On Thick Ice

By Sr. Nun Other

Last Sunday, I chose the path less traveled. That is to say, I refused to walk around, behind and through a building to get to my destination. Instead I followed a shorter path. Shorter, but ice-covered. With turtle-like steps, I wobbled atop a good three inches of frozen water. I sometimes wonder where memories come from. Not scientifically, but, why-and why now? My twenty-five yard journey from one door to the other stirred “the memory pot.” As a child, I lived in awe of my older sister and her best friend. We grew up country in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. They often took their younger siblings on adventures, and in the winter dare devil sledding and ice skating on Hettenbaugh Creek topped the list. One very cold night, we built a small fire on the bank of that creek, and skated beneath a star-laden sky. It was magic created, not digitally or by a list of gifted people whose names are read at the end of a movie. It was melded creation and courage, grounded in trust that we were loved and watched over. No foolishness, mind you, but neither was there doubt we would return home frozen but victorious.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

Gifts of Service

By Melodious Monk

Jesus comes to us in many ways. In this season, we especially pay attention to Him coming as an infant. And what do infants need?  In short, lots of help — constant care, someone to feed them, keep them warm, and protect them.

I realized something today. I look forward to Advent, to its hope and the expectation of Jesus – for a fresh start, forgetting the past year and moving on with purpose and expectation.  It’s a time to say “yes,” to open my heart and to allow more room for Jesus.  “Come Lord Jesus, quickly come” falls out of my lips as the time-honored mantra of the season.

I learned something else today. Underneath my hope, need, and expectation for God to come, to save, and to heal me, what I’m really asking (even demanding) is to be given these gifts. I don’t really want to serve this infant King; I just want him to do what I fervently ask!

And yet Jesus comes to us as a needy infant. I can only imagine the time and energy necessary to take care of or “serve” a new-born. This “service” is a full-time commitment. In contemplating the Christ Child during Advent, are Jesus, Mary, and Joseph teaching me how to serve the adult Christ as well?  I’m reminded that God wants a relationship with me. In addition to asking for his help and healing, I also must love and serve him. Then I can expect to be able to walk with him.

The Community of Jesus

 

Uncontrollably Unabashed

By Melodious Monk

This past Sunday, our marching band was part of a parade celebrating the 350th anniversary for a nearby town. Marching down the narrow streets, I noticed a particularly happy group along the side of the road — young kids! It’s fun to see how the rhythm of the drums, or the sparkle of the uniform, or the sound of the instruments, the twirling flags, or just the sheer size of the long marching unit makes kids smile.

You know when a toddler or infant is excited and they just start flailing their arms and body with lots of energy and smiles?  They aren’t controlled enough yet to do much else, but when something inside is sparked to life, they respond with a type of dancing (of sorts!) and there is absolutely no care of what they might look like! Some of us older kids, I’m afraid, are often too embarrassed to follow this impulse to dance. We care what we look like, and perhaps we are afraid we might look like the uncontrolled toddler trying to dance. The young child doesn’t care about pride, or how they look — they’re just excited and want to express that innate joy. Marching in the parade, I wondered if this instinctive response to express, to dance, to let oneself be sparked by joy, is part of what Jesus means when He tells us to live child-like.

So I wonder, what form of control often robs me of this unabashed joy as an adult? Is it simply pride?

The Community of Jesus

 

Sunset

By Renaissance Girl

I visited my grandmother yesterday for her 95th birthday.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen her.  She was in her bed by the window, mint green sweat suit with embroidered flowers peeking out from under the covers, hair in wild curls against the pillow.  I gave her a hug and kiss and said “Wow, Grandma, 95 – Happy Birthday!”  She smiled and answered “I know….., I don’t know what’s next from here.”  The comment caught me off guard.  It wasn’t depressed or negative, really just a musing but so much was held in those words.

We sat together and ate the pepperoni pizza that was her birthday request.  We talked about family and birds and books and food, and we talked about giving up her apartment and giving away her things and the fact that she might not actually be able to walk again.  The time went by fast and when it was time to go, I wanted to take her with me – to whisk her away from those sterile halls and build her a room full of color, surrounded by trees that birds could sing in. As I headed home, I pondered how our perspective changes from childhood to adulthood – how the things that seemed important as a kid, like who gave the best Christmas presents, which grandparent was the most “fun,” who let you eat candy – are along the way rendered irrelevant by a new awareness.  Here was a woman who suffered and kept going, who loved her husband and watched him die first, who raised her children with the best she could instill in them, who made mistakes and picked back up, and who loved her grandchildren and great-grandchildren with all her heart and now is graciously awaiting “what’s next from here.” Somehow I feel that, on her birthday, I got a gift too.

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Photo By Kate Shannon

 

All Things Bright and Beautiful

By Melodious Monk

This well known and beautifully simple hymn was originally written to teach children the Apostles’ creed by an Irish woman in the mid 1800’s. Though written for young people, it reminds, and teaches to some of us bigger children, lessons we may have forgotten. Through some of nature’s local examples, the hymn writer spends seven verses explaining to the kids the start of the creed “I believe in God the father Almighty the make of heaven and earth.”  So simple, and yet so profound. Jesus tells us not to worry, for everything is in God’s hands and control. This sounds so simplistic, and I blow it off without even finishing the sentence. Yet it is true; like children we are hungry and needy and dependent on God, but also like children we are full of wonder, creativity, playfulness and joy! It is not a negative to be dependent on someone else, or to be child-like. If you know the tune, try humming it to yourself or singing one of the verses, chances are it might make you smile!

