Advent is a time of waiting, and of preparation. Of contemplation—of what is past, and what is to come. During Advent, we make wreaths, made of leaves or evergreens, with four candles, and we light one candle for each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. May your candle burn quiet in the dark, and may you be at peace.
[From OUTLANDER, Chapter 38, “The Abbey”.]
The monastery was quiet, in the way that all large institutions grow quiet at night; the rapid pulse of the day’s activities has dropped, but the heartbeat goes on, slower, softer, but unending. There is always someone awake, moving quietly through the halls, keeping watch, keeping things alive. And now it was my turn to join the watch.
The chapel was dark except for the burning of the red sanctuary lamp and a few of the clear white votive candles, flames rising straight in still air before the shadowed shrines of saints.
I followed Anselm down the short center aisle, genuflecting in his wake. The slight figure of Brother Bartolome knelt toward the front, head bowed. He didn’t turn at the faint noise of our entrance, but stayed motionless, bent in adoration.
The Sacrament itself was almost obscured by the magnificence of its container. The huge monstrance, a sunburst of gold more than a foot across, sat serenely on the altar. Guarding the humble bit of bread at its center.
Feeling somewhat awkward, I took the seat Anselm indicated, near the front of the chapel. The seats, ornately carved with angels, flowers, and demons, folded up against the wooden panels of the backing to allow easy passage in and out. I heard the faint creak of a lowered seat behind me, as Anselm found his place.
“But what shall I do?” I had asked him, voice lowered in respect of night and silence as we had approached the chapel.
“Nothing, _ma chère_,” he had replied, simply. “Only be.”
So I sat, listening to my own breathing, and the tiny sounds of a silent place; the inaudible things normally hidden in other sounds. The settling of stone, the creak of wood. The hissing of the tiny, unquenchable flames. A faint skitter of some small creature, wandered from its place into the home of majesty.
It was a peaceful place, I would grant Anselm that. In spite of my own fatigue and my worry over Jamie, I gradually felt myself relaxing, the tightness of my mind gently unwinding, like the relaxation of a clock spring. Strangely, I didn’t feel at all sleepy, despite the lateness of the hour and the strains of the last few days and weeks.
After all, I thought, what were days and weeks in the presence of eternity? And that’s what this was, to Anselm and Bartolome, to Ambrose, to all the monks, up to and including the formidable Abbot Alexander.
It was in a way a comforting idea; if there was all the time in the world, then the happenings of a given moment became less important. I could see, perhaps, how one could draw back a little, seek some respite in the contemplation of an endless Being, whatever one conceived its nature to be.
The red of the sanctuary lamp burned steadily, reflected in the smooth gold. The flames of the white candles before the statues of St. Giles and the Blessed Mother flickered and jumped occasionally, as the burning wicks yielded an occasional imperfection, a momentary sputter of wax or moisture. But the red lamp burned serene, with no unseemly waver to betray its light.
And if there was eternity, or even the idea of it, then perhaps Anselm was right; all things were possible. And all love? I wondered. I had loved Frank; I still did. And I loved Jamie, more than my own life. But bound in the limits of time and flesh, I could not keep them both. Beyond, perhaps? Was there a place where time no longer existed, or where it stopped? Anselm thought so. A place where all things were possible. And none were necessary.
And was there love there? Beyond the limits of flesh and time, was all love possible? Was it necessary?
The voice of my thoughts seemed to be Uncle Lamb’s. My family, and all I knew of love as a child. A man who had never spoken love to me, who had never needed to, for I knew he loved me, as surely as I knew I lived. For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary. It is all. It is undying. And it is enough.
Time passed without my awareness of it, and I was startled by the sudden appearance of Anselm before me, coming through the small door near the altar. Surely he had been sitting behind me? I glanced behind, to see one of the young monks whose name I didn’t know genuflecting near the rear entrance. Anselm bowed low before the altar, then motioned to me with a nod toward the door.
“You left,” I said, once outside the chapel. “But I thought you weren’t supposed to leave the, er, the Sacrament, alone?”
He smiled tranquilly. “I didn’t _ma chère¬_. You were there.”
I repressed the urge to argue that I didn’t count. After all, I supposed, there was no such thing as a Qualified Official Adorer. You only had to be human, and I imagined I was still that, though I barely felt it at times.
Jamie’s candle still burned as I passed his door, and I caught the rustle of turning pages. I would have stopped, but Anselm, went on, to leave me at the door of my own chamber. I paused there to bid him good night, and to thank for taking me to the chapel.
“It was…restful,” I said, struggling to find the right word.
He nodded, watching me. “Oui, madame. It is.” As I turned to go, he said, “I told you that the Blessed Sacrament was not alone, for you were there. But what of you _ma chère_? Were you alone?”
