Sacred Seeing: The Resurrection

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 Resurrection

The Resurrection, fresco by Silvestro Pistolesi, Church of the TransfigurationSpend a few moments looking at the fresco image.
What is your first impression of this fresco?
What thoughts and feelings does this image evoke for you?

Read the Scripture: Matthew 28:1-7
28 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”

Some thoughts and questions to ponder
How would you describe the expressions of the two women? Take some time to imagine your own experience if you had been with them. What is it like approaching the tomb? Finding it open? Going in? What do you see, hear, smell, touch? What is happening to you?

What does this image say to you about the Resurrection that you have not considered before?

Look at the contrast between the angel and the black-garbed women. What does the contrast of light and dark in this image say to you?

Tradition tells us that the stable in which Jesus was born was likely a cave or grotto. How are these two caves – the place of birth and the place of resurrection – related? Consider one further connection: Emmanuel Chapel is also a “cave.” What does this say to you about the nature of this space?

In what place in your own life right now do you need to hear the angel’s message: “Do not be afraid.” The angel said to the two Mary’s, “Come see the place where he lay.” Jesus said something similar to Andrew, “Come and see.” (John 1:39) What does this invitation mean to you today?

Notice the pieces of rock on the ground. What stone in your own life needs to be shattered so that you can see the resurrected Lord?
Prayer
Lord, you said that you would rise again.
I thought maybe it was just a metaphor;
something to make me feel better
as the road got rougher,
as the sky grew darker,
and death drew nearer.
But you really meant it –
not just that things would get better,
but that the roughness, and the darkness, and the death
actually had a purpose – have a purpose.
Because of your cross, mine.
Because of your resurrection, mine.
Because you live, I will live also.

“Go and tell them that he has risen.” 
Lord Jesus,
you have asked me to be a witness of your resurrection.
But I wasn’t there.
I didn’t watch them lay you in that tomb.
I couldn’t feel the earthquake.
And I haven’t seen an angel pointing to your empty grave clothes.
No, but you have made my heart your tomb,
the place of your repose,
and there I have seen you rise, again and again.
I am a witness of your resurrection.
Tell me today, who you want me to tell.

O God,
who for our redemption
gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross,
and by his glorious resurrection
has delivered us from the power of the enemy:
Grant us to die daily to sin,
that we may evermore live with him,
in the joy of the resurrection. Amen.
–Gregory the Great

A Word from the Tradition
An angel descended and rolled back the stone. He did not roll back the stone to provide a way of escape for the Lord but to show the world that the Lord had already risen. He rolled back the stone for the sake of faith, because it had been rolled over the tomb for the sake of unbelief. Pray, brothers and sisters, that the angel would descend now and roll away all the hardness of our hearts and open up our closed senses and declare to our minds that Christ has risen, for just as the heart in which Christ lives and reigns is heaven, so also the heart in which Christ remains dead and buried is a grave.
–Peter Chrysologus, Bishop of Ravenna (c. 380–c. 450)

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

Seeing the Signs

By Sr. Fidelis

Many of the chants for this season re-tell various “scenes” from the Easter story. This is a wonderful way for us to rehearse the true miracle of Jesus’ Resurrection! The antiphon Maria Stabat reminds us that Mary stood at the sepulcher weeping and saw two angels in white sitting, and the cloth that was on Jesus’ head. The story goes no further in this Mode VII antiphon, but there is a sense of anticipation and joy and the bloom of hope is conveyed with each consecutive phrase!
The opening phrase begins with an ascent from its Home Tone SOL, to its Reciting Tone, RE, and then back again to SOL. The repeated note pattern on the text Angelos in albis, sedentes builds with excitement! For the most part this is a syllabic chant save one word, fuerat. Here the lingering emphasis reminds us that this was the cloth that was on Jesus’ head.
There’s much food for thought in these seemingly simple chants!

MariaStabat

Be not unbelieving…

By Sr. Fidelis

The Communion for the 2nd Week of Easter comes from the Gospel of John – Jesus’ words to Thomas.

“Thrust your hand and know the place of the nails, and be not unbelieving but faithful.” is the literal translation.

There is a wonderful sense of conversation in this serene Mode 6 chant; two syllabic phrases punctuated with Alleluias.

The structural notes of LA (reciting tone) and FA (home tone) serve as the “backbone” of the piece.

One of the beauties of this simple chant is the actual Latin text.  Jesus tells Thomas to thrust his hand and know the place of the nails….not just see them, or touch them, but know them.

The original notation highlights the text in several spots.  In the opening line, there is a 3 note neum called a “torculus”, (low-high-low) on the last syllable of the word tuam. The shape of this neum indicates that there is more emphasis on the 2nd and 3rd notes, rather than them all being even.   This is called a “special” torculus, and gives a sense of lift to the word.  On the final line of the chant, we see this same sign on the accented syllable of the word fidelis, and in the final alleluia, only this time, it looks angular.  This tells us to emphasize all 3 syllables of the word.  You will hear these subtleties, which add points of interest and arrival in the overall scope of the chant.