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all. 

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.

The purple-headed mountain,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning,
That brightens up the sky;

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them high and lowly,
And ordered their estate.

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one;

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows for our play,
The rushes by the water,
To gather every day;

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

 

1 Heather

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor
 
Children, Chant and Percussion

         
Sitting in a cold sports arena in northern Massachusetts during a high school winter percussion rehearsal is not exactly where I might be inclined to think about chant. But, as I was listening to the marimba and vibraphone warm-up, I was struck by the fact that the exercise was actually a modal exercise — Mode V in fact. The kids playing that exercise find performing a piece on a chant mode just as normal as a major or minor scale!
 
All of the members of this winter percussion group attend the service of Lauds every morning so, just like the percussion instruments they so enthusiastically play, the chant is something that has come to be a part of them and their everyday experience.
 
Listening to them play, you can tell that they have developed a sense of how to breathe and “speak” together and that has come at least, in part, from their daily attendance of the Divine Office. What an inspiration it is to hear and see the dedication of these teenagers as they work so diligently in preparation for their upcoming shows. Anyone who has been involved in the arts knows that much of what is required is consistent determination — daily working at the craft — just like our work as cantors. It makes me wonder if, the next time we are at Lauds, if I will see the faces of these young people and be reminded of that Mode V keyboard warm-up — one more great example of chant as part of everyday life!
 
cantors.blog

Discovery

 

I share a home with a couple and their three young children (all under 10). Not having children of my own, I love living with them and being able to participate in their lives — good days and bad. What I find fascinating is watching their personalities emerge and develop. One minute they are having a “typical kid moment.” Maybe the two-year-old is having a fit because he wanted cheese and not a banana. Maybe the seven-year-old has “forgotten” he’s supposed to be taking a shower and is building a Lego tower. And maybe the nine-year-old is making plastic jewelry with her new kit and giggling at the pieces that come out terribly. And then something pops out — an unexpected reaction that is surprisingly full of truth, or an impulsive gesture of gentleness in the midst of sibling rivalry, or a piece of art created that gives a glimpse into what is really going on in that little heart.

Some of us have been talking recently with one of the clergy about “Gifts of the Spirit.” About how God gives each of us something to use for the good of everyone. I love the New Living Translation which says, “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” (1 Cor. 12:7). The challenge is learning to recognize the gifts in each other and support them, instead of wondering why that person got that gift and we got this one. Why do we compare when God has given us each something unique and totally appropriate for us?

I thought of that this week watching the three kids — already a seed is planted in them that will grow and flourish and benefit everyone around them. And ours is the privilege to water it and help be sure it is planted in good soil. Maybe if we try to look through God’s lens, we’ll make amazing discoveries about each other.

 
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Seeing Through

 
I was in Boston this past week with Elements Theatre Company.  Four members of the company performed “God of Carnage” by French playwright Yasmina Reza.  In short, it is the story of two sets of parents who have met to discuss the fact that one of their sons has smashed the other in the face with a stick and broken two teeth.  Through the course of the play, each parent is stripped down to their raw-est self and what seemed a clear cut case left me with more questions than answers.
 
It was a unique opportunity to see it almost four times.  I learned things about myself I wasn’t completely prepared for.  Like the fact that I make a hard and fast judgement based on surface facts.  It seemed clear to me that the boy with the stick was at fault and should be punished – until the rest of the story started to come out and I found myself questioning the “victim.”  Or that I, too, have a “public persona” I put on to ensure that I am well-received and liked, when what’s really underneath would rival any nine year-old.  When I get uncomfortable with a situation, it’s easier to fixate on something else — like a tragedy in a foreign country — than to lean into what’s right in front of me.
 
Isn’t that partly (or mostly) why we go to theatre?  To see ourselves and what we truly are – or could be?  To see that maybe we don’t have to live our persona — maybe it’s possible to just be ourselves. 
 
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Late Have I Loved You

by Artist Eye

Listening to the rain pattering off the trees reminded me of summer camp in the mountains. Nothing between us and the rain but a cabin screen; bundled up in sweatshirts as the late August air rapidly released the swelter of its heat; happily marooned with fellow cabin mates—our family unit for the summer.

I learned a lot about myself in the casual acceptance of total strangers. Slipped from the moorings of whatever it was that I thought my family expected of me, I tried out new ways of being myself. I saw the world with different eyes. I know I was lucky; I know I was loved; and I don’t take for granted the work that it took to build an environment for kids that was that safe and that sound.

foundation

 

 

 

 

Late Have I Loved You

by Artist Eye  

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. Hebrews12:1

Sometimes when I struggle with myself I am motivated by a picture of a crowd of watchers peering down from heaven, their smiling faces ranged around a balustrade. On a good day I imagine both the strangers and the dear departed friends cheering and laughing good naturedly. And on the bad days? Well, then I guess their faces are more earnest and intent, and perhaps some of them let their exasperation with their charge show in their faces.

I had to reconsider this image recently when someone pointed out that maybe some of that crowd might actually be very much alive, and looking up, not down. Some of the great cloud might still be a few feet shorter than me. I never imagine that the small people I know take much notice of my coming and going but who knows who is looking on. There’s nobody who sees more honestly than a perceptive child. Now there’s a new motivator to
 
keep up the fight.
 
 
 
 
 
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