Archbishop of Canterbury’s address at Monte Cassino

 
12 March 2012, St Gregory the Great, 604

Monks and Mission: a perspective from England

      The role of Benedictine monasticism in spreading the Christian gospel in Europe is too well-known to need much retelling. My purpose in these remarks is simply to highlight a few aspects of how that mission worked in England and what its long-term effects were, in the hope of opening up some reflection on the missionary dimension of monastic life in general. This weekend, we have been celebrating the millennium of the Camaldolese section of the Benedictine family; and it may seem as though this tradition, with its strong emphasis on integrating the hermit life into the common life of the monastic community, stands for something rather different from the apparently activist commitments of missionary monks. But I believe this is a misunderstanding of how monastic mission worked, certainly in Britain and no doubt elsewhere. And if reflecting on this helps us to see the inseparability of mission and contemplation, this may in turn help us to rethink our priorities in mission in ways that protect us from over-busy and superficial approaches to the subject.
      When the Venerable Bede describes the early days of Augustine’s mission in England, he lays great stress on the fact that the missionaries ‘began to imitate the way of life of the apostles and of the primitive church’ (HE I.26). What draws converts to the faith, we are told, is poverty and prayer. Augustine’s community depends for its basic material survival on the generosity of local people and maintains what is obviously an austere regime of prayer and fasting. Bede insists that the Saxon king does not force his people to be baptised; they are drawn to Christian faith by the simplicity of the lives of Augustine’s monks. And when Augustine writes to Pope Gregory for advice about how bishops should live with their clergy, he receives a reply (HE I.27) in which the Pope reminds Augustine that, as a monk, he will already know that he should live a common life with his clergy, modelled on the common life of the apostles: ‘none of them said that anything he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common’, in the words of the Acts of the Apostles, quoted by Gregory. And, living the common life, bishop and clergy will have no problem remembering the priority of hospitality and charity; what is surplus to the basic requirements of a living stipend will obviously go towards these things.
      It is not that the Pope is assuming that all Augustine’s clergy will be monks – and we should almost certainly assume that his immediate missionary community contained only a small number of ordained priests, as would be usual at the time. But he does take it for granted that the clergy should live an ‘apostolic’ life as defined in Acts. Throughout Bede’s History, the theme recurs frequently: what makes a community effective in terms of mission and witness is the apostolic life. The communities of Lindisfarne under Colman (HE III.26) and Whitby under Hilda (IV.23) are, like Augustine’s, described in terms of the paradigm in Acts. Aidan is praised (III.5) for his willingness to hand over for the use of the poor any gifts he receives. There are many other instances: but the point is clear enough: the mission of the Church is bound up with the common life and with the readiness to share with everyone and anyone the goods that are received. And while not every missionary has to be a monk, Bede clearly has a vision of clergy who have learned enough from the monastic environment to model something of the same radical poverty and mutual dispossession so that the apostolic model may come through in its full converting force.
      In short, what changes hearts, in Bede’s understanding, is the visible demonstration of new possibilities for life together – a life without acquisitiveness, a life not ashamed of depending on the generosity of others, inside and outside the community, a life unified by prayer. The bishop belongs within such a pattern of life, not apart from it or above it. And it is a way of life deeply shaped by monastic commitment. It is significant that in England, alone among the major European nations, many of the cathedrals continued until the Reformation to be Benedictine houses – as if the centrality of the apostolic and monastic vision in the life of the Church could find expression in setting community life visibly at the centre of a diocese. Of course, many of these houses were, like others, liable to become wealthy, self-absorbed and spiritually slack – though any reader of that great memoir of one pre-Reformation community known as The Rites of Durham, will be impressed by the standards of devotion and austerity that survived in some settings. And in the post-Reformation period, it is striking that – against expectation and often against explicit policy – the cathedrals remained committed to the solemn public celebration of the Divine Office and to some residue of common clerical life. No less striking is what happened on the other side of the Reformation split, with the reconstituted English Benedictine Congregation supplying so many missionaries—and martyrs—to Britain, sustaining the small persecuted Roman Catholic communities for three centuries and more. It was one such missionary monk, Augustine Baker, who, in the midst of the pressures of ministry both in Britain and abroad (as a convent chaplain for some of his career), produced the seminal writings on the contemplative life edited and collected under the title of Holy Wisdom. And even when the conventual life of the houses of the English Congregation was most disrupted by the demands of ‘the mission’, the tradition of prayer as expounded by Baker was maintained, and a contemplative formation was still preserved. For many generations of English Benedictines, the pressures and multiple activities of the mission, in parishes and schools, served as a way of experiencing something of the ‘poverty’ of monastic witness, even when outward circumstances were not particularly austere.
