From the Archives

by Melodius Monk

“I would like to beg you….as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday, far into the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

I read this letter by Rainer Maria Rilke and it reminded me of one of the founders of our Community, Mother Cay Anderson. I was only 6 when Mother Cay died, so what I know of her is mostly through other people’s stories.

Sometimes I’m discouraged in my walk as a young Christian, feeling like I still wrestle with many of the same questions, doubts, and unbelief that I had when I first became a Christian. When I feel this way, a Brother likes to remind me of a saying that he had been taught by Mother Cay. She would encourage him by saying “it takes a lifetime to come into Christ.”

I find the combination of these two ideas comforting. Rilke’s notion of living your heart’s questions now, and Mother Cay’s encouragement to not be too impatient with yourself.

Each of our lifetimes is vastly unique, but I dare say that each phase of our lives is equally necessary, the good times as well as the difficult times. Hopefully in the end, each question we wrestle with will come together to make the whole person we are becoming.

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)

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

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor 

Threads of Connection

I recently had the privilege of giving a seminar in my hometown on Gregorian chant and various chant book publications. The seminar was at a bookstore which is owned by a gentleman only three years my senior. We have had occasional talks over the past few years concerning chant and chant publications as part of our everyday business.

Recently, we started talking about our mutual hometown, discovering along the way we had attended the same high school and the same junior high, only four years apart. That led to the next discovery that we had grown up only three blocks from each other in this large mid-western city! Instantly, we had a connection — a common thread. It was this thread that led to an invitation for the seminar.

However, while setting up and conducting the seminar, we discovered a stronger bond — the mutual love of chant and its importance in both of our lives. What had begun as an everyday business relationship had become a shared passion for chant and chant education! I now have a new friend in my old hometown whom I would never have discovered without chant to draw us together.  Chant had been a mutual thread in both of us for decades before our paths crossed — what a joy!

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

Fear Not

By Renaissance Girl

Gloriae Dei Cantores gave two concerts this past weekend.  The closing piece was Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem.  It is an incredibly stirring piece — first performed in 1936. Vaughan Williams, having seen first-hand the horrors of WWI, and already feeling the tensions that would lead to WWII, set texts from scripture and the expressive poetry of Walt Whitman. The full orchestra undergirds the choir’s cries for peace and laments over the relentlessness of war.  At one point, having reached a peak with a cry of “Is there no balm in Gilead?” the music takes a sudden turn with the baritone solo coming in with the words “Oh man, greatly beloved, fear not.  Peace be unto you.”  It’s as though the tired, ragged and spent body of the pray-er is suddenly breathed over and touched by the hand of God himself.  I was surprised to learn the text is from the book of Daniel.  Daniel has just seen a vision of the destruction of his people and says literally, “My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe because of the vision.” The vision before him is of a man who touches him and says the words that Vaughn Williams set — and “he was strengthened.”  It caught me that in our brokenness and exhaustion, if we can simply turn our face to God, all it takes is a word from him to strengthen us.  In international war, or our own internal battles day after day — God calls us “greatly beloved” and bids us “Fear not.”

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Photo By Kate Shannon

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Chant “back then”

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of traveling to the city of Barga located in the northern part of Italy. As part of that travel, our chant schola chanted the midday office and compline in a church which was constructed and then added to over the course of several centuries. Towering above us in this church was a 12th century wooden statue of St. Christopher, still bearing its own wounds from centuries of war and unrest made visible in the arrowheads still in its torso.

As we chanted, I was struck by the thought that when that statue and that church were new, it is quite likely that chants we were praying were also relatively new. We were actually chanting in the surroundings in which these chants first came to life! Listening in this extraordinary building, the acoustic “told us” the tempo to take, allowed us to hear and experience the building of harmonies which hung in the air like incense, and gave us a sense that this chant had been heard in this room many thousands of times. The span of centuries was instantly crossed as we joined our voices with those voices of chant from “back then” – when the voice of the church was much younger and yet full of all the years that it would carry through. It made me realize again that we have the privilege every time we chant, of joining instantly with all of those centuries of prayer.

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Perspective

By Renaissance Girl

This past Sunday was the 14th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Church of the Transfiguration. I can hardly believe 14 years have gone by since that incredibly hot day in June of 2000 when we filled the church with family and friends to celebrate the event that only a few short years earlier had seemed both thrilling and daunting!

The homilist on Sunday had us stand up with a series of questions – “If you were baptized in this church, please stand. . . If you were married here, please stand. . . had the funeral of a loved one. . . have come in for private prayer, . . . etc.” until everyone in the church was on their feet. It was a meaningful moment as we reflected on how we have filled the church with worship over the past 14 years and the church, in turn, has inspired in us a desire to raise our worship to meet the God who made this building possible.

What made me pause and think on this day, though, was when I looked around and realized there is a generation under 14 years old who have never known anything different. This has always been their church, the only one they have known. They were in strollers while their parents were having their faith stretched believing for this building and the art that fills it. They were learning to walk as the newly vowed walked the mosaic processional path to make their profession. Their generation will see other change and growth but they will never stand in the concrete shell of this new church celebrating the Easter Vigil.

I felt suddenly small in the face of how quickly time goes and how, to each generation, God brings the challenges and blessings that are perfect for them. And I felt a wave of gratitude and found myself whispering a prayer of thanks to have been part of the generation to build this house.

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God Is Nigh

By Melodious Monk

This Memorial Day, hearing the hauntingly beautiful sounds of the simple melody we call ‘taps’ brought unexpected tears to my eyes. There’s a fair bit of mystery about the exact origin of this tune coming out of the Civil War, but the emotional impact of these 24 repetitious notes is undeniable. Originally written as the call to signal the end of the day, today most of us best associate the call with funerals and memorial services. I had forgotten the lyrics to this beautiful melody:

Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh.

Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar, drawing near
Falls the night.

Thanks and praise for our days
Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky
As we go, this we know
God is nigh.

I especially find comfort and mystery in the last line of the 1st and 3rd stanzas, “God is nigh.” What a wonderful way to end each day, remembering that no matter what has befallen us today, God was there. It’s a gentle reminder to put our tiny individual lives in the perspective of a vast and grand Heaven. Likewise, it is a moving statement to make at the remembrance of a loved one’s life, realizing that these fallen earthly vessels are now “nigh” with God. May God bless all of our veterans, and those who continue to serve in the armed forces today.

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Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

The Song of Prayer
 
Dom Eugene Cardine, Benedictine monk and famed musicologist who lived and worked in the Abbey of St. Peter of Solesmes, left a document that he entitled his “last will and testament.” That, in itself, is not so unusual. However, rather than writing a document that bequeathed physical belongings to those closest to him, he wrote a letter leaving all of us his final thoughts about all he had learned about chant and what he had learned from it.
 
I have read Dom Cardine’s letter several times, and each time I am struck by one particular thought that he offers: any chant — its actual sound — is “drawn out” of the essence of the text which it is designed to serve. Ponder that statement for a minute and remember that the vast majority of chanted texts are quotes from scripture.
 
There is a long and cherished tradition and history of actually praying the words of scripture. So, it comes as no surprise that chant has come to be know as ‘the song of prayer.”  As we move into the summer months during which many of us will attend workshops to increase our skills with chant, let’s remember to increase and deepen our prayers as we exercise the privilege of praying through the chant.