In All Circumstances

by Sr. Nun Other

I was thinking about praising the Lord. Obviously, it’s not something I do on a regular basis, or I wouldn’t be considering it! I find it curious that it’s so much easier for me to complain and express negativity than to praise. Psalm 118 instructs us to “give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” Its writer found himself in an unthinkable situation: enemies swarmed around like bees; he was pushed to the brink and beyond. Not to worry. He cried to the Lord and was rescued from his enemies. Perhaps a more accurate phrase would be freed from his enemies, especially the inner ones of fear, doubt, and mistrust.  I want to make the distinction that we praise because He loves. It isn’t always love as I wish it to be, but it’s a thorough love that addresses my deepest needs.

The Community of Jesus

 

Gems From A Little Red Book

By Melodious Monk

Tonight I was inspired to pick up my small copy of the Rule of St. Benedict. While looking for a 3-ring binder, this little red glossy cover buried in a stack of books caught my attention, so I placed it in my coat pocket for later reading. Just before bed, I remembered the little book.

Today was a difficult day for me. It was the type of day when nothing seemed to work out – at least on the surface. I found myself in several arguments, which eventually got settled, but left me somewhat disquieted.

So at the end of the day, opening the little red book, I was more than drawn into its words, surprised to discover that St. Benedict’s pen was addressing me directly.

Listen carefully, my son… this is advice from a father who loves you… First of all, every time you begin a good work… You must pray for him most earnestly to bring it to perfection… for the Scripture arouses us when they say: It is high time for us to arise from sleep. (Rom 13:11)… If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts (Ps 94:8) Come and listen to me and I will teach you the fear of the Lord (Ps 33:12) Keep your tongue free from vicious talk… Let peace be your peace and aim… Once you have done this, my eyes will be upon you and my ears will listen to your prayers.” (Isa 58.9)

(Excerpts from Prologue to Rule of St. Benedict. 1980. Edited Timothy Fry)

What a treasure of wisdom. If you haven’t read St. Benedict’s Rule, I recommend it.  It’s full of so many rich gems. There’s good reason why fifteen hundred years later so many people still follow his teachings.

The Community of Jesus

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

We have found the Messiah!

Can you imagine a relative or friend coming up to you and saying “We have found the Messiah!”

The Communion chant for last week is exactly that — Andrew telling his brother Simon that he had found the Messiah.   Perhaps like some of us, Andrew did not know what Simon’s reaction would be. Certainly, the chant gives that impression!

The chant itself is in three sections. The outer two sections are simply narrative, beautifully setting the scene. Their melodies are simple decorations of the reciting tone. However, the second sections — the actual words of Andrew — are quite emotionally and musically charged.  At the words “Invenimus Messiam” (We have found the Messiah), the chant jumps to the top of the mode and just as quickly leaps to the bottom of the mode. You can almost hear Andrew making certain that Simon would not ignore his words!  The text following — “who is called the Christ” sweeps right back up again to a modal high point on the word “called” and then gently descends into the final section of the chant.

I am always amazed that chant has the ability to make these famous words of scripture come to life in a small cocoon of musical drama.  Andrew’s words will be ringing in my ears for weeks to come!

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

Image Credit: Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song | The Community of Jesus
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Feeling Sheepish?

By Sr. Nun Other

While doing dishes in Bethany Guest House, I noticed a parade of fabricated sheep on their way to storage. Realistically-made and life-sized, they stood sentinel during Christmas and Epiphany, silently guiding the way to the manger. Sheep are not perfect and sometimes described in 3D: Dumb, Directionless, and Defenseless. Yet God gave them a prominent place at the birth of His Son. An often used biblical metaphor is that of shepherd and sheep. Perhaps my favorite is John 10:14 – I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and my sheep know me. We are chosen to be humble and to follow Him who knows our greatest need.

The Community of Jesu

Wrestling with stupid questions

By Melodious Monk

This week’s Gospel reading was the story of Jesus calling Peter and Andrew to be his disciples.  Jesus says to come and they drop everything and immediately follow him. In Sunday’s Eucharist bulletin we were given a short meditation by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“The Story of the call of the first disciples is a stumbling-block for the natural reason, and it is no wonder that frantic attempts have been made to separate the two events. By hook or by crook a bridge must be found between them. Something must have happened in between, some  psychological or historical event. Thus we get the stupid question: Surely they must have known Jesus before, and that previous acquaintance explains their readiness to hear the Master’s call.”

I still laugh each time I read the humorous line “what a stupid question!” There’s much in the ways of God that we cannot understand, and I think it a bit humorous at times to laugh at some of our attempts to rationalize God’s doings.  Bonhoeffer goes on to explain why he believes that the disciples so quickly dropped everything at Jesus’ beckoning:  “…for the simple reason that the cause behind the immediate following of call by response is Jesus Christ himself. It is Jesus who calls, and because it is Jesus, they follow at once.” 

As Bonhoeffer alludes, our tiny reasoning brains are finite. God is the architect of all things, with a capacity to orchestrate much more than I can even imagine. Perhaps my daily questions don’t need to ask how God’s plans will work out or how I might recognize Him; rather maybe my job today is to stop asking so many questions.  Questions that only get in the way of what our hearts are intuitively designed to do.

