A Time to Keep Silence comprises three slim essays, this morning’s reading with a pot of tea. I read them once, replenished my tea, and read them again, more carefully, paying closer attention to Patrick Leigh Fermor’s use of language. With a good dictionary to hand I was able to look up scapulars and giaour and encomium. With Leigh Fermor I always discover fascinating new words.
As I read of Leigh Fermor’s monastery life, from the muffled footfall of the Abbey of St. Wandrille to the austere asceticism of La Grande Trappe, finally to the eerie riddles posed by the rock monasteries of Cappadocia, for a few hours I shared Leigh Fermor’s discovery of tranquility.
These essays end with Leigh Fermor referring to St. Basil of Caesarea, but the excerpt could so easily apply to the writer of this special book:
There is a mood of humanity and simplicity in his writings, an absence of bigotry that seems to blow like a soft wind from those groves of olive and tamarind and lentisk; gently ruffling the surface of the mind and then leaving it quiet and still. And, while the daylight vanishes from these northern hayfields, it is a similar blessing, an ancient wisdom exorcising the memory of conflict and bloodshed of the intervening centuries, that brings its message of tranquility to quieten the mind and compose the spirit.