition, the solemnity of formality, and lengthy solitary walks within the woods—the bothered waters of the brain develop nonetheless and transparent, and masses that's hidden away and all that clouds it floats to the skin and will be skimmed away; and after a time one reaches a nation of peace that's unthought of within the usual world.”

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But more important was the discovery of a capacity for solitude and (on however humble a level compared to that of most people who resort to monasteries) for the recollectedness and clarity of spirit that accompany the silent monastic life. For, in the seclusion of a cell—an existence whose quietness is only varied by the silent meals, the solemnity of ritual and long solitary walks in the woods—the troubled waters of the mind grow still and clear, and much that is hidden away and all that clouds it floats to the surface and can be skimmed away; and after a time one reaches a state of peace that is unthought of in the ordinary world.

Grey stone walls soared to a Gothic timber roof, and, above the Abbot’s table, a giant crucifix was suspended. As the monks tucked their napkins into their collars with a simultaneous and uniform gesture, an unearthly voice began to speak in Latin from the shadows overhead and, peering towards it, I caught sight, at the far end of the refectory, of a pillared bay twenty feet up which projected like a martin’s nest, accessible only by some hidden stairway. This hanging pulpit framed the head and shoulders of a monk, reading from a desk by the light of a lamp which hollowed a glowing alcove out of the penumbra.

As he watched the monks going about their daily lives, Leigh Fermor assumed that “the dominating factor of monastic existence is a belief in the necessity and efficacy of prayer” and concluded that without “this first postulate of belief” monastic life would be farcical and intolerable. I think that he was mistaken in this. It is only since the eighteenth-century Enlightenment that the Christian West made “belief”—the acceptance of certain creedal propositions—“the first postulate” of religious life.

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