Mitte Manum

Lumen Christi: Easter Encounters with Art

As Christians, the pursuit of beauty in all of its forms is ever before us. While the world’s definition of beauty – a wrinkle-free, almost inhuman imitation of so-called “perfection” – almost always leads to self-abasement and discouragement, true beauty as we seek it only leads to a further knowledge of God’s love for us, to a clearer and brighter reflection of who He is, and to a deeper desire to become co-creators of beauty with him in all the quotidian elements of our lives.

Gabriele Wilpers, an internationally celebrated painter and sculptor from Essen, Germany, knows all about this calling toward beauty, and all of the risks and rewards that accompany that vocation. After training as a photographer, between 1973 and 1978 Gabriele Wilpers studied free painting at the Folkwang Hochschule in Essen, Germany. Since then she has lived and worked in Essen as a freelance visual artist. In recent years she has taken first prize in competitions for art in the public domain, and she has designed entire church interiors for several parishes in the archidocese of Freiburg im Breisgau. Wilpers uses a variety of artistic methods in her artwork – painting, installation objects, film, and architectural glass – to reflect and describe the human existence. Her interventions in an existing space, which can be both sacred and profane in nature, question the context in which modern man lives today.

Back in July of 2005, Ms. Wilpers was invited by the Munster Chapter of the Catholic Women’s Organization to contribute to the 1200th anniversary of the diocese of Munster. The discovery of a medieval thimble, excavated from the ruins of the Uberwasser Convent, inspired Ms. Wilpers to create an installation for the nearby Uberwasser Gothic church. Entitled “As Numerous as the Stars in the Sky” Ms. Wilpers’ installation was comprised of thousands of thimbles gathered from the women of the diocese, and became a sort of memorial to the myriad, nameless women of Munster through the ages, who faithfully lived out their vocations. Upon entering the church, the viewer’s gaze was immediately drawn upward to a sparkling, starry canopy made up of these now almost meaningless, outdated objects, each suspended from different colored threads, and given new meaning by Ms. Wilpers for this occasion. As one journalist put it, “Each individual thimble—the protector of sensitive fingertips—hence becomes a symbol of that which women have experienced and achieved. They become centuries-old witnesses to female stories and histories, trigger many associations in connection with women’s lives and, taken out of their original context, artfully perform their story-telling role. The sparkling firmament speaks of the hard work of women, of suffering and poverty, but also of joy, and inside the church represents a symbolic space for the histories of uncounted women in the diocese.”[1]

Ms. Wilpers’ installation in the Munster Church was only temporary, but her art has found many other permanent homes, one of which is the Church of the Transfiguration in Orleans, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. Gabriele Wilpers designed the glass sculpture on the West Wall of the Church of the Transfiguration, connecting the oculus window and lintel (over the main doors) in a seamless design portraying Christ’s Transfiguration. In Wilpers‘ studio at Essen and at the Derix Glasstudios in Taunusstein, Germany, she and glass fabricators collaborated on the modern abstract sculpture. The sculpture features sixty-four individually cast glass panels covered with gold-leaf paint, which was partially removed with an acid wash.The varying intensity of the gold and the pattern of ridges and valleys evoke elements of the reflected light from sunsets over the Cape Cod sand flats and combine to gather, reflect, and refract light, becoming a glistening and shimmering wall of Transfiguration splendor.

This week, artists, art-lovers and all seekers of beauty have an opportunity to encounter and hear from Gabriele Wilpers first-hand here at the Community of Jesus. Lumen Christi: Easter Encounters with Art will be held April 5th through 9th. Ms. Wilpers is joined by Monsignor Timothy Verdon, a renowned Art Historian and prolific author, for this five-day series of illuminating lectures on Easter themes of light, resurrection and rebirth in sacred art. All are invited to come and be inspired by these beautifully illustrated lectures on art and architecture, from the baroque to the contemporary, hosted by the Mount Tabor Ecumenical Centre for Art and Spirituality. In a time when so many Christian women and artists suffer from isolation, lack of support and understanding, and a market-driven secular environment, Lumen Christi: Easter Encounters with Art offers an alternate experience of contemplation and creativity, focusing on the artists‘ vital contribution to the faith conversation. For more information visit www.mounttabor.it or call 508-240-7090.

04 Muenster 2005

02 Thimbles 200505 Muenster 2005All photos courtesy of Herbert Wilpers

[1] Frank Joachim Schmitz, Berichte, Das Munster,

GlassWallMarch 2005

The Bells Hang Silently

Bells play a special role this time of year – Holy Week through Easter Sunday. I was never aware of this, as I don’t think many people are, until we put in our own set of change ringing bells. I have always thought of bells in the role of ringing out as a call to worship, as well as news and celebration. But they also have a part to play in silence. Our Maundy Thursday service bulletin had a meditation to ponder on its cover and I was particularly struck by the words “the bells hang silently.” They are not rung from Palm Sunday until the Easter Vigil Saturday night. We have grown used to hearing them every day of the week and suddenly there is silence where there has been joyful “noise.” But even beyond the quiet of the week – no organ as well – it feels that the silent presence of the bells in the tower has a waiting feeling. It enhances my own sense of waiting for the Passion and the Resurrection of our Lord, and enriches the true celebration when once again they ring out with the news of our Salvation.

