Lemonade Delayed

lemonsWhen life hands you lemons, tread water. Presumptive lemonade could be a mistake. When I read the Psalms, I’m intrigued by the amount of waiting the writer describes. Usually, he’s made a mess of his life, lost his way, or been defeated in battle. Out of innovative ideas, he hides away and says to God, “Okay, it’s your turn. I’m ready for help.”

Now it isn’t easy to tread water, in fact, it’s hard work. Experts tell us to remain upright in a vertical position, head high, breathing slow and regulated, making use of all four limbs at once.  We’re in a state of readiness, prepared for rescue, but not the one in charge.

Sometimes life is just about waiting. Waiting for answers, waiting for direction, waiting for God to gather the pieces and make us whole again.

The Spread of Gregorian Chant

For many of us, the story of Guido d’ Arezzo was made legend while in music school. Fr. Klarmann, in his book Gregorian Chant, tells a very interesting tale  that reminds us again that monastic life can be quite exciting, as is the history of chant!

“One of the greatest incentives to the spread of the chant was invented by a companion to St. Bernard, a monk named Guido. He maintained strong views about the chant and thereby incurred the unpopularity of his brother monks. He was sent, or possibly went of his own accord under the duress of petty jealousy, from the monastery of St. Maurus near Paris to Pomposa in Italy. The same fate of an ambitious musician met him there. He then went to a monastery near Arezzo and there, apparently, he found peace. He set himself to the task of placing the neums on horizontal lines, one known and designated as the ‘do-line’, the other as the ‘fa-line.’ He later added another line between these two and still another below, all of which formed the staff of four lines which we have today. The fifth line of our modern staff was not added until the 17th century. The Pope, John XIX, was elated at the invention for in it he saw the means of perpetuating and propagating the chant melodies without entrusting them to fickle memories. He summoned Guido to Rome to teach his discovery to others. Because of ill health, Guido had soon to leave the city. The monks who had formerly brought about his dismissal from their monastery now welcomed his return (!) But Guido decided upon Arezzo and remained there until his death. It was he who gave the notes of the scale their sol-fa names.” (pp.125-126)

The image with today’s blog is the way Guido developed to teach his system by using the joints in the hand for the various note names.


Guido D'Arezzo

Feast of Saint Bede, Priest and Monk

BEDE  —  672–735

I like St. Bede.  He went to live in a monastery at age 7 and never left the monastic life. He traveled to many places and met many Christian writers, but only through books, as his monastery had a vast library. He never set out to become a saint, or the Father of English History. He wrote The Ecclesiastical History of the English People to record the sacrifices of many who had given their lives for the Christian faith in England. I think he would be surprised at the veneration we give him today.  In all humility, I think he would say – “I didn’t do anything.  Look at the people I wrote about.  They deserve the honor.”  He is a good example to me.

The Venerable Bede

The Net Will Not Break

During a very busy weekend , the  phrase “the net did not break” jumped out at me from Sunday’s Gospel reading. .   [John 21:11] It’s a familiar story, although I had never noticed this phrase before.  Jesus appeared to Peter after the Resurrection, when he was fishing and not catching anything, and Jesus told him to try again.  This time, there were more fish than the disciples could handle, but the net did not break.

I find this very encouraging.  Fishing is hard work.  And when God is doing big things, it can also be hard work. But no matter how hard, or how exhausted we might feel for a time, this scripture assures me, it will never be too much—“the net will not break.”

Fishing with Jesus

Miraculous Draught by James Tissot

The Creation Doors

I have the pleasure of writing about the exciting and wonderfully executed art program on the main doors of the Church of the Transfiguration. The doors were designed in a different art style from the interior program. This is a deliberate choice, pointing toward the Fall of humankind from Grace and underscoring the iconographic program within the church as God’s saving answer.

On the doors are the parents of the human race, our parents Adam and Eve. They are pictured enjoying the great loveliness of God’s garden, peaceful in it’s order. Eve holds a simple rose and is breathing in its beauty and aroma. All of this peace is contained in a simple frame. They are both partially covered with vegetation from the garden. The artist designed them in such a manner that when the doors are opened (into the church), Adam is looking up at God; and Eve, our mother, is looking down lovingly at us as we enter.

But we know that all is not well in this garden paradise. Our parents are about to reject God’s fatherhood. They choose to become their own gods, to know good and evil, to make their own decisions; the loss of all peace and fellowship with God is the result. Chaos now reigns. We see the prophetic coming of chaos in the wild dune grass at the bottom of the doors and the beginning of disorder in the vegetation covering Adam and Eve. This choice cast us all on the mercy, love and saving grace of God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We must enter through the doors now, driven by our need to learn to love again.

Creation Doors Romolo Del Deo ©2000

Creation Doors at the Church of the Transfiguration

@Robert Benson Photography

Close up of Eve from the Creation Doors

Come Holy Spirit

By Sr. Fidelis

One of the most beloved prayers to the Holy Spirit was most likely penned in the early 1200’s by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury.

This chant Sequence is sung directly following the Alleluia for Pentecost, in preparation for the proclamation of the Gospel. It is known as The Golden Sequence. Listen to this glorious chant, and you’ll know why! The tune extends over a nine-note range, giving an expansive and joyous sense to this wonderful prayer.

