This passage really stopped me in my tracks the other night; but I'm having a hard time articulating what I want to say about it:
In the church the postulant knelt with the Abbess on the step facing the sanctuary, as the Abbess presented the newcomer to her Lord, and on each girl, as on Phillipa, a stillness always fell as if from a quieting hand; stillness, the scent of flowers, and, above all, the lamp burning, showing by its live small flame that the Presence was there, unseen but on the altar; it was the first time any of them had seen it through the grille, yet it looked nearer.
I suppose it speaks to me of what I have given up by choosing marriage and family instead of religious life, the nearness of that presence.
It also reminds me a little of how Waugh uses the Presence lamp in that final scene of Brideshead Revisited. Interesting how that light is a sort of Catholic shorthand, by including it an author can say so much without words.
Also this is as good a time as any to comment on how much I like the way Godden weaves the tales of the other nuns in the novitiate through Phillipa's story. Here you can see that she's telling us about Phillipa's experience and yet also Phillipa becomes a sort of every nun. It also reminds me a bit of the way China Court is structured as well, sometimes it's hard to tell where in time we are. Is Phillipa a novice or a junior nun?
1 day ago