Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Pay it forward!

What FUN it was to speak to a group of University music majors last week about the need to have some understanding of chant in order to work effectively in the world of sacred music! It was wonderful to see their reaction as we chanted together the Credo Cardinale (sometimes nicknamed the “Jazz Creed”), and the two-voice setting of the tune of O Come Emmanuel, which Mary Berry discovered some years ago in a 15th century Processionale. It was so clear that these young people had NEVER experienced chant like this!

As I watched their faces and listened to them chant, I noticed the face of my own composition teacher of thirty years past, who had offered me the invitation to come and speak to these students. He was as enthusiastic as they were! What a joy it was to see. In offering something that enlivened interest and enthusiasm to his current students, he, too, was enjoying their reactions. The choral director, also an old friend, said that this hour had opened his eyes to chant in a completely different way!

Through all of their reactions and responses, I could almost hear Mary Berry’s voice saying, “You must pass this on,” remembering how much she enjoyed seeing someone make a new discovery. I can only believe that this experience was a living reminder to me to pay forward all of the love, enthusiasm, knowledge, and sheer joy which she so generously gave to so many of us!

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Now You See Me, Now You Don’t

By Sr. Nun Other

As a child, Pennsylvania born, I enjoyed warm afternoons under the shade trees in our yard. My sister and I would picnic on peanut butter sandwiches and watch the sky dance between branches. As an adult on Cape Cod, I gravitated toward sunny beaches and beautiful sunsets without regret; however, circumstances recently led me to a lawn chair beneath a cluster of oak trees. It was a fascinating experience, both the present reality and the memories it evoked. Two squirrels shared the space, swinging from tree limbs, juggling acorns, and chattering to one another. Perhaps they sensed my presence; one chunky fellow suddenly fastened himself head-down on a tree trunk. Flattened against the bark, a natural camouflage, he was all but invisible.

I sometimes do a human version of this disappearing act. I flatten myself against an inward wall, facial expression neutral, unreadable and unreachable, emotion and reactions restrained. While the squirrel was protecting himself from possible predators, I protect myself from the reality of who I am unfiltered. In so doing, I block my need for Jesus and His desire to transform my life.

The Community of Jesus

Uncontrollably Unabashed

By Melodious Monk

This past Sunday, our marching band was part of a parade celebrating the 350th anniversary for a nearby town. Marching down the narrow streets, I noticed a particularly happy group along the side of the road — young kids! It’s fun to see how the rhythm of the drums, or the sparkle of the uniform, or the sound of the instruments, the twirling flags, or just the sheer size of the long marching unit makes kids smile.

You know when a toddler or infant is excited and they just start flailing their arms and body with lots of energy and smiles?  They aren’t controlled enough yet to do much else, but when something inside is sparked to life, they respond with a type of dancing (of sorts!) and there is absolutely no care of what they might look like! Some of us older kids, I’m afraid, are often too embarrassed to follow this impulse to dance. We care what we look like, and perhaps we are afraid we might look like the uncontrolled toddler trying to dance. The young child doesn’t care about pride, or how they look — they’re just excited and want to express that innate joy. Marching in the parade, I wondered if this instinctive response to express, to dance, to let oneself be sparked by joy, is part of what Jesus means when He tells us to live child-like.

So I wonder, what form of control often robs me of this unabashed joy as an adult? Is it simply pride?

The Community of Jesus

 

Kaleidoscope

By Renaissance Girl

I was thinking about God’s will, and the focus and discipline that it takes to see His vision and follow it no matter what. Focus and discipline are two words I do not say lightly, or with a lot of joy. I am just starting to be willing to believe that they are the avenues to spiritual freedom, although it takes every ounce of my energy to choose them over my desire for ease and independence.

And suddenly, I had a picture of a kaleidoscope. As if that is what it is to see God’s will. I have to narrow my scope, cut away the extra little plans I’m holding on to, and be willing to look through the small little hole.  Because each explosion of color and design that surprises you on the other side are more than worth it.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Have mercy on me, O Lord

Miserere mei Deus, secumdum misericordiam tuam – Have mercy on me, O Lord, according to Your loving kindness. (Psalm 51). We begin the Divine Office of Lauds every Friday morning with this psalm. I was praying about what to write this week and then, quite gently, the antiphon for this psalm started going through my mind.