      But to return to Bede for a moment: the idea that apostolic witness is in itself a means of mission suggests that we misunderstand mission of we think it is a matter of persuading people to accept certain ideas. The truth of any ideas or doctrines is something that becomes apparent in the light of the sort of life that those ideas make possible. To see a common life of unconditional mutual generosity, sustained by the sanctification of each part of the day in God’s honour, is to grasp that the defensive and self-referential habits of the world at large can be decisively overcome by grace. The ‘promise’ of Christian teaching, the hope of heaven, becomes credible when earthly life is transformed. And perhaps this is where we should begin in thinking about mission: what does a ‘promising’ life look like? The life that Augustine, Aidan, Hilda and others lived was one that offered a new future to those around – a new level of mutual care, but also a new language in which to address God, the language of Christ himself. As I have noted elsewhere, the language of the Psalms is, in early Christian thought, very much the speech of Christ, the divine speaker taking on the words of humanity even in their suffering and confusion. A life built on the recitation of the Psalms is one in which it is possible to understand all daily human experience as capable of being taken up and transformed by God in Jesus.
      The monastic paradigm is one which embodies two major counter-cultural themes. First is the idea that all of time can be sanctified – that is, that the time we may instinctively consider to be unproductive, waiting or routine activity, is indispensable to our growth into Christian and human maturity. How we spend the time we think is insignificant is important. It is not only the well-know Benedictine union of laborare and orare, but the wider commitment to a life under ‘rule’, a life which takes it for granted that every aspect of the day is part of a single offering. The second theme is that of dependence: these are communities in which no-one is without some sort of dependent relation to others, including even the most junior and inexperienced, and which also depend in some degree on the generosity of others. These are counter-cultural today, and perhaps in every age, because of the sharp disjunction we regularly make between labour and leisure—the time in which we do something productive and the time in which we indulge ourselves—and because of the way we are repeatedly seduced by visions or promises of autonomy as the greatest imaginable human good.
      So a life in which these themes appear is one that challenges assumptions about the character of our humanity. For the Anglo-Saxons who first encountered the apostolic life of Augustine and his companions, the monastic witness must have signified that physical labour and dependency (the marks of social inferiority) were not after all evils to be overcome, and that the human ideal was not the aristocratic mastery prevailing in the royal warbands. Leisure and power are not (after all) the guarantors of human significance; and whether this is discovered in Anglo-Saxon Kent and Northumbria or in twenty-first century Europe or America, the radical character of the discovery is the same.
      But we can take the point a stage further. A humanity serving God in steady engagement with the material world and in mutual giving and receiving is a humanity shaped by Christ. The style of life exemplified in Augustine’s community was not only apostolic but it was also incarnational. Christ’s human life is open to the divine at every moment; it is not that God the Word deigns to take up residence in those parts of our lives that we consider important or successful or exceptional. Every aspect of Jesus’ humanity and every moment of his life is imbued with the divine identity, so that if our lives are to be images of his, they must seek the same kind of unbroken transparency. Likewise, Jesus lives out in his humanity a complete dependence on God as Father, the eternal dependence of the Word on the divine Source, and is thus also capable of living a human life that is not anxiously in search of the highest degree of autonomy: he receives gifts, receives friendship and hospitality. A life that values every dimension of experience, including the routine, the repetitive and prosaic, one that assumes mutual need and invites generosity at the same time as offering it in hospitality – this is a life that is not merely apostolic but Christlike and illustrates the freshness of what the Gospel makes possible.
      Such a style of life thus fleshes out what it is that Christians are required to believe about Jesus Christ. As suggested already, the Church’s doctrine concerning Christ is not a speculation to be explained: it simply spells out what the Christian life implies as it is experienced and prayed. The new life of the Body of Christ carries within it the implicit understanding of who and what the Saviour is. To communicate who and what he is, the life must be lived: if this life is now possible, what must it be that makes it possible? And to repeat a point made in other contexts, it may be that Christology becomes difficult to explain precisely when the difference and radicality of Christian life has become dulled. Monasticism is in this regard a significant defence against the absorption of the newness of the Gospel into the familiarity of this or that cultural environment; and in this way, monasticism is a necessary part of any truly theological strategy of mission.
      So often, when we think about strategies of mission, especially strategies for the evangelization or re-evangelization of our historically Christian countries, we are tempted to overlook this dimension of the converting power of the apostolic life. It is not just that people are attracted by lives of virtue and service, true as that undoubtedly is. We are speaking of the converting power of poverty and vulnerability, of silence and praise, of labour and fidelity. Especially in a world in which strong bonds between people are hard to find – whether it is the world in which Benedictine monasticism began, the world of a dissolving empire and a violent and chaotic social environment, or the world we know today, the praying community shows how people can be bound together in work and contemplation. The connection with the material world that is lived out in daily, prosaic, necessary, but not in the obvious sense ‘wealth-creating’ labour teaches perspective and patience. We are not gods; we need the world around, and we need sane and sustainable relations with the world around. The mutual dependency of the community teaches realism and generosity (the generosity of the receiver as well as the giver). But above all, the discipline of worship, sanctifying the entire day, teaches that the world in all its variety can be given meaning and that our final destiny is simply to be held in the delight of God’s presence.
