On 24 October, the monks of Downside and I (Benjamin Pohl, PI) spent the morning talking about the importance of history with regard to religious life and communal identity both past and present.
The first part of our conversation centred around the place of history (and historical writing) within the daily monastic routine, and several of the monks kindly shared their thoughts and experiences on the subject. Of particular interest was the relationship between history and liturgy as two closely connected – and indeed in many ways inseparable – phenomena.
Leading on from this subject, the second part of our conversation concerned the role of historical and/or Biblical figures – e.g., the Church Fathers, patron saints, martyrs, abbots, etc. – as important agents of the community’s historical consciousness and collective memory. A key element here was the relationship between different perceptions (or ‘modes’) of time, some linear, others cyclical, which together provide orientation and guidance for the monks’ life and their shared sense of historical belonging.
The closing part of the conversation considered the relationship between Scripture and historical writing – namely the notion of the Bible as history.
This stimulating meeting provided the first of many conversations that will take place over the course of the next months.