I have cried and you have heard me

by Sr. Fidelis

Don’t you love it when you open your book to the reading or psalm or devotional allotted for that day and it spells out just exactly what you were feeling that morning? It’s one of those “WOW” moments when you realize, “Only God could have known I needed to hear this!”

That’s how I felt when I opened to the Introit for this week: “Ego clamavi, quoniam exaudisti me, Deus: inclina aurem tuam, et exaudi verba mea…”  (I have called for you have heard me, O God: incline your ear unto me, and hearken unto my words: keep me, O Lord, as the apple of an eye: hide me under the shadow of your wings.)
This introit in mode III not only employs this very strong text from Psalm 17 but the melody paints the picture as we go. “I have cried…” — the notes leap in large intervals from the bottom of the staff to the very top line, hovering around the top for a bit as we remind God, “for YOU WILL HEAR ME!” Moving on the the phrase “incline your ear” is a bit more tender as we ask God to bend near to us, but grows in strength quickly leading up in pitch and strength of text, “hear my speech”. The antiphon goes on in this manner settling finally and more peacefully at the end with “hide me under the shadow of your wings”.
What a great reminder to all of us as we start off this week.
Introit "Ego Clamavi", Gregorian chant

Full Peal!

by Faithful Friar

One very nice feature of learning and taking an active part in the art and exercise of change-ringing is that you are going to become a host to visitors. In this it is not unlike the Benedictine life here in the Community of Jesus. Our founders Mother Cay and Mother Judy exemplified this practice, and in his rule St. Benedict speaks at length about welcoming guests with due hospitality. Monastic communities emphasize this charism as a means of living out the Gospel. In a similar fashion, change-ringing towers and the bands of ringers in them should expect travelers who happen to be ringers to show up on your doorstep. There are guidelines and protocols to govern how it should happen, but the first principle is to accept that it will and to welcome it.
This weekend we have the joy and privilege of having an entire band of 10 ringers coming to attempt a full peal in our tower. This means they will ring a composition or arrangement of a particular known method (pattern of movement, exactly how the bells should weave in and out of each other). Each ringer must know the pattern by heart, and must also know how the pattern varies when the conductor makes a call. The calls serve to swap specific bells over onto a different track and thus extend the pattern, to avoid any repetition which is not allowed. The conductor must memorize many dozens of these calls and know exactly when to make them. If they aren’t given in the correct sequence or ringers don’t execute them properly, then it will either it go off the rails or it doesn’t come out properly at the end and the peal is “lost.” So it takes tremendous concentration and fortitude—continuous ringing/ counting for well over 3 hours. But in the process one can appreciate such concerted efforts and one can hear the marvelous sounds of bells!

Tower bells


by Sr. Spero

“…keep knocking at the innermost place of the heavens…”

I was stuck by this phrase from the hymn for Sunday Vespers (attributed to Gregory the Great, 7th century). It’s so simple. It reminds me of Jesus’s words, “Knock, and it shall be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7).

Knocking is not usually difficult. It doesn’t take great effort—like running, or leaping or holding back floods. Whether blind, deaf, or lame (physically or spiritually), most of us can still knock. Gregory says, “keep knocking.” Even if you don’t feel like it, keep knocking.

The next phrase of his hymn tells us the reward: “then you shall receive the prize of life.” I find this very encouraging. With a little effort on my part, knocking—even tentatively—God will do the rest. He opens the door.


Chant with Friends

by Sr. Fidelis

Last week, two of us from our cantors group had a tremendous opportunity to talk about chant on Boston’s Catholic Television station. At the station’s request, we spent time talking about the the Gregorian chants associated with the Blessed Mother. Before the show began, the two hosts and the producer were incredibly gracious, putting us at ease with the sense that we were “just getting together for coffee with old friends.”

And, for six minutes, that is exactly what it was! Here we were, two cantors with two television hosts brought together by a mutual love for chant. When asked what types of chants they would find within these Marian chants, we answered that here were some of the most beloved, familiar chants — chants which many people would have known most of their lives — including all of us!

I think this is an experience worth recounting not because it was a television show, but because what drew us together was the chant. The entire reason for meeting, talking, and remembering was all because of chant in the life of the Church – particularly those in honor of Blessed Mary. In the end, the chant brought us new friendships which have the love of chant as their beginning. I cannot think of a better way to begin a friendship!
Salve Regina, Gregorian chant

The Canticle of the Three Boys

by Sr. Fidelis

This past weekend I had the opportunity to co-lead a chant class for a group visiting on retreat. We reviewed various parts of the Sunday Lauds service.  As we scanned through the pieces for the day, the canticle antiphon jumped out at me: Tres pueri iussu regis – an antiphon about the three boys in the fiery furnace.
This piece is one of those little gems — a small story backed up with scenery painted in neumes. The antiphon starts off simply like a recitation introducing the three boys, but then immediately leaps up and back down in two consecutive triads upon the introduction of the furnace (alarming thought!).  Next we have a more sustained and solid scaler passage going down with the words “they did not fear the flames of fire” (they weren’t rattled!). And then the piece ends triumphantly with notes dancing up and back down as the boys said “Blessed be God!”
We all enjoyed spending a little time with this reminder of the goodness of God!
Lauds Canticle Antiphon: Tres pueri

A word from Enzo Bianchi

This word was printed on the cover of Sunday’s bulletin for Holy Eucharist at the Church of the Transfiguration. In case you weren’t there, we wanted to share it with you!

