Hilary Pearson writes:
As we enter a period of uncertain length in which most of us are self-isolating or at least spending a lot of time at home, we in Iffley can think of our predecessor, the anchoress Annora. She spent several years confined to a room attached to our church. What lessons does her life have for us?
Our best information as to how Annora probably lived once she had entered her Iffley anchorhold comes from the 13th century work called Ancrene Wisse. We have good reasons for thinking that she had a copy of this book.
Besides observing the services in the church through her window and taking communion, she would have had a daily routine of prayer. The first chapter of Ancrene Wisse contains detailed instructions for the daily devotions of the anchoresses it is addressed to, and Annora probably had a similar routine. It is just as essential that we have and keep to a daily routine of prayer. There is a an app which gives you what you need for a pattern of daily prayer, now free, which you can download here: https://www.chpublishing.co.uk/apps/time-to-pray. This is Anglican – if you are looking for a change, then you could try Celtic Daily Prayer from the Northumbria Community, available on Amazon as a print or Kindle book. Also recommended is Sacred Space: https://www.sacredspace.ie.
Ancrene Wisse gives a lot of guidance for dealing with the temptations that the anchoress is likely to experience. Some of these we are also likely to experience, particularly once the novelty of our situation has worn off and no end is in sight, such as anger, sloth and envy. The anchoress is told that she must always be on her guard, and that the only way to defeat these temptations is to have concern for others, and to constantly pray and meditate on Christ’s life and sufferings. So, we should use this time to care for others in any way possible, and to keep in touch through phone calls, emails or social media. And perhaps we should use some of this free time to learn more about our faith through reading and meditating on the Scriptures, and through books or materials on the Internet.
We can take encouragement from another anchoress, Julian of Norwich, who wrote: ‘On one occasion the good Lord said, “Everything is going to be all right”. On another “You will see for yourself that every sort of thing will be all right”….For the great deed our Lord is going to do is that by which he shall keep his word in every particular, and make all that is wrong turn out well.’