At Downside Abbey, we normally welcome a good number of resident retreatants for the Easter retreat from Maundy Thursday until Easter Sunday, and even more come to take part in the different services. We have a choir, a team of altar servers, talks, children’s activities… It is a full, intense and enjoyable weekend.

This year was completely different for all of us, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. The abbey church continued to be closed to all except the monastic community, but this did not stop us from engaging with the world at large! Instead of a residential retreat, we hosted a “virtual retreat” by using our social media platforms and soundcloud channel. Each day a part of the Divine Office was uploaded, along with music and readings for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Dom Anselm gave a talk about St John’s Passion narrative on Instagram Live and YouTube Live on Good Friday, along with shorter videos with a thought about each day, and Dom Michael led prayers for healing on Holy Saturday. We have no way of knowing how many people took part, but the comments received were very postive.

The big liturgies of the Triduum did not lose any of their significance, although the congregation consisted of the members of the resident monastic community, who did all the readings, singing and serving. We are Benedictines, after all, and the liturgy must go on! We sang a lot more plainchant than usual (much of which we had not sung for many years!), and although it was a quieter Triduum, the meaning of the different liturgies was nonetheless palpable, and we felt that it all went well.

Easter Week is always a more relaxed week, and so we are currently having informal meals (with talking, except at breakfast), and some of the community are watching the 1980s series of “Brideshead Revisited” – a blast from the past, but which many had never seen!

We wish all our friends and supporters a very happy and holy Eastertide, and thank you for Easter greetings sent in cards or via our social media. Keep following us to see what is going on here at Downside Abbey!