      The apostolic life is thus more than a ‘good’ life in the conventional sense, but a life that exhibits how God is different, that explains what we mean by transcendence. It shows that the world can be seen at one and the same time in its wholeness and in the light of a presence that is everywhere and nowhere. And it points to worship as the culminating and fulfilling form of self-dispossession or self-giving. It is about joy in the routine and everyday – not simply a persistent human happiness but a pervasive confidence that God’s beauty is there waiting for our homecoming. It certainly is not that monastic communities unfailingly exemplify all this; only that this and this alone makes sense of the monastic life as a ‘sharpening of the focus’ that exists in all Christian life.
      And so to think about how monastic life works within the process of evangelization is to ask how this kind of common life can best be made visible so as to embody for the world a conviction that our humanity can be different. Of course, there are communities that express this difference in ways that are not identical with traditional monasticism, such as the Iona Community in Scotland, a ‘dispersed’ community including the single and the married; but it is very important that part of Iona’s enormous influence in English-speaking Christianity has to do with the way it has developed a quite distinctive style of worship and music, along with its profound commitment to social transformation. The importance of such a style of worship alongside the same social vision is equally evident in Taize and other new residential communities, including the Communautes de Jerusalem. The mistake we have to avoid is to suppose that first we get the ideas sorted out and win the arguments and then we find a form of worship appropriate to the needs of our converts. It would be far more true to say that, for many people, especially the young, on the edge of discovering faith, what happens is that they find an identity in liturgy and then seek words and forms of life that will do justice to this.
      In the Church of England, one area of quite unexpected growth in recent years has been attendance at cathedral liturgies, not least by younger people. As noted already, cathedrals have continued to treasure their heritage, often though not exclusively Benedictine, as places where the daily office is performed solemnly, and have increasingly offered models of excellence in worship at the Eucharist. In the light of all that has been said so far, this is not some sort of ‘luxury’ added to the bare bones of Christian witness; it is an intrinsic part of that witness, insofar as it is a witness to a comprehensively new style of human living, inseparable from mutual service and the giving and receiving of gifts (our cathedrals are not normally supported by public funds). It is not the same as the simplicity and vulnerability of a monastic environment committed to the full ‘apostolic’ enterprise, but it is a clear reflection of it, which makes very plain to many in the Church of England that our mission must include a seriousness about worship in community. It must – to put it in very blunt terms – convey something of why it might be desirable to hope for heaven as the context where our vocation to praise and contemplate will be fulfilled. And this is not in any way an appeal to an elitist audience. One of the most damaging assumptions we can make is that people from a culturally different background, people with less conventional educational attainment or whatever are somehow less capable of absorbing the message of the apostolic life and the worship of a dedicated community. Many different kinds of excellence and beauty are involved here, and the challenge is always to find what is authentic to the community itself, without being too much distracted by worries about what will ‘communicate’.
      To sum up, the history of Benedictine mission in England is a history – at best – of how the apostolic life as Bede understands it, a life of simplicity, mutual dependence and service and committed worship conducted with thoughtfulness and imagination, has served to focus the evangelizing work of the Church. It does so by presenting a new model of humanity, a model at odds with functionalist, anxious, impatient, would-be autonomous paradigms, offering a vision of the kind of humanity that finds its fulfilment in reciprocal service and shared joy. The monastic life represents in an intense way the Christological focus of the new humanity, holding together dependence and liberty, labour and contemplation. A truly integral programme of evangelization will give priority not so much to explanation or winning arguments as to this displaying of the new humanity. The rising popularity in the USA of experiments in a ‘new monasticism’ as part of the ‘emergent church’ network of initiatives reflects just this awareness of how the dedicated life, in traditional as well as non-traditional forms, can again become central to the Church’s mission.
      Yet the one great qualification remains to be made. The missional witness of the dedicated worshipping community exists because people fall in love with God, not because they are told that it is part of a strategy for evangelization. In all that we say about monasticism and mission, we have to keep first in mind the root of the monastic life in the plain sense of a calling into intimacy with God through life lived with brothers and sisters, nothing more, nothing less. There could have been no Gregorian mission to England had not Augustine and his brothers first sought the Lord for his own sake. We may rightly reflect upon how the contemplative vision draws others in, in search of the experience of the new creation. But contemplation does not begin by calculating its results. As has often been said, Benedict did not begin his life of dedication in this place in order to save European civilization! To be too self-conscious of the missional impact of monastic life is to invite an element not exactly of falsity but of strain – and perhaps too of giving God less than his due. And given that we cannot successfully struggle self-consciously against being too self-conscious, what will save us from functionalizing the life of service and contemplation? Nothing, of course, but the overwhelming consciousness of Christ. ‘Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way, says chapter 4 of the Rule: “the love of Christ must come before all else.” And, “Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ”, declares chapter 72. It is the only place from which a fully transforming mission can begin.
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About Gertrude

