Mother Thekla, Hermit and Librettist

/>The Greek Orthodox Monastery of The Assumption was for more than forty years a British Hermitage for two or three Orthodox Nuns.
thekla 2
“Neither nun leaves the monastery unless it is strictly necessary – an appointment with the doctor, for example. Their daily life at the monastery – the official name for it is Hesychasterion (prayerhouse) of the Koimisis (Assumption) – follows a regular cycle. Prayers they refer to as “offices” begin at 6am and are repeated at regular intervals until “midnight office”. In all there are six prayer sessions each day: eight hours in all. Some of the prayers date back to the fourth century and are said in a beautiful church with icons on the walls. On Sundays and feast days an all-night vigil is added to the eight hours of prayer completed on ordinary days….In between prayers, the nuns are engaged separately in creative and practical work, coming together for simple meals in the refectory. “Spreading manure on the vegetables is one of my tasks for today,” says Mother Hilda.

The monastery differs from a traditional convent in that the nuns live in what they describe as self-contained hermitages, or hermit cells, where they work and sleep, meeting only for food and prayer.

It is not a life of abject poverty. “We have the things we need but not the things we don’t need,” says Mother Hilda. There are no curtains or easy chairs but the furnishings are simple rather than spartan, as is the delicious lunch of rice, beans and salad which Mother Hilda prepares for us.

There is a microwave, a washing machine and a computer, but no fripperies. They grow much of their own food and freeze their produce to see them through the winter. Shopping for essential supplies is done a handful of times a year by Mother Hilda. Mother Thekla bakes bread and eggs are supplied by the local farm. They do not eat meat and dairy products are forbidden during Lent.”

The Monastery was founded by Mother Maria and Mother Thekla (1918-2011), a remarkable Russian woman: , , ,
Mother Thekla was a woman of many talents, described in one obituary as “Librettist, counsellor, ‘spiritual mother’ and even commercial adviser, Mother Thekla exerted a remarkable influence over composer Sir John Tavener.” She supplied the words for Tavener’s “Song for Athene” (1993), which featured in the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales:

May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
Remember me, O Lord, when you come into your kingdom.
Give rest, O Lord, to your handmaid, who has fallen asleep.
The Choir of Saints have found the well-spring of life and door of Paradise.
Life: a shadow and a dream.
Weeping at the grave creates the song: Alleluia. Come, enjoy rewards and crowns I have prepared for you.
diana funeral
As His Eminence Archbishop Gregory of Thyatira and Great Britain said at her funeral:

“Thekla the Nun and Abbess, who lies here with beauty, yet without speech and movement, awaits the judgement of her Creator, to Whom she devoted herself and Whom, in her own way, she tried to make known to contemporary man.

May the memory of Thekla the nun, erstwhile abbess of the Greek Orthodox Monastery of the Assumption, be eternal and may she be at peace with herself and Almighty God. May she be reunited with her sisters in the monastic profession, and may the earth to which we commit her lie gently upon her as her soul hurries on its way to meet her Creator. Amen.”


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