I stopped, and looked at him for a moment before answering.
“No,” I said. “I wasn’t.”
Happy New year and Best wishes. Has the person who updates this website gone to sleep?…LOL. What happened to the remainder of the Sundays in Advent?
That would be me. [g] And no, not gone to sleep (I _wish_…), merely overwhelmed by the holidays. Will put up the rest of Advent–_and_ a small Christmas treat–later. Today, if I can.
Happy Birthday! somehow I missed it. You and my Grandmother share the same date, of course she is quite a bit older. She was born in 1915. Best wishes to you for MANY happy returns.
Happy Birthday! I hope you’ll have a great year till the next birthday comes.
thank you so much for sharing outlander wit the world I love your writing and am in anticipation of book 9
I read “Cross Stitch” on a plane from Glascow to San Diego in 1992 and this bit moved me to tears. Still
does. Of all the passages in all your books, this is still my favorite. Thanks for posting it on your blog.
It’s very unusual for you not to write for that long.
I hope you’re okay and on a long and well deserved vacation.
All the best,
Advent. The period of reflection for us Christians. I especially enjoyed chapter 38 with the expression of “Only be”. How trueful and mindful to live in the moment. It is only then that we really begin to understand ourselves. This chapter is worth reading over and over. Congratulations and thanks for the insight.
I have recently started reading the Lord John series, in order, and the level of details is so striking! As an avid reader and scholar, I love uncovering all the snip-its that relate or tie in with the Outlander series. It is FUN! Even though I have read the big books twice all the way through, I am still learning new details.
On a side note, at first I didn’t want to like the character Lord John, when I read Voyager, but he really grew on me over time, especially in Echo and MOBY. He is a dynamic character, and I am thankful for the books about him too. I really hope I get/make the opportunity to write a dissertation about your fantastic writing.
I love your books and the TV adaptation. I have loved every part of the TV series – whether it’s been deletions, additions or just changes. The only thought I have is to wonder why the ‘honesty’ conversation was left out of the wedding episode. I was just wondering if Ron has included it in one of the upcoming shows. It just seems like such a critical conversation to Jamie & Claire’s relationship throughout the rest of the series.
Thanks for any insight you might share!
Probably not the right spot to post this, but after finishing the TV episodes again and re-reading the first book, I was distressed by two other ‘dropped’ bits Diana wrote that were so GREAT and I wondered why.
When Claire leaves Jaime at Wentworth, he doesn’t whisper “He’ll let you go because he thinks you’re helpless, I know you’re not.” Even if it were all in Gaelic per the book, it conveys SO much – pertinent to the scene AND overarching the whole story line.
Also when she spies him at the window looking at his wrecked hand, and is afraid she didn’t do enough to make it whole – and instead he expresses his wonder that she saved the hand at all.
Both of these, imo, well illustrate why the books are so attractive to women – especially those of us who would like be the capable partner (“not a lass”) to a man like Jaime.
That said, cannot wait for the Volume II DVD’s to come out, and for the Dragonfly in Amber episodes!!!
I have read all your Outlander books twice I love them. I was so excited to hear that there is to be the series on television. I live in the U.K.of course do you know when it will be here. Great story and I will most likely read them all again. Is there a DVD out for region 2 ? Yours sincerely. Belinda Stubbs.
I must thank you, I picked up Outlander on tv when it first came out last August, I didn’t get all the episodes but it peaked my interest. I have never been able to read a book due to a learning disablity that I had all my life. I would read first chapter and the last 10 pages and that was all I could handle. I come from a Scotsish back ground, McIntosh, My grand father was 6′ 4 and a bit . Watching the show reminds me of grandparents and all their scotish friends. When it came to such an abrupt halt, I decided to read the first book, I did and I am now starting the fiery cross, I read all of them up to this point. It takes me a while, read and reread, but the main characters being introduced as people, Sam as Jamie etc,I seem to click in my head. Also, Jamie reminds me of Grandpa,. and to , I am 62 ,so I went and got all the books. If they canget meto read after all this time, good on you and your great imagination. THANKYOU
I’m _thrilled_ that you’re able to read and enjoy the books! (I’d suggest that you might also enjoy them as audiobooks; the narrative actress who reads them, Davina Porter, is wonderful, and that might help with any difficulties you have with text.)
All the best,
Hello Diana. First let me say brava! It would take me writing a book to tell you truly how excellent I find your writing to be! I saw the first 8 episodes before starting your books – on audio books that is – because it is hard to find time to dedicate unless I am doing two things at once – but I miss dog-earring pages and highlighting words! Well, I’ve decided that I simply need both the audio books AND the physical books. And more than one copy (set) because I like to loan them out (never expecting them to return but to continue to travel to another reader and another, good books do!)