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium.
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19 Responses to Archbishop of Canterbury’s address at Monte Cassino

  1. JabbaPapa says:

    There’s a certain amount of fudging and waffling, particularly in the third part of his intervention —

    OTOH :

    A humanity serving God in steady engagement with the material world
    and in mutual giving and receiving is a humanity shaped by Christ. The
    style of life exemplified in Augustine’s community was not only
    apostolic but it was also incarnational. Christ’s human life is open
    to the divine at every moment; it is not that God the Word deigns to
    take up residence in those parts of our lives that we consider
    important or successful or exceptional. Every aspect of Jesus’
    humanity and every moment of his life is imbued with the divine
    identity, so that if our lives are to be images of his, they must seek
    the same kind of unbroken transparency. Likewise, Jesus lives out in
    his humanity a complete dependence on God as Father, the eternal
    dependence of the Word on the divine Source, and is thus also capable
    of living a human life that is not anxiously in search of the highest
    degree of autonomy: he receives gifts, receives friendship and
    hospitality. A life that values every dimension of experience,
    including the routine, the repetitive and prosaic, one that assumes
    mutual need and invites generosity at the same time as offering it in
    hospitality – this is a life that is not merely apostolic but
    Christlike and illustrates the freshness of what the Gospel makes
    possible.

    Such a style of life thus fleshes out what it is that Christians are
    required to believe about Jesus Christ. As suggested already, the
    Church’s doctrine concerning Christ is not a speculation to be
    explained: it simply spells out what the Christian life implies as it
    is experienced and prayed. The new life of the Body of Christ carries
    within it the implicit understanding of who and what the Saviour is.
    To communicate who and what he is, the life must be lived: if this
    life is now possible, what must it be that makes it possible? And to
    repeat a point made in other contexts, it may be that Christology
    becomes difficult to explain precisely when the difference and
    radicality of Christian life has become dulled. Monasticism is in this
    regard a significant defence against the absorption of the newness of
    the Gospel into the familiarity of this or that cultural environment;
    and in this way, monasticism is a necessary part of any truly
    theological strategy of mission.

    This is BRILLIANT !!!!

  2. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    The Archbishop confuses Monte Cassino with Monte Casino which is a gambling house, unfortunately.

    He also seems to find England and Britain synonymous, when he speaks of the early history of the Benedictine Order. This would have been accurate after 1707, but not before, when two different countries were involved.

    He is right to speak of the differences of Iona and Taizé, while acknowledging their importance. The tetchy and Very Reverend George McLeod of Fuinary would have agreed. I recommend Taizé and Iona to any who are in those areas, and Pluscarden Abbey, the only mediaeval abbey still in its original use and function. They also have a 35 year old upper age limit for entering the Order. I wonder if anyone can suggest why this is? They are not the only ones.

