Listen in to an interview with our cantors!

by Sister Fidelis

This week Jim Jordan and Sr. Evangeline, two of our cantors, were invited to share about Gregorian Chant on a the EWTN radio program “Morning Glory”. They will be featured on radio programs on EWTN, speaking about Gregorian chant, all month long! Enjoy this clip from this week’s program.
EWTNgraphicforchantblog

Sacred Seeing: The Crucifixion

A few years ago, the Community of Jesus published a little book, Sacred Seeing: Praying with the Frescoes in the Church of the Transfiguration. As we approached the New Year, it seemed like a good opportunity to share this simple guide to praying with the art here in the church, especially for those of you who aren’t able to come and see it for yourselves. Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing the meditations from the book. We hope that it helps to enrich your prayer life in 2017!

The Crucifixion

Crucifixion fresco, Silvestro Pistolesi, Church of the Transfiguration

Spend a few moments looking at the fresco image.
What is the general feeling you get from this fresco?
What questions does this image raise for you?

Read the Scripture: John 19:25-34
25 Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Jesus’ Side Is Pierced

31 Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.

THE INSTITUTION OF THE LORD’S SUPPER

26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the[b]covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Some thoughts and questions to ponder
What details do you see in this image? Choose one, and spend some time prayerfully considering its meaning.

Consider the stark contrast between light and dark in this fresco. What is the artist saying?

What does the position of Jesus’ body say to you?

Often, the two thieves are pictured side-by-side with Jesus, but in this fresco they are some distance away, and with their backs to the viewer. We cannot make our their faces. Consider what meaning this might have.

In the image, and according to John’s record, there are four people at Jesus’ feet. By what you see in the fresco, what is each one of them feeling and thinking? Now, imagine yourself as one of them. Which one would you be? Why?

Jesus said, “It is finished.” What has God done in your life that remains unfinished? What is finished?

Prayer
Lord, once you asked if I would value – in the way of your cross – and I said, (how, I do not know,) “Yes, I will.” You knew then how my heart would faint and my will with falter, once I followed you this far, once we got to this awful hill. Here, where darkness gathers, and the birds start to circle, and the Father’s voice falls silent, you bend. You look at me. Now you ask again, if I will follow you – in the way of my cross – and I say, (how, I do not know,) “Yes, your will.”

We are adore you, O Christ,
And we praise you,
For by your holy cross,
You have redeemed of the world.

A Word from the Tradition
What God promises us for the future is great, but what God has already done for us in Christ is greater still. Who can doubt that he will give us his life, since he has already given us his death? Why is human weakness so slow to believe that we will one day live with God? After all, a much more incredible thing has already happened: God died for us. –From a sermon by Augustine (354–430)

Image: © The Crucifixion by Silvestro Pistolesi at the Church of the Transfiguration

Yes, and….

by Faithful Finch

This morning I was reading the account of the angel Gabriel’s annunciations to both Zechariah and Mary of the miraculous births of John the Baptist and Jesus.
All day, I’ve been coming back to think about their responses to the angel. They were both initially afraid, but there was a difference in their responses. They both had a question for the angel, but Mary somehow had a simple and solid faith in God’s goodness.

In putting it into everyday language, I could hear Zechariah’s question begin with, “yes, but…” whereas Mary’s question would sound more like, “yes, and….”

Perhaps even the result of Zechariah’s unbelief, causing him to be unable to speak, helped him to learn a similar faith by forcing him to listen more than being heard.

AnnunciationFraAngelico

Winter is Waning

by Blue Heron

Winter is waning, and we see it in longer days, dew rather than frost on car windshields in the morning, and birds beginning to sing morning melodies. I sighed this morning as I walked out the front door and saw the lawn under cedar tress carpeted in crocuses. More a promise of Spring, because I am sure we will have another cough of winter before it decides to retire.

It is not the cold of winter that I find hard; but the lack of light. Winter has such a limited vocabulary; gray and grayer. I feel a little like the groundhog awakened from his winter nap, squinting in the sunlight. Part of me has been underground for a long time. Spring ushers in a renewal of energy. The sap in me is flowing stronger. I start planning projects for the yard, and even enjoying the morning alarm announcing a new day. I am not so sophisticated. It is foolish for me to thinking myself above other living creatures who are at the mercy o the seasons. We are all together cradled in a rhythm of season that touches our moods and longings.

It is in deep December, near the shortest of days, that we celebrate his birth. Often he comes at my lowest point bringing hope, with promises of a time when things will be better. The darkness of a winter season makes us realize the value of light.

Croci

Missam Pro Defunctis – Weekday Mass for Lent

By Sister Fidelis

As we approach Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent this week, I’ve been looking at Mass XVIII – Missa pro defunctis, which we use during the Lenten season. While this is one of the “simpler” masses, it is also very beautiful and has been borrowed or expounded upon by composers over the ages – maybe one of the best known being Fauré in his Requiem.

