Sunday, 9 December 2007

No longer retreating but advancing

My pre-Christmas retreat at the English Convent in Brugge was as restful as ever.

Even the Channel crossing was a lot less rough than expected. There was a super view of the receding White Cliffs of Dover as the ferry headed out for Dunkirk last Monday morning.

The Convent has a wonderfully calming atmosphere, from the sounds of distant footsteps down the corridors, to the shutting of a door or the clinking of plates in the kitchen, all carry with them the sound of a holy silence.

Life there is governed by bells. The waking bell clanking from the small bell tower at 7.00 a.m., and then the Angelus about 15 minutes later. Across the city come the echoes of other bells, monastic and secular, striking the hours and quarters, calling to worship, announcing the Mass.

The city was wet and windy this year, but still I enjoyed getting around, walking the streets, shopping for gifts and chocolates, revivingyself with a Hoegarden wheat beer or coffee, and visiting one of the Art Museums and its superb collection of Old Masters. And the Christmas lights as darkness fell made it all the more magical.

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