This particular antiphon, which is comprised of just the first three words of the first verse – Miserere mei, Deus – is a simple chant. It is made up of only three notes. Those three notes are the same ones we hear in the opening of “Mary had a little lamb” or “Three Blind Mice.” This is a chant I find myself unwittingly humming while running between activities!

I am amazed that this is one way in which chant becomes daily prayer. Not just sitting in the church, but going through the various activities of the day. It is so simple and child-like that the words which it upholds go through my mind without effort or even conscious thought. It is as though the chant is speaking to me and redirecting my thoughts back to God.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

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Gifts That Keep On Giving

By Sr Nun Other

Galations 5:22-23  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

I’d like to add one other: the fruit of beauty. Not just that achieved through man’s creative efforts, but the beauty of a soul transformed. I watched as hydrangeas outside our kitchen window passed through their cycle of life. From the first budding of leaves, to a radiant burst of blue, purple and pink, they quietly moved toward the delicate colors of fall, the petals no longer supple, more like lace that can be broken.

The Community of Jesus

 

Words

By Melodious Monk

Today I woke up angry at God, wishing for another Labor Day, wanting to sleep more, and wondering why it was so humid again. Trying to rev up for the day, but still feeling a bit grumpy, I thumbed through a daily devotional by Hal M. Helms, stopping at today’s date.

Is not my word like as a fire? saith the lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?       -Jeremiah 23:29

My word is like a hammer, breaking up the hardened crust of your heart. I want you to have a tender, feeling heart, able to be touched with the pain and sorrow of others. You have built up walls of deadness around your heart to protect you from pain and to avoid looking weak. Your weakness, My child, is My gift to you. Your strength is your rejection of that gift. There is a world of difference between your strength and Mine. I will show you that difference when this breaking and hammering have done their work. 

After a few slow breaths, and a silent Amen, I’m now ashamed to be angry at God. I have so much faith to gain. There’s a constant war inside. I say Amen to these words, and in the next moment fight to keep the crust of self-protection around my heart. I hate feeling weak. It makes me angry, aggressive and selfish.  But as Fr. Hal reminds me, the weakness is a gift from God, a loving force telling me it’s okay to not have it all together. I need to allow God’s Word to be the fire, strength, and comfort that it is meant to be.

The Community of Jesus

Merit or Mercy

By Renaissance Girl

I am one of those people that struggles not to live on a merit system. Time and time again, I compare myself with those around me, and evaluate who gets what, and why I don’t have what I think I deserve.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to listen to a recording of the Community’s founders, Mother Cay and Mother Judy. I was too young to have taken in their teaching at the time, and it’s a gift to be able to hear their words — spoken to individuals who lived what they heard and became the founding generation of our Community.

There was a lot to take to heart, but one phrase stood out to me about my constant comparing.  In speaking about control, Mother Judy said “you negate Jesus Christ when you live according to a merit system.”

It seems so clear, but hearing it again had a fresh impact.  Why do I assume God’s role, and decide what I should and shouldn’t have?  And where does that leave space for the mercy and love of God?

The Community of Jesus

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor 

Chant as Prayer

Looking toward the fall and the new school year, it seemed a good time to reflect on chant as prayer.

The following text is a short excerpt from Reflections on the Spirituality of Gregorian Chant by Dom Jacques Hourlier. Based upon a series of college lectures from 1975 given at the Abbey of Solesmes, this excerpt is from a chapter entitled “Gregorian chant as Prayer”:

The statement that Gregorian chant is prayer has been repeated so often that it seems commonplace. Nevertheless, it is a profound truth, corresponding fully to the inner needs of our lives as Christian . . . {Chant} has a beauty which never wearies. Its originality and cyclical nature . . . help create the impression of something very dynamic – the public prayer of the Church.

Each Gregorian piece is an invitation to prayer. It nourishes that prayer day by day. It shapes the very depths of your being. At the same time, it bursts from your heart and lifts you, in mind and in heart, towards heaven. Is prayer supposed to be anything else? In the words of Auguste Le Guennant: “Prayer has become music.”          (pp. 10-12)

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