By Patrick Leigh Fermor

Whereas nonetheless undefined, Patrick Leigh Fermor made his method throughout Europe, as stated in his vintage memoirs, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water. in the course of international conflict II, he fought with neighborhood partisans opposed to the Nazi occupiers of Crete. yet in A Time to maintain Silence, Leigh Fermor writes a few extra inward trip, describing his numerous 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 artwork and studying; at Solesmes, recognized for its revival of Gregorian chant; and at the deeply ascetic Trappist monastery of l. a. Grande Trappe, the place clergymen take a vow of silence. ultimately, 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 historical past or trip 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 existence. Leigh Fermor writes, “In the seclusion of a cell—an lifestyles whose quietness is simply different through the silent nutrition, the solemnity of formality, and lengthy solitary walks within the woods—the stricken 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 country of peace that's unthought of within the usual world.”

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A cowled figure would flit past in silence, and all at once, with a smile, I would remember Fathers Dionysios and Gabriel, Brothers Theophylaktos, Christ and Polycarp, my bearded, long-haired, cylinder-hatted, war-time hosts and protectors in Crete, pouring out raki, cracking walnuts, singing mountain songs, stripping and assembling pistols, cross-questioning me interminably about Churchill, and snoring under olive trees while the sun’s beams fell perpendicularly on the Libyan Sea…. But here, in the Abbey’s boreal shadows, there was never a smile or a frown.

Not for nothing had these painters followed so closely after St. Theresa and St. John of the Cross, and so faithfully portrayed the external stigmata of monastic obedience, prayer, meditation, mortification and mystical experiment—the traces left by the soul’s dark night, by the scaling of heavenly mountains and the exploration of interior mansions. As the monks dispersed after Vespers and, a few hours later, after Compline, I had a sensation of the temperature of life falling to zero, the blood running every second thinner and slower as if the heart might in the end imperceptibly stop beating.

If there was no room at the Abbey, or if for some other reason the monks could not receive me, I should have to return to Paris and readjust my plans for the next few weeks. I was arriving unknown and unannounced, a citizen of the heretic island across the Channel, without even the excuse that I wished to go into retreat; I was, in fact, in search of somewhere quiet and cheap to stay while I continued to work on a book that I was writing. A friend in Paris had told me that St. Wandrille was one of the oldest and most beautiful Benedictine Abbeys in France; and I had made my plans and set out… It was Sunday, and the gatehouse was full of visitors who, just emerged from Mass, were buying pictures, medals, rosaries and assorted bondieuserie.

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