Discipline of Gratitude

By Melodious Monk

One November many years ago, our first president proclaimed: 

“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country…” 

Following in Washington’s footsteps during a difficult time for our nation, Abraham Lincoln said this:

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.” 

Fast forwarding to our generation, the late Henri Nouwen, a man who seemed to know and cherish man’s universal purpose to glorify and give thanks to God, left us this advice. “In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy. Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint…the choice for gratitude rarely comes without some real effort. But each time I make it, the next choice is a little easier, a little freer, a little less self-conscious.”

Each day, and especially today, we can continue the generations-old tradition of choosing to place our thanks and trust in the loving “great disposer of events” as president Lincoln affectionately worded our creator.  I hope that in some way, my small offering of thanks today, together with yours, can join myriad legions of angels to help guide all of us to taste some inestimable blessings.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit:  Artist’s depiction of George Washington praying at Valley Forge. (Public Domain)

Circle of Life

By Renaissance Girl

Isn’t it interesting that at the same time we are ending the calendar year, we begin the church year? My type A personality brain says — couldn’t we have coordinated this better?

But as I think about our decorating this past weekend, hanging lights from the huge tree in front of the Convent, stringing garland along the walkways, making baked goods for the gift shop or putting candles in windows, it strikes me that logic and coordination are not what this season is about.

Our human minds tell us the year is closing, things are ending, darkness is prevalent and sleep is the order of the day.  Into this bursts the new Liturgical year, with light enough to illuminate the world, and cries “Sleepers Wake!”  And we leave off endings and begin again.

The Community of Jesus

Stand up for The King!

By Cantor

We often hear the phrase “chant is so peaceful.” Certainly, many chants do have an inherent sense of peace about them.  But not all of them — sometimes the chant demands our attention, insisting that we stand up and listen!

Last week, the communion antiphon began with the text “Amen, dico vobis.”  Translated, that means “So be it, I say to you.”  These words of Jesus are not set to a gentle recitation but rather burst forth on a trumpet-like motive that leaves no room for doubt that we need to listen to Jesus’ words that follow.

All week, I found myself “hearing” that trumpet motive from other times of the church year. In fact that same sound occurs in the communion for Pentecost — “Factus est repente de caelo sonus” (A mighty sound came rushing out of Heaven); the introit for Christmas Day mass — “Puer natus est” (A boy is born unto us); the procession for Palm Sunday — “Hosanna, Filio David” (Hosanna to the Son of David), to name a few. In moments, I had been taken through much of the church year, reminded by a simple musical motive of the Kingship of Christ.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit for image 5070 – Music – Gregorian Chant

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Assume The Best

By Sr. Nun Other

It’s so easy to assume the worst, at least if you’re anxious by nature. I think of the Pilgrims, who, for the sake of their children and love of God, surrendered their fear of the unknown. They embarked on a rigorous journey of sacrifice, to establish one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.  Facing fast and furious seas, starvation, disease, and desolate wilderness, they pressed on. Then, in thanksgiving, joined hands in a symbolic feast of community. May we all be thankful, assume the best, and rest in God’s love this Thanksgiving!

THe Community of Jesus

Pieces of Prayer

By Melodious Monk

Jesus once told us, “Truly, I say to you, ‘Everything you ask for, praying, believe that you will receive (it), and it will be done for you.’ ”

All this week during communion we sing these words from Matthew in the Communion proper for the day.  As I stand waiting to receive communion, I’m aware of who’s in my immediate vicinity, a Catholic man from New Jersey, a Methodist from Texas, and several elementary and middle school aged kids, all of us singing this prayer together.  I don’t know why it caught my attention, but it struck me that all of us from very different backgrounds and age groups were being united through prayer and through this song.

And I wonder what each of us was asking God this morning? Perhaps a wide variety of things.

Among many, one thing on my mind was the headline to the Boston Globe I saw on the way out the door this morning; that 5 people were killed in a synagogue in Jerusalem, four of them while praying, and the 5th man trying to protect the others.  I wonder what these men were asking of God in their house of worship.   I wonder how God’s “in-box” works for all the requests he must receive. Does he sort them by the ones that are sent with belief, and the ones without?  I find comfort in praying. But in my pieces of prayer tossed to the heavens, do I actually believe that they can and will happen?  Or do I only ask?

