Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Talk to Me today

In the Rule of St. Benedict, we find the instruction to “prefer nothing to the work of God.” The “work” to which Benedict refers is that of praying the Divine Office. In his monastery, the monks prayed the offices seven times a day, always coming from their various activities of work, recreation, or even sleep,  The number of Divine Offices prayed in monasteries today may vary, but the principal is still the same — “prefer nothing to the work of God.”

Sometimes, it is quite easy to stop what I am doing and attend the Office. Other times, it feels like an unwanted interruption. In either case, the opening chant of the Divine Office is always a reminder to me that God knows these thoughts and feelings I have. The service of Lauds, which means “praise,” opens with the text, “O Lord, open Thou my lips and my mouth will show forth Thy praise.” The other offices open with “O Lord, come to my aid and help me.”  In both cases, these simple opening chants, which are a “call and response,” remind me instantly that it is God’s action which “taps on my shoulder” and says “Remember and talk to me throughout your whole day.”

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Illumination from the Cantigas de Santa Maria medieval-era manuscripts.

Gems From A Little Red Book

By Melodious Monk

Tonight I was inspired to pick up my small copy of the Rule of St. Benedict. While looking for a 3-ring binder, this little red glossy cover buried in a stack of books caught my attention, so I placed it in my coat pocket for later reading. Just before bed, I remembered the little book.

Today was a difficult day for me. It was the type of day when nothing seemed to work out – at least on the surface. I found myself in several arguments, which eventually got settled, but left me somewhat disquieted.

So at the end of the day, opening the little red book, I was more than drawn into its words, surprised to discover that St. Benedict’s pen was addressing me directly.

Listen carefully, my son… this is advice from a father who loves you… First of all, every time you begin a good work… You must pray for him most earnestly to bring it to perfection… for the Scripture arouses us when they say: It is high time for us to arise from sleep. (Rom 13:11)… If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts (Ps 94:8) Come and listen to me and I will teach you the fear of the Lord (Ps 33:12) Keep your tongue free from vicious talk… Let peace be your peace and aim… Once you have done this, my eyes will be upon you and my ears will listen to your prayers.” (Isa 58.9)

(Excerpts from Prologue to Rule of St. Benedict. 1980. Edited Timothy Fry)

What a treasure of wisdom. If you haven’t read St. Benedict’s Rule, I recommend it.  It’s full of so many rich gems. There’s good reason why fifteen hundred years later so many people still follow his teachings.

The Community of Jesus

 

Vows

By Melodious Monk

Last week was a particularly special and significant week for our monastic community, because it is the week in which novices, and simple professed members can make their professions.

The Rule of Life of the Community of Jesus states, “Though in its essence Christian discipleship is a vocation common to all believers, the vows made in a monastic life give that discipleship a distinct form.”  The next page continues on to say,  “Following centuries of monastic tradition, membership in the Community of Jesus is built upon three primary vows: obedience, conversion, and stability.”

Hearing these professions serves as a reminder to me of the life-choices I have committed to in this particular place. I think it can also serve to remind all Christians of their daily choices to follow Christ. Each morning I’m given anew the choice to step into the endless stream of the unceasing love, mercy, and creativity of God. The choice is mine to reject — or to wade forward on faith: the opportunity is always newly presented. Many days I have to remind myself to re-choose this discipleship, to choose to believe in God’s promised goodness as a backdrop for my life today.

The Community of Jesus

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Keep Winding the Clock

This may seem a strange title for a chant blog. However, I have been thinking recently about two aspects of the daily and weekly repetition of chanting: the effect that it has on my daily life and what it teaches me about simply “keeping at it.”

Living in a Benedictine community, we are privileged to chant the Divine Office multiple times a day. Catch me on a different day and I might say we have the discipline of chanting the Offices daily. Find me yet another day and I would say, “I can’t believe it’s already time to do the next Office – I can’t possible get there at this moment!”

When St. Benedict states in his rule to “prefer nothing to the work of God”–which in his case, Opus Dei referred to the Divine Office–I believe he knew all too well that at any given moment we might really feel inspired to get to the service and, in the next breath, not! However, regardless of feelings, he also knew how much we need repetition to stay focused on God.

Chant has the most wonderful and gentle way of reminding me that no matter the circumstances of the moment and their accompanying feelings for either good or ill, God is eternally present right now. Listening to the opening antiphon for Lauds, I am reminded that this has been the same sound heard at Lauds around the world, throughout this Easter season and for centuries! There are thousands of people today with all kinds of circumstances who are opening their mouths and chanting these words.