It is interesting that although the Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, were not composed together – not even within the same century, they have several similar qualities. For one, the narrow range is noteable. The Kyrie covers the distance of a 7th, the Sanctus a 5th and the Agnus Dei a mere 3rd! Looking through the entire repertoire of ordinary Masses we don’t find any other Mass with such a narrow range. We also see in the Sanctus and Agnus Dei almost entirely syllabic writing – adding to the feeling of humble simplicity.

Then we find a motive – a repeated pitch followed by a whole step – which appears both in the “eleison” of the Kyrie throughout, and twice at the start of the Sanctus. The reverse of that same motive is the intonation of the Agnus Dei – two repeated pitches followed by a whole step upwards! There is something comforting and calm about the way in which this motive weaves in and out and in the way  the overall compositions seem to rise and fall. What is it about this music that lends itself so well to the season of Lent? Could it be connected to the thought of narrowing our focus or simplifying our lives?  Maybe the chant itself will inform us of something in these next weeks…

Click here to hear samples from this mass, and other Gregorian chants from the Requiem, on a recording by Gloriæ Dei Cantores Schola.

Missa Pro Defunctis

Sacred Seeing: The Last Supper

A few years ago, the Community of Jesus published a little book, Sacred Seeing: Praying with the Frescoes in the Church of the Transfiguration. As we approached the New Year, it seemed like a good opportunity to share this simple guide to praying with the art here in the church, especially for those of you who aren’t able to come and see it for yourselves. Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing the meditations from the book. We hope that it helps to enrich your prayer life in 2017!

The Last Supper

TheLastSupper

Spend a few moments looking at the fresco image.
Write down any first impressions you have.
What questions does this image raise for you?

Read the Scripture: Matthew 26:20-29
20 When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve;21 and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” 25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

The Institution of the Lord’s Supper

26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the[b]covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Some thoughts and questions to ponder
The scripture reference for this image records two major events taking place at the table in the Upper Room – the betrayal and the institution of the Lord’s Supper. How does the fresco express them both?

If you were to imagine yourself as one of these disciples, which one would it be? Why?

Judas is unmistakable in this image. How does the artist depicted the characteristics of his betrayal? What details does he include? What message do you draw from this?

In the Gospel, Jesus refers to everyone at the table sharing from the same dish. Why is this significant?

What does this image tell you about the Eucharist?

The brilliant light around Jesus – radiating from Jesus – is not unlike the light that shone at the Transfiguration. How are these two events related and what does this say about every celebration of the Eucharist?

 

Prayer
Which side of the table in my sitting on today, Lord?
I want to be close by your side,
but if these men didn’t have the strength to stay with you,
how can I?
I can at least sit with you today,
in the wash of your light,
even if I am afraid my choices may someday betray you…
will someday betray you.
I can at least come to the Meal.
Whenever you serve it, I can come.
And I will keep on coming, Lord,
until your side of the table
becomes the only place for me to sit.

O sacrum convivium
O sacred banquet!
In which Christ is received,
the memory of his passion is renewed,
the mind is filled with grace,
and a pledge a future glory to us is given.
Alleluia.
– Thomas Aquinas

A Word from the Tradition
With complete confidence let us all partake of the body and blood of Christ. For in the type of bread his body is given to you, and in the type of wine his blood, that by partaking of the body and blood of Christ you may become one body and one blood with him. Thus, when his body and blood or imparted to our bodies, we become Christ bears. As the blessed Peter himself said: we become partakers of the divine nature. (2 Peter 1:4)
– From instructions to the Newly Baptized, Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313–386)

Image: © The Lord’s Supper by Silvestro Pistolesi at the Church of the Transfiguration

Chant is Everywhere You Are

By Cantor

Over the past few weeks, we have been talking about the chants found in Ordinary Time, from Monday after Epiphany to the day before Ash Wednesday and Monday after Pentecost to the day before the first Sunday of Advent. However, the word “ordinary” (which refers to “an ordering” in the liturgical definition) means something quite different to many of us when used in everyday language such as “commonplace” or even “humdrum.” We have certainly seen that the chants of Ordinary Time are anything but dull!

This morning, the term Ordinary Time took on a broader meaning to me. As I was watching our children’s Winter Percussion unit do their daily warm-up, I noted that the music to which they did their exercises was extraordinarily lovely. In fact, it was even strangely familiar!  I began to listen more closely and realized that I was listening to a composition based on Dies Irae chant from the Requiem Mass married with the Eastern Orthodox chant Gloria Patri. I don’t know who the composer was for this particular orchestral arrangement, but it was both tastefully composed and moving to hear.

Here I was in an everyday, “ordinary” circumstance and what was I hearing but chant. It’s no revelation that chant has been a source of inspiration for centuries of composers, but it struck me that chant occurs not only in everyday time but everyday events. That realization is one which I will treasure. It reminds me that chant does not just impact our liturgies but also our daily lives.

WPwarmup

Active Dying

By Faithful Finch

Recently I heard that a hospice patient was “actively dying”.  I’d never heard of this term before, and it seemed like an oxymoron. It made me stop and really think about the death process. No one can really help you with the hard “work” of dying.  It is yours to do alone. Yes, there are those who will be there alongside of you to stand with you, comfort you, and encourage you along the way, but the active dying process is yours alone.