I Am Risen

By Sr. Fidelis
Amid the glories of Easter, we are compelled to search out the message in this opening Introit of the Resurrection Eucharist.
One of the last anguished cries uttered by Jesus from the cross was: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) And here, at the cusp of the most triumphant holy day in all of Christianity, we hear these words from the Psalmist, in the mouth of Jesus; addressed to his Father, “I rose up and am still with you. You have laid your hand upon me. Your knowledge is become wonderful. Lord, you have proved me and known me: You have known my sitting down, and my rising up.” (Psalm 139) Before the trumpets and streaming banners of this day, we briefly look at the core of Jesus’ complete and utter trust in his Father’s love.
This intimate setting, reflected in the choice of Mode IV, portrays this in such a beautiful way, gently punctuated with Alleluias. It begins low, using one of the oldest intonation patterns of RE to FA. The reciting note of the antiphon is SOL, which again indicates its antiquity. We do not hear the LA until we arrive at the Psalm verse. The whole sense of this sublime chant is a heart-to-heart conversation between a Father and his beloved Son.

Resurrexi

EASTER: For He Has Triumphed Gloriously

The re-telling of the salvation story is essential in keeping our faith alive. Paul’s epistle reminds us that we are called to be witnesses of these great events and to pass them on.

I find echoes of the Exodus story in Mary Magdalene’s frantic response to discovering that the body of Jesus is no longer in the tomb. She runs off to alert the disciples. During times of uncertainty, we often want to get busy, doing something, rather than nothing. It is only when Mary returns to the tomb, standing still and weeping helplessly, that she encounters Jesus.  At first, she is preoccupied with grief, and she does not recognize him. Only when He speaks to her does she realize it is the teacher himself, somehow risen from the dead. Mary returns to the disciples to announce that she has seen the Lord, thus earning the title bestowed on her by the ancient church, “apostle to the apostles”.

Mary’s telling of the good news is a task she has passed on to us. How do we recognize  that we have seen the Lord, and how do we reveal this glorious truth to others? How do we dare speak of salvation and hope in a world so full of injustice, hatred, violence, and deadly accident?

This is the challenge and the mystery of Easter. For me it helps to remember that the victory song of Miriam is one of the most ancient in our scriptures. For many thousands of years the faithful have been able to stand tall and sing; “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously.”

By Kathleen Norris

Excerpted from God For Us, Paraclete Press

The Community of Jesus

A Gift is Coming

By Melodious Monk

Even a brief watching of the nightly news shows a world in need, and inwardly, we are never far from a spiritual battle between our human natures and God’s divine purposes.  Here we are at Ascension, a time when Jesus tried to explain to his closest followers why he had to leave them.  He said, “If I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you.”  The word Advocate can be derived from the Greek word Parakletos, also phrased as “one called alongside.” Or, as the NIV translates the word, “one who speaks in our defense.”  I forget regularly that Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit, our advocate, to help, to comfort, and to defend us.  As the season of Easter is fading away, we have a great gift coming from Jesus. A gift I want to learn more about. In moments of need, I want to learn to gain strength and trust by following this Advocate’s counsel.

The Community of Jesus

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Son

By Sr. Fidelis

Transition 

Easter 6 marks a significant transitional time in our Paschal journey.  Up until now, we’ve been in a wonderful “cocoon” of intimacy with the Risen Christ, and all the ways he’s made himself known to us — in the breaking of bread, in him as the good shepherd, and true vine.

But now, all the texts for both the Divine Office and Eucharist point to his imminent departure and the promise of the Holy Spirit’s coming. He is preparing us for the future, and what we are truly called to.

The text chosen for this year’s liturgical cycle in both the Alleluia and the Communion is:  I myself have chosen you out of the world, that you should go and bear fruit, and your fruit should remain.

The connection is so clear.  We cannot do this without abiding in him for sustenance, comfort and life itself.

The Community of Jesus

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Sr. Fidelis

Revelations – Easter 5

Each week of Paschaltide, Jesus has been giving us keys to the way he reveals himself to us.

The last several weeks, we’ve seen the word cognoscere  (to know) in the Communion antiphons, implying that this is an active “knowing” that we work at in our relationship with him.  He is “known” to us in the breaking of bread, and in his role as Good Shepherd.

This week’s Communion antiphon starts with the same tune and words as last week’s; Ego sum – I AM.  We see these words and remember that when God was revealed to Moses in the burning bush, he used these very words to identify himself. “I AM has sent me to you.”

I AM the true vine and you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.  This is a staggering statement.  All of life itself comes to the branches from the vine, if the branches are truly attached to the Source.

The Community of Jesus