The Community of Jesus

 

Risking Advent-ure

By Renaissance Girl 

I was talking with a friend last night, just in passing.  Talking about life, and change, and being afraid of new things. She said that someone had recently pointed out to her that the word adventure has the word advent in it.  I know Advent is still two weeks away, but actually, it really caught my attention. I love words, and I love exploring where they come from and what they mean. Both the root of advent and adventure can be traced back to the Latin advenire — “to come to, reach for, arrive at.” Later uses introduced a sense of risk or danger. One definition that struck me was, “a risky undertaking of unknown outcome.”

Look at the story of Christ, who arrived on earth as a vulnerable baby, forced to flee shortly after his birth, challenged in the desert by the devil himself, betrayed by a friend, nailed to a cross, and raised from the dead…  Talk about risk and unknown outcome!

But here’s what really got my attention — the suffix -ure indicates “act, process or result.”  Start putting these parts together and you get things like — “the act of reaching for, the process of arriving at, the result of coming to.” So of course adventure requires risk, and unknown outcome — but can’t we hang on to the outcome that we do know? That Christ’s “risky undertaking of unknown outcome” resulted in our redemption. And so we reach for the adventure of Advent.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Follow the theme!

Friday Lauds opens with Psalm 51, perhaps the most famous of all the penitential psalms – Have mercy on me, O God. As we began Lauds last Friday, I thought again about the fact we always begin Friday morning asking God’s mercy. However, as we continued through the service, the word mercy began to present itself in other places — in the opening of the 2nd psalm # 143, O Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in the brief response, Make me to hear your mercy in the morning; in the Gospel antiphon, By the inmost mercies of our God, the rising sun has visited us from on high; and the 4th verse of the Benedictus, to show mercy to our fathers. I realized that we had been moved through an entire service by the theme of God’s mercy!

This idea of a theme throughout a worship service — the Divine Office or the Eucharist —  is not new. On the contrary, it is quite old! But the power of a theme to speak is not diminished by time, only enhanced. Mary Berry used to call these themes the “hidden gems.”

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit for Chant Image:Concert of Gregorian Chant – Mdina, Malta

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An Ecounter With Joy

By Sr. Nun Other

If I were to write a musical, I would juxtapose two hymns that are beautifully simple, and simply beautiful. Our Communion hymn for last week was the 18th. century Shaker hymn, Simple Gifts.  I stood near the altar during the singing of it, surrounded by delightful mosaic tile flowers, insects, butterflies, mammals, and sea creatures. They swirled and flourished beneath my feet with enviable freedom and energy, content to be as God created them. Mind and imagination took over, and I added my own (non auditory!) touch as we sang: ‘Tis the gift to be simple,’tis the gift to be free…all things bright and beautiful…’tis the gift to come down where we ought to be…all creatures great and small…in the place just right….all things wise and wonderful…in the valley of love and delight… the Lord God made us all!  Creation interrupts our busy, sometimes chaotic lives, to teach simplicity of heart, humbleness of spirit, and unfailing trust in God.

The Community of Jesus

 

Surprised by Joy

By Melodious Monk

I haven’t wanted to get out of bed all week. I wasn’t sure if it was tiredness, the gloomy weather, or all of the above! I couldn’t muster enough will-power to make this feeling go away. I asked for help from friends, tried exercising, praying, eating differently, but even the parts of the week I look forward to and expect to uplift me, didn’t help. Sunday  a group of young kids from Boston came to sing in our Church.  As I came through the back door of our Church in the afternoon, I heard their sound, and stopped.  I had forgotten these suburban area kids had traveled down to the Cape to spend a day at our facilities. I ran to the back door to peek in on their rehearsal.  Youthfulness, joy and honesty rang around the room. I stopped and listened long enough to see and hear the joy it was for these kids to sing. It made me smile, and remember that sometimes we must just keep putting one foot in front of another, not knowing when God might use a moment to re-awaken us inside.

The Community of Jesus

 

Give Thanks in all Things

By Renaissance Girl

I logged on to Amazon.com the other day and was startled to see, staring back at me, a “countdown to Black Friday” (which, as it turns out, now begins for many stores at 5pm on Thanksgiving Day).

The one day a year that we are actually encouraged as a nation to express gratitude for what we have, is fast becoming another day we are encouraged to aggressively go after what we want.

I felt myself self-righteously puffing up with a rant about lack of gratitude and “where are our values” and then ground to a halt. How often do I live this way myself? Not grateful in the moment for the blessings in my life, but clocking my own personal countdown to the next thing on the horizon that I am sure will make my life perfect.

Perhaps “Thanksgiving Day” could be every day.

The Community of Jesus