  3. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Unless it was
    to keep
    me
    out.

  4. Gertrude says:

    You are wrong Whippy (sorry). The Benedictine Order is possibly the only Order with a direct non-interrupted line back to St. Augustine in these isles.
    From the tenth to the sixteenth century the black monks of St Benedict played an integral part in every aspect of English life: religious, social and economic. Under King Henry VIII the congregation nearly came to extinction with the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s. Queen Mary I took the ancient royal Abbey of Westminster, refounded by King Edward the Confessor in the eleventh century, and restored it to a surviving band of monks on 21 November 1556. However, this revival ceased on the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558.

    By 1607 only one monk of the pre-Reformation congregation survived, Dom Sigebert Buckley. On 21 November 1607 he aggregated two young English monks of the Cassinese Congregation to the English Congregation, thus ensuring a moral continuity of the link to St Augustine. These two monks joined other English monks exiled in France who were training for work on the English mission. It is through this missionary work that the present day congregation finds part of its work in parochial duties throughout the country.

    As for an age limit – I think you are also wrong on that. Most Abbey’s (if not all) in the UK are autonomous within the English Benedictine Congregation, and therefore have their own limits on entry. I know that the Abbey of which I am an Oblate has an does accept the ‘more mature’ gent – and they are a great asset .

  5. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    No need to be sorry about suggesting I’m wrong G; That’s perfectly fine by me. Raven and Jabba have just enjoyed working me over for teeny slip-ups. But I only gave my name, rank and number.

    I’m not sure what I’m wrong about tho’ – as I understand it (and as Pluscarden states clearly) Pluscarden is as I say the only medieval abbey (Benedictine) still with its original function in Britain. They do the 35 year upper age limit and so does another I read of recently. No matter.

    I enjoyed your informative post and agree with you wholeheartedly that the mature gent (such as myself) is a great asset. Raven and Jabba however might object to the final phoneme in my case.

  6. Gertrude says:

    Pluscarden is Cistercian – perhaps that is why they have an age limit. They are known to have a somewhat more rigid (and some would say harder) adherance to the Rule plus some particularly idiosyncratic (my word – definately not theirs) rubrics peculiar to the Cistercians 🙂

    I think you may find Quarr Abbey (on the Isle of White) has pre-mediaeval origins, but has not been continuously inhabited. In your kneck of the woods the Abbey of Solesmes celebrated its 1000th Anniversary last year!

  7. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    “Pluscarden is the home of a community of Roman Catholic Benedictine monks”. That’s what they say.

    However, somehow I feel another error coming on, for my part.

    Solesmes – don’t they sing so well?

    I will be told……

  8. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    G, when you speak of “mature gents” do you speak of ‘lumen gentium’?
    Could this be my case, I muse?

  9. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Further, G, I have found the other reference to ageism in monastic orders – it is the Carthusians who bluntly say “Men over 45 are not admitted”. Lumen gentium not wanted….story of my life innit?

    Well that leaves a load of us crying in the wilderness, haunting websites and slumping over the keyboard.

    I must return to an earlier great thought of mine – ‘we die because we are getting to know too much and may be difficult’. It seems the Benedictines and the Carthusians agree and will have nothing to do with us.

    Sigh.

  10. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    I am most pleased to see that Monte ‘Casino’ has been banished and Monte ‘Cassino’ installed.

    Elsewhere, I myself have just confused alchoholism with alcoholism. But I cannot rite this rong, to my shagrin…anoyance…iritation.

    Let’s gang up
    on
    WordPress.

  11. JabbaPapa says:

    Further, G, I have found the other reference to ageism in monastic orders – it is the Carthusians who bluntly say “Men over 45 are not admitted”.

    Various different religious orders have various different requirements for membership.

    Some orders, for instance, only accept men ; whilst others only admit women.

    These requirements are established by the Rule of the Order, which can often be a fairly old document — and they are liable to be based on the deeper purposes of the Order, rather than on whichever “prejudice” or et cetera.

    Religious Orders that include a basis on simple labour for self-support by the Community, may have such a requirement that only men of a young enough working age to meaningfully contribute to the welfare of their community will be admitted – just as one possible example or explanation.

