Visiting Pluscarden Abbey was a little like stepping into an alternate universe, one which co-exists with our hectic, modern world but in no way resembles it. From the serene silence of the ivory clad monks to the reverberating echoes of the Cathedral, there was a stillness and peace evoked by more than just the word pax on the front gates. The surrounding countryside was in full bloom, the color of its green fields just beginning to deepen as wild flowers poked their little heads out into the dazzling, unpolluted sunshine of northeast Scotland.
We arrived at the Abbey just as Vespers had started, and so we slipped into the Public Chapel entrance to watch the service. The whole Cathedral was perfumed with the heavy odor of incense. The mournful chanting of the monks filled the high spaces of the Cathedral with a sound so beautifully simple it completely captivated our attention even if the Latin escaped us. The following day we sat in on Sext (the service conducted at the sixth hour, noon), and I secretly videoed part of the singing and the bell ringing. The video portion is difficult to see, so instead, I extracted the audio and selected my favorite photos to accompany it.
After Vespers we found our chaperon for the weekend, Oblate Mary. She took us to our boarding house, Saint Scholastica's, where we received our room assignment.
Mine was St. Clare.
Once we were situated in our rooms, we set about preparing dinner. The highlight of the meal, for me, was singing the Doxology before we ate, so many women with different backgrounds and accents united in praise of our God. The rest of the weekend was spent talking, drinking coffee, knitting, walking, praying, and meditating on God's Word.
There is far more to tell than can be relayed in a methodical blow-by-blow account of the passing time. Some of it is quite colorful, Brother Matthew, our tour guide, and Oblate Mary, who was never in short supply of stories, including the tale of the strange disappearance of Father Maurus three years ago this past Monday. They merit their own entry. Here are a few photos that make me smile, not for their artistic beauty, but for what they represent, that other world which we became a part of if only for a day.
The room assignment board, each room named for the following Saints: Mildred, Teresa, Monica, Catherine, Fortunata, Hildegarde, Clare, Francesca, Hilda, Gabriella, Gertrude, and Margaret.
The closest photo I was able to capture of one of the many male pheasants roaming free in the fields.
If you have spent any amount of time in the UK, you get why this sign is funny. Only here...
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in Latin for sale at the Abbey Shop.
Our lovely band of women. The rest of the photos are in the Pluscarden Abbey album.