I had a trumpet teacher who’s favorite mantra was KISS, short for Keep- It-Simple-Stupid!  It was his way of getting rid of unnecessary questions and tensions that get in the way of one basic truth of trumpet playing – simply that you must start with a good resonant sound, always. I often think of this “kiss” method in regard to the spiritual life.  In many ways, Christianity can be very simple. Jesus is Lord, God of the universe, and I am not. He created me, loves me and has the best purposes for me, even if, and especially if I feel lousy today!  This isn’t to say life here on earth can’t be very complicated, for there certainly are many gray areas, and lots of questions arise for all of us.  But scripture tells us that on earth we barely see a glimpse of our future glory.  It tells us that all things, yes all things can be used for the glory of God. We forget who created us, and that He promises to make us whole.  Simply put, we need to have faith in Jesus and follow him. If we choose to let our hearts trust, then like the disciples, we will recognize Jesus exactly in his timing, and follow him immediately. Now of course we don’t always want to follow Jesus and we rebel and so forth–but that does not change God– and certainly does not change God’s promises to us.  I think both Bonhoeffer and my trumpet teacher would agree on at least one life philosophy, Keep It Simple!

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

A look forward: “Vox in Rama”

Vox in Rama (A voice in Rama is heard), is the Communion chant from the Feast of the Holy Innocents which was celebrated only a few weeks ago. This short but extraordinarily beautiful chant is the outcry of Rachel at the death of her children, and her unwillingness to be consoled.  Both the range of this chant and its relentless use of a rising and falling half-step musical motive draw us in to the depth of Rachel’s mourning. Each intermediary cadence leaves us with a sense of incompleteness and each new phrase returns to the opening sense of wailing. The ending itself concludes with the outline of a heartsick major triad on the words “because they are not.”

This is probably not a chant many people heard during the recent feast unless attending a full chanted mass that particular day. It now provides a look into what lies ahead on Good Friday. We hear in this chant some of the same sounds we experience in the final Lamentation of Jeremiah heard at the conclusion of the Pascal Triduum.  Indeed, that concluding major triad from Vox in Rama foreshadows similar sounds heard at the conclusion of the Holy Saturday Vigil — before the Great Silence of Holy Saturday which leads us to Easter.  We actually hear, through the chant, the ultimate redemption of the slaughter of those innocent children through Christ’s own sacrifice.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image Credit: Gregorian chant
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At Cross Purposes

By Sr. Nun Other

The idiom “at cross-purposes” is defined as two opposing viewpoints with goals that interfere with each other. On many days, that would be God and me. I expect that life should be as I want it: free of anxiety-producing situations. (Hello, unreality!) God desires me to be whole and complete by facing and walking through my fears, not alone, but with Him. Jesus said, If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23  In retrospect, the crosses I’m given are wonderfully light and perfectly designed.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

Vows

By Melodious Monk

Last week was a particularly special and significant week for our monastic community, because it is the week in which novices, and simple professed members can make their professions.

The Rule of Life of the Community of Jesus states, “Though in its essence Christian discipleship is a vocation common to all believers, the vows made in a monastic life give that discipleship a distinct form.”  The next page continues on to say,  “Following centuries of monastic tradition, membership in the Community of Jesus is built upon three primary vows: obedience, conversion, and stability.”

Hearing these professions serves as a reminder to me of the life-choices I have committed to in this particular place. I think it can also serve to remind all Christians of their daily choices to follow Christ. Each morning I’m given anew the choice to step into the endless stream of the unceasing love, mercy, and creativity of God. The choice is mine to reject — or to wade forward on faith: the opportunity is always newly presented. Many days I have to remind myself to re-choose this discipleship, to choose to believe in God’s promised goodness as a backdrop for my life today.

The Community of Jesus

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Come, Holy Spirit

Veni Creator Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit) is one of the best known and most beloved of all chants. It is sung at the opening of the election process of a new pope, monastic chapter meetings, as well as Pentecost Sunday. Mary Berry always opened her teaching sessions with this chant. An invocation for inviting the Holy Spirit to be present, it is truly a chant for all occasions.This chant is also found in today’s hymnals, set in modern notation, and is frequently put into choral anthem settings.

As we begin a new year, it seemed a good time to point out that of all the Gregorian chant repertoire, perhaps the most famous work also has one of the largest audiences. Below, I have put an English translation of the text that can serve as an opening prayer for 2015!

Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,  and in our souls take up Thy rest; come with Thy grace and heavenly aid to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

O comforter, to Thee we cry, O heavenly gift of God Most High, O fount of life and fire of love, and sweet anointing from above.

Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known; Thou, finger of God’s hand we own; Thou, promise of the Father, Thou Who dost the tongue with power imbue.

Kindle our sense from above, and make our hearts o’erflow with love; with patience firm and virtue high the weakness of our flesh supply.

Far from us drive the foe we dread, and grant us Thy peace instead; so shall we not, with Thee for guide, turn from the path of life aside.

Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow the Father and the Son to know; and Thee, through endless times confessed, of both the eternal Spirit blest.

Now to the Father and the Son, Who rose from death, be glory given, with Thou, O Holy Comforter, henceforth by all in earth and heaven. Amen.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit for image Misa Tradicional en La Plata: Secuencia de Pentecostés misatradicionalenlaplata.blogspot.com

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

The Spirit of Solesmes

In 1997, Sr. Mary David Totah published a collection of various writings from writers associated with the Abbey of St. Peter of Solesmes.  This collection, entitled The Spirit of Solesmes, contains translations of inspirational works — many for the first time in English.  Recently, someone handed me a short, inspirational “word” from this book which I wanted to share with you as I thought it encapsulated the spirit of the monks who have given us so much through their guardianship of Gregorian chant:

“God clearly entrusts us with a task; obstacles present themselves, they accumulate. Should we leave the struggle, appealing to the name of “impossibility”? But the impossible is the very region of faith. As long as we move in the realm of the possible, we are only half sailing in the supernatural; but when someone leaves the shore and learns how to launch out generously under the watch of God into what he does not believe possible but what is clearly demanded of him, he carries out marvels. Happy are they whom God considers strong enough to track down in this way and compels to spring into the supernatural element of pure faith.”

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 
Credit for image: Photo: Abbey Saint Pierre – Solesmes – France
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