Saturday, August 19, 2006

Past, present and to come

The abbey walls were 1,000 years old. Their ruins still somehow resounded with the sonorous chanting of the monks as they prayed together. Sun slanted through windows that, long ago, had been filled with stained glass and beautiful images instead of straggling weeds and blades of grass. Modern paths had been edged with blocks of broken pillars, pillars that no longer supported roofs, because all that remains of the abbey is open to the sky.

Jervaulx Abbey in the north of England, covered a huge area. The 11th century building was vast and, judging by a miniature reconstructed from evidence around the abbey original site, must have been impressive and beautiful.. Even today, the ruins are impressive and beautiful, but they are also lonely. Centuries have come and gone. The monks died. The monastery died, abandoned as it was during the Reformation. Today, the ruins stand, a sad, lonely, witness to very different yesterdays.

As my friend and I walked through the twists and turns of early corridors, rooms and the chapel, blue skies were our glorious canopy. Trees, bushes and wild flowers were colourful intervals in honey-coloured stone. I knew a physical pain in my heart as I looked at the remains of a great building and mourned the fact that I could never see them in their entirety. I was angry that the actions of the past had removed something precious from my present. It wasn't fair. This abbey was and is, my heritage, my history. Why should anybody have held it from me by their thoughtlessness and lack of care?

Then I looked again. The monks were still chanting, but in my heart, from where they cannot be removed. The abbey might be in ruins, but someone with enough love today had cleaned up the area, restored ancient pathways and had tried hard to make the site beautiful and reflective once more. Anger and pain gradually gave way to gratitude.

What is past is past. The future does not yet exist. All we have is the present. God asks us to make our today beautiful and to ensure that some of its loveliness will form the today of those who will live tomorrow.

God bless,
Sr. Janet