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Gathering of Brother Hilarius   By: (1869-1901)

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Hilarius stood at the Monastery gate, looking away down the smooth, well kept road to the highway beyond. It lay quiet and serene in the June sunshine, the white way to the outer world, and not even a dust cloud on the horizon promised the approach of the train of sumpter mules laden with meats for the bellies and cloth for the backs of the good Brethren within. The Cellarer lacked wine, the drug stores in the farmery were running low; last, but not least, the Precentor had bespoken precious colours, rich gold, costly vellum, and on these the thoughts of Hilarius tarried with anxious expectation.

On his left lay the forest, home of his longing imaginings. The Monastery wall crept up one side of it, and over the top the great trees peered and beckoned with their tossing, feathery branches. Twice had Hilarius walked there, attending the Prior as he paced slowly and silently along the mossy ways, under the strong, springing pines; and the occasions were stored in his memory with the glories of St Benedict's Day and Our Lady's Festivals. Away to the right, within the great enclosure, stretched the Monastery lands, fair to the eye, with orchard and fruitful field, teeming with glad, unhurried labour.

At a little elevation, overlooking the whole domain, rose the Priory buildings, topped by the Church, crown and heart of the place, signing the sign of the Cross over the daily life and work of the Brethren, itself the centre of that life, the object of that work, ever unfinished because love knows not how to make an end. To the monks it was a page in the history of the life of the Order, written in stone, blazoned with beauty of the world's treasure; a page on which each generation might spell out a word, perchance add a line, to the greater glory of God and St Benedict. They were always at work on it, stretching out eager hands for the rare stuffs and precious stones devout men brought from overseas, finding a place for the best of every ordered craft; their shame an uncouth line or graceless arch, their glory each completed pinnacle and fretted spire; ever restoring, enlarging, repairing, spendthrift of money and time in the service of the House of the Lord.

The sun shone hot on grey wall and green garth; the spirit of insistent peace brooded over the place. The wheeling white pigeons circling the cloister walls cried peace; the sculptured saints in their niches over the west door gave the blessing of peace; an old, blind monk crossed the garth with the hesitating gait of habit lately acquired on his face was great peace. It rested everywhere, this peace of prayerful service, where the clang of the blacksmith's hammer smote the sound of the Office bell.

Hilarius, at the gate, questioned the road again and again for sign of the belated train. It was vexatious; the Prior's lips would take a thinner line, for the mules were already some days overdue; and it was ill to keep the Prior waiting. The soft June wind swept the fragrance of Mary's lilies across to the lad; he turned his dreamy, blue eyes from the highway to the forest. The scent of the pinewoods rushed to meet his sudden thought. Should he, dare he, break cloister, and taste the wondrous delight of an unwalled world? It were a sin, a grave sin, in a newly made novice, cloister bred. The sweet, pungent smell overpowered him; the trees beckoned with their long arms and slender fingers; the voice of the forest called, and Hilarius, answering, walked swiftly away, with bowed head and beating heart, between the sunburnt pine boles.

At last he ventured to stop and look around him, his fair hair aflame in the sunlight, his eyes full of awe of this arched and pillared city of mystery and wonder.

It was very silent. Here and there a coney peeped out and fled, and a woodpecker toiled with sharp, effective stroke. Hilarius' eyes shone as he lifted his head and caught sight of the sunlit blue between the great, green fringed branches: it was as if Our Lady trailed her gracious robe across the tree tops... Continue reading book >>

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