In February I spent one week at St Matthias, Trier. February was not as cold as last December, when George, Simon, Marc and I were together there, but it was still a challenge walking through the open cloister to Church. The monks had their cowls. I had only a scarf to keep my ears warm. But it was lovely to be there. All eleven brothers were there, from Valerius and Clemens in their very fit 80s to Daniel and Simeon at the other end. Their novice Samuel also was visiting from the Huysburg where he normally lives. It was nice to see Ansgar who was their Abbot for 24 years and is now Abbot President of their Benedictine congregation. I knew Ansgar and the older brothers (old as me!) from my first visit there in 1973.
I was there chiefly for a rest and to try and work up my German. The worship is well done in German and Latin. Morning prayers start at 5.45 am, an hour earlier that Mirfield. Some brothers work in town; all seem very busy during the day, yet the place is quiet and peaceful. It is a good place for retreat if you can look after yourself. In summer, the surroundings are beautiful with the Mosel just 100 yards away. In winter, I stayed inside!
I realised my visits to Trier no longer feel ‘ecumenical’, in that we don’t feel as if we belong to different churches. We are simply brothers who share a long history, who know each others’ secrets, who have laughed together, grieved together and prayed together. To have this kind of unity in our divided Church is an amazing gift from God. Our question now is, how can we share this with others? Gifts are to be shared. This is a gift the Church needs. Later this year some Anglican Bishops will meet some German Bishops at Trier. Then we must find other ways to bring our two churches into this unique relationship. I found myself saying often, as Peter said on the Mount of Transfiguration, “It is good, Lord, to be here.”