All of a sudden, I am not so focused on myself! Chant has the inherent ability to raise me out of myself and unite with others in this process of staying focused on God.

I can’t think of a better reason to “keep winding the clock!”

chant blog image.may16.2014

Always We Begin Again

By Renaissance Girl
 
It’s been right under my nose for years and it’s only just sunk in. I was caught by the final verse of Psalm 61 in Lauds this morning: “Then I will ever sing in praise of your name and fulfill my vows day after day.”
 
Day after day. Not a one shot deal, not a magic switch you flip and never have to think about again. I realize that’s what I look for — a one time solution — setting my course and putting myself on auto-pilot.
 
But it’s not that simple, or maybe a better way to look at it is that it’s not that stagnant. Life with God — vowed life — is a “day after day” kind of living. Every morning when my feet hit the floor, I vow again. I say yes (with God’s grace) to starting the process and staying with it that day. And if…no, when…I fall, I plant my feet and begin again. It’s a more hopeful way to live than in some of the ways I’ve tried to strive.  
 
It reminded me this morning of that quote “Always we begin again.” I couldn’t remember where it came from, and was a little embarrassed to find it is in the Rule of St Benedict — the foundation of our vowed life and our own Rule. It’s been right here telling me I don’t have just one shot to get it right…..I have Day after Day!
 
FreshStart

Vows

by Melodius Monk  

This is a particularly special and significant week for our monastic community, because it is the week in which novices, and simple professed members can make their professions.  

The Rule of Life of the Community of Jesus states, “Though in its essence Christian discipleship is a vocation common to all believers, the vows made in a monastic life give that discipleship a distinct form.”  The next page continues on to say,  “Following centuries of monastic tradition, membership in the Community of Jesus is built upon three primary vows: obedience, conversion, and stability.”

Hearing these professions serves as a reminder to me of the life-choices I have committed to in this particular place. I think it can also serve to remind all Christians of their daily choices to follow Christ. Each morning I’m given anew the choice to step into the endless stream of the unceasing love, mercy, and creativity of God. The choice is mine to reject — or to wade forward on faith: the opportunity is always newly presented. Many days I have to remind myself to re-choose this discipleship, to choose to believe in God’s promised goodness as a backdrop for my life today. 

Longing

 by Renaissance Girl  

I think I’ve always known that absence makes the heart grow fonder — i just didn’t realize I would feel that way, on tour deep in Texas, about Eucharist.  We’ve been on the road now over a week with Gloriae Dei Cantores and I found myself about two days ago feeling a hole inside, and was surprised to find I was missing our church and longing for Eucharist.  I’m not surprised to miss our church, but I love to travel. And honestly, I’m just not sure I’ve ever felt this yearning for Eucharist. Our Rule of Life calls Eucharist the “principal expression of worship” and “central to our life as a fellowship, and to each of us as individual members.” The placement of the altar in our church says that here is where we find our sustaining food for the journey — this act of receiving the body and blood of Christ is of utmost importance.  So I am surprised, but maybe pleasantly so, that I feel a bit un-tethered without it.  And then, today, we had Eucharist, in a quiet little hotel meeting room in Lubbock, TX.  “The body of Christ, the blood of Christ” was heard as we held out eager hands, and the ultimate gift of love answered longing.

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

by Sr Fidelis    
 
“Benedict’s Way”

Before we go much further in our exploration of Gregorian Chant, it is important to look at another great “giant” – Benedict of Nursia.  Benedict is often referred to as the father of western monasticism. Born in 480, only 60 years before Gregory the Great, Benedict is most well known for his Rule — a guidebook for pursuing the monastic life.  Although his Rule was influenced by earlier writings, Benedict’s had a unique spirit of balance and moderation. In fact, Gregory the Great commented that the Rule was “remarkable for its discretion and its clarity of language.”  

Benedict’s Rule called for a wonderful balance — “ora et labora” (prayer and work), along with spiritual reading — to assist those in pursuit of God in the monastery. But the “Opus Dei” (the work of God) was clearly the most important.  Benedict devoted no less than 12 full chapters of his Rule (out of 73) to the Chanting of the Psalms; what we know today as the Divine Office. The genius of his Rule was that it allowed for the possibility of each monastic house (including future ones, like ours) to adapt the schedule of Offices to fit its own needs. Flexibility and moderation are the reason so many men and women throughout the centuries have lived by this inspired guide.

Let nothing be preferred to the work of God.  – Rule of Saint Benedict