I had the great privilege of meeting Mother Thekla on two occasions last year. One was late July, when I vividly remember joining in singing something in Russian which basically meant “ad multos annos”, for her birthday, and the second was on the Feast of the Assumption, the patronal of her monastery at Normanby. On the second occasion I travelled back from York to Whitby with Mother and Father Stephen, and was able to visit with her for a short while and take a look around the convent of the Anglican Order of the Holy Paraclete. That was a remarkable afternoon. Mother’s name was known to me, obviously, in relationship to Tavener’s music. But there was much more to her than that. Indeed, there would have to have been, otherwise their association would never have become so significant a creative force. Mother Thekla was, I’m certain, a spiritual giant. One great thing that struck me about her in my brief time with her was the realism. Mother seemed always to face God, but in a way which united the “ordinary”, the experienced and lived spirituality of Orthodoxy, with theology. This was also exhibited in her well-known fierceness (somewhat a self caricature, perhaps: “When shall we three meet again…”) and her lack of tolerance for fools, and for people chasing after her. For me, a passage at the end of her little book Eternity Now, resonates very deeply. It begins “in God’s presence there is no past and no future…”; there is much more, but it is a good reminder that, as Fr. Stephen, who spent much time with Mother over many years and during the last week of her life, “we work in eternity not in time” and with God, it is always “now”.
When I visited York recently, I was very blessed to be able to hear about Mother from people who knew her very well indeed, and to assist at the Liturgy where her relics rest. There have been a number of obituaries. The one in the Telegraph did not win universal acclaim; but this one is brief and, as my friend Ann points out, contains more of Mother Thekla’s words than those of the author. The others have been gathered together here.
The photograph belongs to Fr. Stephen, was taken by Aaron and uploaded to the internet by Ann.