  12. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Yes dear Jabba – you speculate that if men are too old to work at say 35-45 then they are not wanted. I’d say that a huge part of the general working population are this age and contribute enormously to an economy.You may be around this age yourself, or more, and I regret that you cannot enter a monastery, tho’ you still have so much to offer.

    Are you calling for the Holy Father and all his cardinals to be made redundant because of age? I do hope not.. They look in here you know, and they have your name…

  13. Gertrude says:

    Sorry for the delay Whippy, but have only just seen your comment re Pluscarden. you are both right – and wrong.

    Pluscarden was founded in 1230 by Alexander ll for French monks (from Burgundy) known as ‘Valliscaulians’ who where apparantly founded by a Carthusian lay-brother called Blessed Viard.
    Their observances and customs where Cistercian, but they followed the Rule of St. Benedict (as do they to this day). At the Reformation it was united with the nearby Priory of Urquhart, and subsequently became a cell of the Abbey of Dunfermline. The title of Prior passed through various lay owners until the 19thc when the 4th Earl of Fife restored one side of the Monastery. It was then bought by the Marquis of Bute who began the restoration of the Church. It actually only became an Abbey in 1974.

    Briefly, that is it. It is an Abbey of the Subiaco Congregation within the English Benedictine Congregation, but its observances are Cistercian. I hope that this makes sense as I have condensed what is a long (though interrupted) and interesting history.
    Incidentally, their Habits are black on white as opposed to the normal Benedictine Habit of black 😉

  14. JabbaPapa says:

    Jabba – you speculate that if men are too old to work at say 35-45 then they are not wanted.

    No I don’t.

    Please refrain from continuing this latest campaign of yours to ascribe ideas to me that I would not agree with in the slightest.

    Such a tactic is profoundly destructive of any possibilities for actual debate.

  15. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Sorry Jabba – I teasingly discerned that ‘age’ comment of mine from what you said. You do similarly; we all do. As always, you are, as I am, perfectly at liberty to disagree, and you do. And you can do it very well. There is no “campaign” against you – come on! Your liturgical, doctrinal comments are thorough and impeccable.

    May I hesitantly suggest that the words “profoundly destructive” are a tad overstated? – a little catastrophic?- when it’s all much ado about little. Will you remember this chat in some months’ time? How about chats 3 months ago? Do you see?

    Generally, is it possible that you might lighten up a little? Look, we’re all on the path to yet another got-up war and we might as well not get too gloomy, yet. Most of my comments are cheerily offered, apart from my doom laden comments about Middle East conflict, which you can and do ignore.

    And a bit of good news for you; in a week’s time or so, I’ll be posting little or nothing for a while. I’ll be embarked on a process intended for ‘enjoyment’ and repair of the soul, while I still can.

    Carpe diem, innit?
    Come on old chap!

  16. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Thanks G for your tidy and thorough précis of this history. I confess (no pun etc) that my heart leaped with joy when you said I was “right” ……………. and sank when you said “and wrong”. It was like being a teenager again.

    But I soon realised that this was better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick.

    You say Pluscarden is both Cistercian and Benedictine…..oh well! But I think of those French monks you speak of who had to substitute malt whisky for burgundy wine. A difficult choice some would say, and today I go for the Burgundy, to my cost. An excess of bottled sunshine has a matinal penance, but I like to celebrate the fruits of God’s good earth.

    I have yet to find the roots of the name ‘Pluscarden’. It’s very franglais.

  17. JabbaPapa says:

    The -den in Pluscarden probably means valley or glen. The Abbey is in fact located in a glen.

    http://www.pbenyon1.plus.com/Misc/Etymology.html gives Car (Gaelic), a turn, twist ; crooked, bending. Suggesting turning/twisted valley/glen ?

    The plus is actually the more difficult element — there’s the obvious possibility of a Latin origin ; however, it may also be derived from a British place/palace group of concepts with an a>u mutation — which I like better tbh.

    So “place/dwelling/abbey in the twisted glen” ?

  18. JabbaPapa says:

    or “place” in the Old English sense of “stead” ?

  19. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Yes, thank you Jabba – you suggest various roots which reflect the history of the place; Latin, Old French, a British language, Gaelic and Old English (or Danish here); all possibles.

    I’m not a Gaelic speaker but I understood ‘cam’ to be this ‘car’. Eg, Cameron -“twisted nose” and Campbell – “twisted mouth”. Perhaps there has been a shift over the centuries.

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