Recent events revealed two important things to me: I rely heavily on routine, and I’m people dependent. I spent the early days of a recent Tuscany tour (pilgrimage, actually) re-defining my faith. I’m strong in my home environment, but when surrounded by the unfamiliar, not so much. While grateful for progress on my Christian walk, I realize I have miles of journey ahead to become fully grounded in Christ. As autumn transitions to winter, I trust and rely on His love, that spring waits on the other side.
It’s hard to be patient. I’ve been told that this gets better as you get older, but I’m not there, yet. There are a few specific things in my life I know God has initiated. Things I know he’s given me hope and vision for, but either they just haven’t happened yet, or they are happening in a way I can’t see or understand. In his steady way of writing, I find that these words of Oswald Chambers help re-assure my wavering faith.
God gives us a vision, and then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of that vision. It is in the valley that so many of us give up and faint. Every God-given vision will become real if we will only have patience. Ever since God gave us the vision, He has been at work. He is getting us into the shape of the goal He has for us, and yet over and over again we try to escape from the Sculptor’s hand in an effort to batter ourselves into the shape of our own goal . . .
Allow the Potter to put you on His wheel and whirl you around as He desires. Then as surely as God is God, and you are you, you will turn out as an exact likeness of the vision. But don’t lose heart in the process. If you have ever had a vision from God, you may try as you will to be satisfied on a lower level, but God will never allow it.
Perhaps I just need to be more patient and let God do what he does best — transform us.
It seems like the cold weather creeps up when I’m not paying attention. Yesterday I sat outside to eat my lunch, and this morning I pulled my scarf closer around my neck. I love this season as we turn towards winter. There is a unique beauty in what happens when the sun sets earlier and the leaves change color.
This morning I took my dog for his morning walk. He is a particular fan of leaves and carries one in his mouth for the duration of the walk. I think it makes him feel useful. Or perhaps, he just likes to hang on to something beautiful. We passed under a tree just as a red leaf, its corners slightly turned up, released itself from its branch. It floated down, turning gently like a lazy Susan. I like to think maybe God releases each one at its own moment with a puff of air just strong enough to free it from the tree it grew on. Such an interesting image for life.
Last week, I had the privilege of co-teaching a chant seminar in Barga, Italy. Though thrilled to be involved, I felt some concern that the entire seminar would have to be taught almost entirely through a translator because I do not speak Italian! However, almost instantly upon my arrival, those concerns dissipated.
Our translator had taken it upon herself to study Gregorian chant! She had obtained a marvelous volume of music history that gave many details surrounding chant providing her additional vocabulary for the seminars. She loved it! Our preparatory meetings went quite smoothly largely because she had quietly taken this generous approach.
Likewise, there was an extensive range of abilities and knowledge among the participants who attended the seminars and the mass which we chanted on Sunday morning. Most of them spoke very little English. However, once again, there was such a level of enthusiasm and willingness to try everything that we offered, communication happened in ways that transcended spoken language.
Everyone’s attitude and willingness had a powerful effect on the success of the seminars. It was an extraordinary opportunity to experience this mutual love for chant in an international circumstance where the main language used was “a willing spirit.”
When I finished high school, I was given a new Bible. The front cover had a picture of a young man, about my age, with three questions; What’s the purpose of life? Does God care about me? And Does anything last? These are eternal questions, the type we ponder whether we are aware of them or not, whether we consider ourselves religious or not.
I’ve been studying a poem by William Wordsworth for a piece of music that our choir will be performing at an All Saints Day concert. One line reads, “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting.” Thinking about this line of text, there is a lot of theological belief packed into it. Wordsworth goes on to explain that “heaven lies about us in our infancy,” but as we grow up, “shades of the prison house” (earth) build up around us, and we forget from whence we came and to where we are headed.
I still don’t understand many of the answers to the three questions on the front of my Bible. But Wordsworth helps give me clues. When I choose to believe in Heaven as a place that I came from and am going to, small and large worries no longer seem significant. Life gains a tremendous purpose, hope, and bit of clarity as I remember that there is another vast world still to uncover.
“Faith offers the promise that everything will ultimately be renewed in God. This hardly means that we will, or must, receive an answer from God for every question in our lives.” —Notker Wolf, Faith Can Give Us Wings
I find this meditation challenging. Challenging, I suppose, because I want answers to every question in my life. I suppose the embarrassing truth is that I often treat God as a vending machine for my questions. I want to be able to insert a question and push the right buttons and get an answer. But where does that leave faith?
What need would there be for faith, if every question I asked had an immediate answer? It’s a risky and lively way of life that Jesus beckons us towards.
Maybe sometimes it is about asking the questions, and then continuing to move forward. Perhaps the answer comes as a gentle re-direct on the way, and not a sedentary note of explanation as I sit waiting to be sure that the way I am headed is safe.
I just had the privilege of being part of a chant schola that participated in a liturgy for mission outreach. There were many choirs singing in the service but only one chant schola – ours! The clergy asked us to choose a piece we thought appropriate for the occasion and almost instantly, one of our schola members suggested the Communion chant:
“Andrew said to Simon, his brother: I have found the Messiah who is said to be the Christ: and His name is Jesus.” John I: 41-42 (Communion for Week II, Ordinary Time, Year B – found on page 263 of the Graduale Triplex).
The room fell silent as we chanted this beautiful text.The chant echoes Andrew’s outcry to his brother and also highlights the name of “Jesus” with the most extraordinary melodic shape and motive. This was a great example of chant composed for one purpose able to serve for a completely different one. We should never pass up the opportunity to chant when and where we are needed!
There are many wonderful qualities to light;
-Light of the world
-starlight…..just to name a few.
One of the amazing properties of light in nature is the drawing power it has. Plant life will do amazing things to “find the light.” Either through bending, reshaping, or re-routing, plants are tenacious in finding a way to get to their life-giving light. These fall days are getting shorter, but as we begin our procession toward the hopeful season of Advent, let’s remember to start searching and bending to find our much-needed Light.
While chanting Psalm 51 this morning at Lauds, this phrase caught my attention:
“…et spiritu promptissimo confirma me” (…and give me a willing spirit).
What struck me was the word translated as “willing” is “promptissimo,” and from which is derived our word “prompt.” I ran home and looked up the Latin translation which reads “The most eager.” So, that phrase from Psalm 51 could be read in English as “…and give me the most eager spirit.”
The response to the first half of the verse is: ‘Restore to me the joy of my salvation.” I asked the Lord to tell me what he wanted to be said today. When I saw the word “promptissimo,” I knew instantly that I had my answer. I gave a prompt and resounding “thank you” to God for having answered me so readily! In that word, he told me he was listening to my prayer and that my joy would return in quick response of thanks to him! Amazing — all within one word in the middle of a chant recitation!
Today we celebrated the Feast Day of Simeon, a man to be admired for his simplicity of heart. Fame, fortune, and great accomplishments were not on his resume; instead, we find written these words, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”