I think the same can be said about the process of dying to those sin patterns and habits that keep us distanced from God and our friends and family. We each have to choose to actively work at letting those patterns die inside ourselves. It can be painful and lonely but the work helps to shed the very block that is preventing us from living free.

SaintintheSnow

Sacred Seeing: Entry into Jerusalem

A few years ago, the Community of Jesus published a little book, Sacred Seeing: Praying with the Frescoes in the Church of the Transfiguration. As we approached the New Year, it seemed like a good opportunity to share this simple guide to praying with the art here in the church, especially for those of you who aren’t able to come and see it for yourselves. Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing the meditations from the book. We hope that it helps to enrich your prayer life in 2017!

Entry into Jerusalem

TriumphalEntry

Spend a few moments looking at the fresco image.
What do you find unusual about this image?
Describe any specific things in this fresco that strike you.

Read the Scripture: John 12:12-16
12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,

“Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—
    the King of Israel!”

14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:

15 “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Look, your king is coming,
    sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.

Some thoughts and questions to ponder
One of the first things we notice about this fresco is the color…or, rather, the lack of color. What is this image telling you?

Where is the source of light in this image? How might Isaiah 9:2 inform this particular interpretation of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem?

John’s record of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is the simplest of the four Gospels and lacks some of the details contained in the other accounts (see Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-10, Luke 19:28-40). Why might to John’s Gospel have been chosen as the inspiration for this fresco panel?

The quotation in verse 15 is from Zachariah 9:9. What kind of kingdom is the prophet describing?

The other quotation (verse 13) is from Psalm 118:26. Read verse 27 as well. What more do these verses suggest is happening in this “triumphant procession”?

There are palms being waved in the air. But there’s also something else being waved in the air. What is it? How has the artist included it, and why?

Prayer
Lord, I know that there are places of shadow in my life – places that I would rather keep hidden away; places that I’m afraid to look at; and, places that I do not even know about yet. I also know that there is no place too dark for you – no place is beyond your reach; no place is stronger than your love; and, no place is a secret to you. I have asked you to enter into my life – my whole life. So, when you start riding into the those dark places, like the one you were writing into today, give me the courage to welcome you, and the faith to pray, “Lord, save me.”

Lord, we are told that you made your way steadfastly to Jerusalem. No detours, no distractions, no diversions. I can hardly imagine. It seems that I am regularly tempted to turn back, or at least to veer off course, or to just stop and…well, to just stop. Whatever Jerusalem awaits me today, or tomorrow, or the next, I have no hope of getting there unless I stay with you. Matthew tells us that you used to beasts to enter the city. Could one be for you, and one for me, so I can stay by your side, and you can stay by mine?

A Word from the Tradition
In his humility, Christ entered the dark regions of our fallen world and he is glad that he became so humble for our sake, glad that he came and lived among us and shared in our nature in order to raise us up again to himself. His love for us will never rest until he has raised our earthbound nature from glory to glory, and made it one with his own in heaven. So let us read before his feet, not garments or Solis all of branches, but ourselves… We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him. —From a sermon by Andrew of Crete (8th century)

Image: © Entry into Jerusalem by Silvestro Pistolesi at the Church of the Transfiguration

High Stakes Teamwork

by Faithful Friar

This year our bell ringing band plans to attempt our first “peal”. This is a big deal. Our tower holds 10 bells and we’re working on learning “Grandsire Caters” for the attempt. The peal must include over 5000 “changes” (a change in the order of bells each round) and typically takes at least 3 hours to ring. Peals are often rung to mark major celebrations. Having the capability within our local band to attempt a peal is significant and cause for celebration.

Grandsire Caters Grid

Grandsire Caters Grid from the Bell Tower at the Church of the Transfiguration at the Community of Jesus

Each ringer will learn the patterns for each colored line above, and a conductor will learn how to “call” and direct the attempt using “Bobs” and “Singles” shown on the right.

It takes years to learn how to ring. Most of the ringers in the peal band began learning in 2009 when the bells were installed. The first stage involves simply understanding how to control the bell, often referred to as “handling”. Next, we begin to learn patterns and methods. Enough of our band is at this stage where we can now attempt a peal in 2017. Attempting a peal will be a significant and exciting milestone.

There is an interesting aspect to the ringing language used in the tower, specifically the word “attempt”. We never say, “we’re going to ring a peal”, always “attempt a peal”. I think it underscores the challenging nature of a peal. If any one of the ringers “gets lost”, makes a mistake in the patterns, over the 3 hours of ringing, we will not have rung a peal. So, the stakes are fairly high for each ringer to stay focused and learn the patterns as best as possible. During the attempt, ringers often help each other stay on track, giving a nod here, a look there. Subtle affirmations point to advanced levels of teamwork and encourage success.  We very much hope our attempt is successful and look forward to hearing a celebratory peal attempt ringing out over Cape Cod Bay.