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Report 1988: Yes, Zig Has Written About our Bavaria Trip!
By Zig and Georgia from Kentucky, Spring 2010
Page 5 of 30: Tuesday May 18 - Maria Laach
I wanted to go to morning prayers with the monks at 5:30. I was sure I’d hear the abbey bells. I didn’t. Luckily I’d set my wristwatch alarm as well. Between the two I clawed my way up toward consciousness and struggled out of the marshmallow I was sleeping in.
Kneeling in the dark church listening to the Gregorian chant I found myself studying the carvings and stonework, and the candle-stands and the chandeliers, and the stained glass, and the choir stalls and everything. So much effort put into even the insignificant things. How it all adds up to so much beauty. “Do small things with big love,” Mother Teresa said. She was so right. It is terribly profound: there are no insignificant things to God.
Mass began at 7:30 and breakfast was at 8:30. I had cereal with fresh yogurt, bread, butter, jam, and coffee, wonderful glorious coffee! Went back to the church to get pictures of the windows as the sun rose. Ended up taking pictures of the statues and carvings, and the tombstones, and even the stone planters in the gardens. Amazing attention to detail.
Maria Laach is an ancient volcanic crater and almost perfectly round. We walked the three or four-mile path all the way around taking pictures of the trees and the wildflowers and the cows, and the monastery from across the water. Nearly got run down by the young nun who’d borrowed a bicycle from the abbey and was trying to set a new land speed record around the lake. It’s not often you hear the Doppler effect from a bicycling nun: “Helllll-oooooooow.” She sounded like a bullet train blowing through a little Italian train station.
When we rounded the last “round” I felt in my pockets for my gloves and only managed to come up with one. I’d dropped the other somewhere along the way and turned back in a fruitless attempt to find it. Georgia continued back to get out of the cold but I walked halfway back around the lake looking for the glove. No luck. It had obviously been found by a one-handed hiker. Turned back toward the abbey again pretty pleased with myself for managing to make it around the lake twice. Missed supper, but Fr Timothy had set aside a plate of beef and spaetzle for me. Oh my goodness. I have a new favorite food: beef and spaetzle.
The welcome center showed a film outlining the history of the Abbey at Maria Laach. It mentioned that St Benedicta of the Cross, (Edith Stein) had visited the Abbey in the 1930s and later died in the concentration camps. She’d been born Jewish, studied with the philosopher Heidegger, became quite a well-respected philosopher, converted to Catholicism, and then became a Carmelite nun. The film, as I said, mentioned her visit to the Laach, but was extremely sketchy about the role the Abbey played during the years 1939-1945. I don’t think it was one of the more glorious chapters in their history.
There are two chapels on the grounds. One is located in the monk’s graveyard and one is next to the patron’s graveyard. The former has the older stained glass windows - probably from the 1920s - in almost a Soviet Realism style with monumental figures and stable, balanced designs.
The newer chapel has very modern windows in a “slap-dash” style. These are very interesting windows, if only because you don’t see things like this very often. To say that they were “sketchy” would be to give them more finish than they possess. But they are also strangely attractive with bold colors and suggestive figures. I’m proud of the abbey for installing such challenging windows.
Vespers and compline again then crashed.
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