Come Holy Spirit, send forth the heavenly radiance of your light.
Come, father of the poor, come, giver of gifts, come light of the heart.
Greatest comforter, sweet guest of the soul, sweet consolation.
In labor, rest, in heat, temperance, in tears, solace.
O most blessed light, fill the inmost heart of your faithful.
Without your grace, there is nothing in us, nothing that is not harmful.
Cleanse that which is unclean, water that which is dry, heal that which is wounded.
Bend that which is inflexible, fire that which is chilled, correct what goes astray.
Give to your faithful,  those who trust in you, the sevenfold gifts.
Grant the reward of virtue, grant the deliverance of salvation, grant eternal joy.

Pentecost: Set on fire

Pentecost 2016When the Spirit was given by the risen Christ, he overturned everything and set it on fire. Then the disciples were able to become a life-sharing community, and only then did their love overflow. They were all on fire with the same burning love, which drew them irresistibly and for always together. Love had become in them a “holy must”. Just as Jesus had always wanted to gather his nearest friends and pupils, whom we call disciples, so the Spirit drew the early Christians radically to one another. Together they felt compelled to live the life of Jesus, and together in complete community, they experienced the powers of the Future.

Only in this way could isolation and its ice-cold existence be overcome. Communal life with its white-hot love began. In its heat, property was melted away in the very foundations. The icy substructures of age-old glaciers melt before God’s sun. All ownership feeds on the stifling self-interest. When deadly selfishness is killed by love, and only then, ownership and all that separates comes to an end. This is how it was in the early church. This is how it still can be: under the influence of the Spirit, community is born, where people do not think in terms of “mine” and “thine”.

by Eberhard Arnold, alt.


By Sr. Fidelis

“I ascend to my Father, and to your Father, to my God, and your God, alleluia.” As Jesus leaves his disciples in bodily form, he reminds them (and us) that his life among us and his great sacrifice have reconciled us to the Father.

This Mode 7 antiphon is both triumphant and loving! The opening phrase “ascends” a full octave on the phrase Ascendo ad Patrem the high point being Patrem. Jesus’ joy at being reunited with his Father is expressed here! The phrase turns and brings it gently back to earth on et Patrem vestrum: the major sounds of the mode clothe the text in such a way, that it creates a sense of invitation to the listener…my Father and your Father…my God and your God.


Up in the Air: Faith

It was a long flight from St. Louis to San Francisco. For me it was not just a question of the four-plus hours of travel but also managing the fear I have of flying and the constant anticipation of turbulence.
Seated next to me was a minister from rural Kentucky, Reverend Silas Wildes, both a southern gentleman and a man of God, who was headed to an evangelical conference in the San Francisco Bay area. Quickly discovering our common bond, we passed most of the time sharing about Gods’ daily providential care for us, the unwavering faith that we need to permeate our life, and the call to deepen our relationship with Jesus beyond the laws of our particular religious affiliations. Although we revealed pieces of our heart, I kept my fear of flying to myself.
Breathing with relief at the relatively smooth flight and checking my watch for the time left until we landed, I cringed when I heard the pilot’s voice. In a somber tone he asked the flight attendants to take their seats and the passengers to fasten their seat belts. He added that the control tower had indicated a “very bumpy” descent. In reality, I knew that really meant significant turbulence. My heart began to pound and sweat rolled down my face. Reverend Wildes just gazed peacefully out the window as the roller coaster ride began.
After about ten minutes of choppiness, Reverend Wildes leaned over and whispered, “Well, I see the water and wonder if we are landing just a bit too close to it because I can see fish jumping and splashing.” Panicked, I reached under my seat to check for my life vest and then, boldy and humbly, asked the reverend if I might hold his hand.
With a gentle smile and elegant courtesy, he extended his hand and then asked me a question I have never forgotten; “Sister, you seem to be living with so much unfaltering faith on the ground. Why then do you lose it when you are up in the air?”

Owning the Story, Opening to Grace
When my life seems up in the air, I can strengthen my faith by…
The times I need the outstretched, comforting hand of another are…
I can renew my trust during turbulent times by …

“But when Peter noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out: Lord, save me! Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matt: 14:30-31

Excerpt from Doors to the Sacred: Everyday Events as Hints of the Holy by Sr. Bridget Haase; Paraclete Press

Thorny Weather

By Sr. Nun Other

Sometimes I clear my thought collection by writing poetry. I un-jumble the jumbled mess by sorting, eliminating, and re-arranging words on paper. Recently, I captured the words thistle thorns and placed them in my reject section. However, they persisted and insisted on space in my poem.

I’m of Scottish descent and somewhere in Scotland, there’s a clan chief and a run-down castle that bears my name. Enter the lowly thistle, scorned by gardeners, despised by children in bare feet, and just below dandelion on the least wanted list. It also happens to be Scotland’s oldest recorded National Flower. A 13th century legend tells of Viking invaders, who hoped to capture the Scots as they slept. Their plan failed when a barefooted soldier tromped on a thistle, cried out in pain, and woke the sleeping Scots. If I’m any example, Scots are not morning people, and the Vikings were quickly overcome by enraged clansmen.

The thistle is a symbol of tenacity. It’s both a humble weed and a complex entity composed of soft downy flower and sharp thorns. Its roots reach deep, it keeps a stubborn grip on the land, and flourishes in adversity. I’m aware that God hands me flowers with thorns now and then. The beauty of the flower is a blessing, but it’s the thorns that make me strong.