Morning sunlight in the sanctuary, Church of the TransfigurationOur human freedom depends on knowing ourselves! Those who know themselves are truly free because they are able to maintain well-balanced relationships with others and with reality, and because they are able to discover reasons to hope and trust in the future.

We need to take a step back from our daily life that threatens to numb us with its repetitiveness or overwhelm us with its frantic pace…. Knowing ourselves requires attention and inner vigilance, which is the ability to concentrate and to listen to silence that, with the help of solitude, helps us rediscover what is essential. Self-knowledge also means recognizing our limitations and what is negative and incomplete in us—in other words, the aspects of ourselves we usually tend to repress so that we will not have to confront them. Our knowledge of our poverty, together with our knowledge of God, can then become an experience of God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love. What we previously knew because we had been told about it now becomes a personal experience. For this to happen, we need to remember never to separate these two aspects of the spiritual itinerary: knowing ourselves and knowing God. Knowing ourselves without knowing God leads to desperation, and knowing God without knowing ourselves produces arrogance. —Enzo Bianchi, Echoes of the Word



by Faithful Friar

Whenever someone asks what I like about bell ringing, the first thing that pops into my head is “talking to God”. I figure there’s pretty much a guarantee God hears the massive clanging bells swinging above us, and for me, ringing is an opportunity to talk to God through the bells. On a good day (and sometimes the worst too), nothing else matters in the bell tower. So, I was struck when I heard someone say— they love the bells because they have a sense of God talking to them when the bells ring. Sounds like a two-way street runs through the bell tower between God and us. There’s beauty in the symmetry of this conversation. As it turns out, there is quite a bit of symmetry in ringing as well.

We’re learning a “method” called Stedman during our ringing practices. A method is essentially an algorithm or set of instructions which create unique patterns in the ringing order of the bells. The simplest example of a method is a method called Plain Hunt. Each ringer moves their bell either quickly forward or slowly backward in the ringing order until reaching either the front or back and then reverses direction until coming round to the original order. All methods, including Stedman, are based on this concept and skills learned from the Plain Hunt method. Stedman has an additional set of rules which ringers refer to as “the work”. All the ringers have the same set of instructions, or “work”, with the exception being— as the conductor calls for the method ringing to begin or “go”, each ringer begins the work pattern at a different point in the work sequence. Below is a diagram showing the order of work with red bubbles showing where each ringer begins in the pattern:


Diagram credit to: http://mirrors.josefsipek.net/www.ringbell.co.uk/methods/st5.htm

You’ll notice a reflection in the blue line above in the middle of the diagram. In Stedman, the pattern of work is perfectly symmetrical half way through the method. Even the different sections of the method are symmetrical. The blue line shows how each bell moves for each round. For the treble bell, or 1 bell, the ringer moves the bell slowly out from the lead position, to the second position, the third position, fourth and finally to the back in fifths position before the work begins.


Above diagrams the relationships of all the bells throughout the Stedman method, an intricate translation from sound to sight. There’s quite an opportunity in all of that for conversation with God. And the cool thing is, even though life sometimes seems far more complex than Stedman, I think He listens, understands, and cares about everything we’re saying.

The Meaning of Love

by Sr. Spero

We sang some verses from Habbakuk in Lauds this morning that show me the meaning of hope.

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord. . . .” [Habakkuk 3:17-18a]

Food is pretty basic. Habakkuk is saying that even if he starves to death, he is still choosing to rejoice. This is hope—and trust in a loving God. God wants to give us the desires of our hearts, but he also allows various kinds of famine in our lives. This is when we understand the challenge of hope, and, ultimately, the meaning of love.

grapevines at the Community of Jesus

Beauty in Simplicity

by Sr. Fidelis

I am always astounded that even the smallest Divine Office antiphons in the most seemingly inconsequential spots — such as the 2nd antiphon of Thursday morning Lauds — have so much to tell us.

This particular antiphon — A timore inimici — has one of the smallest ranges of any in the repertoire: a perfect 4th. Also, it has only one melodic theme: a falling minor 3rd that repeats three times!



It’s amazing in this simple chant that it’s the smallest variation that makes the meaning arise! Take a look at the beginning of the chant. There is a line called an episema over part of the word timore — fear — placing a stress there. The very next word inimici — enemies — uses exactly the same notes in the same order, but there is no episema so there is no stress. Instantly, the chant stresses that it is the fear from which we want the Lord to deliver us!

Finally, look at the only two places in the chant where the chant “dips down” just one note below the interval of the minor 3rd. The two words highlighted at those two lowest points are “save” and “soul”.

How beautiful and moving that by a slight stress and two additional notes, the chant brings forth the message: “Save my soul from fear.”

To be light

Lord Christ,
Help us to have the courage and humility to name our burdens
and lay them down
so that we are light to walk across the water
to where you beckon us. . . .
The memory of hurts and insults,
driving us to last out,
to strike back
We name it
and we lay it down. . . .

Our antagonism against those
whose actions, differences, presence,
threaten our comfort or security
We name it
and we lay it down. . . .

We do not need these burdens,
but we have grown used to carrying them,
have forgotten what it is like to be light.
Beckon us to lightness of being,
for you show us it is not unbearable.
Only so we can close the distance.
Only so we can walk upon the water.
Blessed are you, Lord Christ, who makes heavy burdens light.

Kathy Galloway, Iona Community