When I read this part of your book it echoed thtough me and I have heard your words many times in my mind. I’m not Catholic. I do understand Claire’s point of view. I was raised Christian. Just Christian. Simple. And I dearly want it to be true. But more and more I believe that it is probably all ‘fiction’. When I read your beautiful words here, I found them to have a good deal of truth in them. And I do believe that a human heart feels what is real and true… maybe in that way good fiction isn’t really ‘fictious’. Thank you, Diana, for your mind, your talent and your heart.
Hi Diana, love the story. By the way just watched a little interview of you describing how you write your books. I like that, it gives me hope! Lol I too like to write.
Anyways, I find you engaging and delightful.
I have not posted here in a very long time. I have been reading the posts on CompuServe on your page regarding the episodes of the TV ADAPTATION. I find that I am going to have to discontinue that habit. It infuriates me to the point of wanting to yell at the screen. I have read all of your books many times; love them all and I love the TV show. I want to say that everyone (of course) is entitled to their opinion and I understand that. But when an opinion is given and someone replies to it disagreeing with it, then you get a LONG retort about why they feel that way when all they are really trying to do is convince you that they are right and you are wrong. When it gets to the point that the posters are ridiculing and insulting your work where they say: well, it should have been done this way, should have been done that way and that was not really necessary, it gets to be a bit much! They also post that this is wrong, that is wrong, etc. etc. etc. and then the last line of the post will state that they cannot wait for the next episode. If I thought the way a lot of these people do, I would simply stop watching. There are only about 10 – 12 posters who continually post over and over and over saying the same things and then they reply to everyone individually saying again the same things over and over.
I did stop watching the episodes during the first half of season 1 with the book in hand. The tv show simply adds to the enjoyment of the books, in my opinion. I understand the time constraints of the show. If everything that you wrote wound up in each episode, the season would have to be at least 45 hours long instead of 16.
I know you have stated that you have a thick skin but I don’t see how some of this does not get to you in a negative way. Please know that most of your fans love your work, love the show and while maybe not agreeing with everything that is done, can watch it with an open mind and not nitpick every single line of dialogue and enjoy it for what it is – a beautiful adaptation of your story that leaves the essence of the story intact. I hope the series continues for many, many years. This is one fan that will be there watching every time it is on.
Hi, Diana! I love the Outlander series and the Starz show! I have read Outlander several times with the idea of finding a clue as to why ghost Jamie was outside Claire’s window and was wondering if when Mrs. Baird is reading Claire’s palm and Claire wanted to ask her about the deep lines at the base of her wrist was a clue? A-line “the wedding /200 years..?
Sorry, I meant a-la the wedding and 200 years.
Since there WILL be a season 2 covering Dragonfly in Amber, will there be a release of a book with a new cover for the TV show? I surely hope so. Thanks.
Read a couple of the books years ago and did not follow through on the rest of the series due to working full time, raising a family, and pursuing a master’s degree. This Spring, for some reason, I picked up book one again and got hooked. I read all the books and the Lord John books in a matter of one month. The scene between Anselm and Clair was meaningful in that it shows her getting in touch with her sense of spirituality for possibly the first time.
My daughter’s favorite play is “Les Mis” and she has seen it several times. A few years ago she took me to see it with her. At the end of the play I commented on being surprised that she would be so taken with a play so steeped in spirituality. Her response, “I always said I had difficulty with organized religion, I never said I wasn’t spiritual”
It was a relief to hear that. She was raised Catholic but had moved on to a more global sense of what spirituality and transcendence is. I do believe people can express these qualities in a wide variety of ways. Diana does a marvelous job expressing them in her writing.
Love the books. It was only after reading them that I became aware of the tv series so I spent a few days at the end of April and the beginning of May to see them.
Thank you for the section above on Advent. i just wanted to say that the writing in the first Outlander book on Claires time in the monastery meant a lot to me spiritually. I am Anglican not Catholic , but I read it on a particular weekend where the whole section was incredibly meaningful especially regarding sacraments. Also thank you for keeping that section in the recent TV adaptation. Please, Please try to keep the spiritual aspect of the books in the adaptation as much as possible. It seems that all the TV producers want priests/believers to be the’ bad guys’ and the fashion is to minimize faith-thank you for not doing that. I am a counselor/psychotherapist and I believe people need hope in their lives. I am also a Phd trained Sociologist of Religion and and feel that historically it is fascinating too see different types of faith and the meaning of the Book of Job for example!
Anyway- thank you for your writing and your persistence in keeping a spiritual element to Outlander Episode 16!