He Who Sings, Prays Twice -St. Augustine

by Sister Victoria

Yesterday was a special and blessed day for our postulants of the Benedictine Sisters of Bethany here in the village of Kuvlu. These beautiful girls have taken the step from aspirants to postulants and with that step have received their new habits.

For the past couple of months, Sr Hannah and I have been busy putting together a new psalter with antiphons so that this new Community can begin singing the psalms.
Also, this past week began a rather intense two-week “music camp”. The girls have had beginning piano lessons with a visiting instructor, and I have been teaching them to chant the psalms. Meanwhile Sr Hannah has worked on alterations to their new habits, giving them their final pressing with a charcoal iron!

At church I sat behind them and admit, my eyes welled up a little thinking of the privilege and joy it is to be a part of their lives; young women wishing to serve God.

Here I Am, Lord

by Sister Victoria

Just recently we made the long journey from Kuvlu to Bafut to attend the consecration service for three of the Emmanuel sisters. What an event that was! It was a whole day affair, beginning with the service at 9:30 in the morning followed by a meal for all and then drumming, singing and dancing well into the night.

It is an event for all the families, who were distinguished by wearing outfits of the same flamboyant fabric, many neighboring villagers and friends, other religious including 20 clergy, and no doubt some walk-ups. All in all, there had to be no fewer than about 500 guests.

We were blessed to experience another slice of African life in this event, very much like a large wedding where the families “gave” their daughters away to be brides of Christ.

 

Suscipe

by Cantor
Tonight is our annual vow service. It is one of the most beautiful nights of the year. The church, still clothed in Epiphany garb, glows with the warmth of candle light. The vowed Community, robed with white scapulars, fill the seats on either side of the aisle the candidates will walk. And the candidates exude a light that comes with saying, “Yes.”
Everything about the service is moving, from the hymns, to the speaking of the vows, to the moment where the candidates prostrate him or herself at the foot of the altar in a moment of total vulnerability and surrender. It’s an event where the ever-moving stream of history is almost palpable and the unity with monastics across time and space is humbling to say the least. And it is a moment that reminds each of us of our own call.
One of the most beautiful moments is the chanting of the Suscipe — an ancient and traditional Gregorian chant for the final vows in a Benedictine community. The newly vowed sings it once on their own and then, in a chorus of support, the entire vowed community repeats it. It is as though, through the Latin text, we are pledging to stand with the newly professed, and they with us — a bond of obedience and dependence on God. And we sing it, knowing we will stumble, that sometimes we will want to quit, and that sometimes, we just need to stand still.
“Suscipe me Domine, secundum eloquium tuum et vivam; et non confundas me, ab expectatione mea.”

Uphold me, Lord, according to your word, and do not disappoint me in my hope.

Gregorian chant, Suscipe me, Domine, Community of Jesus

Balance

By Faithful Finch

I’m finding that being a docent at the Church of the Transfiguration, I learn new things all the time! I was researching the vow of conversion. This is the demanding vow for everyday change from self, to be more like Christ. What I found was the push for change in conversion balances the vow of stability, and keeps us from becoming stagnant. In stability, we put down our roots; in conversion of life, we spread our branches in growth. Stability is always content, while conversion of life is always curious.

It made me think of the mosaic professional path of our church, which is a Tree of Life. At the end of the tree blossoms the three Benedictine vows of Conversion, Obedience, and Stability, each of them balancing the other.

Butterfly

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Sr. Fidelis

Splendor Paternae Gloriae

The Office of Lauds, traditionally sung at dawn, is filled throughout with references to both the light and the “Light.”  We take for granted that we can have light today at the flip of a switch, while in earlier centuries, they were dependent upon the light of day, and were attuned to the sun’s rising and setting, and the spiritual significance of these natural events.  The Monday hymn for Lauds is filled with symbolic imagery.  It is a power-packed prayer text to begin a day.

O splendor of the Father’s glory, bringing forth light from light,
light of Light, and fountain of light, O Day, illuminating the day:

O true Sun, descend, sparkling with uninterrupted brightness;
O radiance of the Holy Spirit, pour in upon our senses.

Let us also call upon the Father with vows, the Father of perennial glory,
the Father of powerful grace, that he may remove the impure fault.

May he inspire steadfast acts; may he blunt the teeth of the envious;
may he direct favorably harsh situations; may he give grace to those who are bearing them.

May he govern and rule the mind in a chaste, faithful body;
let faith burn with zeal, may it not know the poisons of deceit.

Let Christ be food to us, let faith be our drink;
joyful, let us drink the sober intoxication of the Spirit.

May this day pass joyfully:  let modesty be as the dawn,
faith as the noonday;  let the spirit not know dusk.

Dawn carries on its course;  let the dawn go forward to every thing;
all the Son is in the Father, and all the Father is in the Word.  Amen   

                                                                                         Ambrose of Milan

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

Water From The Rock

By Renaissance Girl

I find myself confronted today with things in myself that I don’t like to admit. For one thing, I am determined to hang on to control of my own life — and it’s not working out very well with my vow of obedience to God.  I like to think I am available with an attitude of “here I am Lord,” but that is far from the truth. I feel myself resisting to my core — reinforcing a wall around my heart.

The painful part is admitting that my way is not always best. My pride screams out that this can’t be possible. I doggedly hang on to my way, even when it’s squeezing life out of me. I sat down this morning and thought, “I need a word about hard hearts.” I proceeded to open my daily devotional email.  And there it was: “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts,” Psalm 95.

We just heard yesterday in church about how the Israelites doubted God even though he had rescued them and provided for them.  But he wasn’t doing it the way THEY wanted, and their anger led them to even question God’s presence.  The remarkable thing though, is that, despite their grumbling, God still provided water for His people in the wilderness. His love baffles me — because it is not how I love.  He will do whatever it takes to bring us to where he has called us to be.

The meditation by Oswald Chambers that went with today’s scripture:The words of the Lord hurt and offend until there is nothing left to hurt or offend. Jesus Christ has no tenderness whatever toward anything that is ultimately going to ruin a man in the service of God.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

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.

church

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

Greater Love

by Renaissance Girl

I saw the movie “Of Gods and Men” this weekend — the true story of seven monks in a monastery in Algeria who, in 1996, amidst growing political turmoil in that country, were kidnapped in the middle of the night, held captive, and eventually killed…just because they were Christian.  It would take too long to say all the things that moved me about their story.  But two stood out.  One was the scene where a young woman was in turmoil over an arranged marriage and asked one of the older monks if he’d ever been in love.  “Many times,” he said, “but then I found a love greater than all of them, and I left everything for that love.”  His genuine love of God was palpable – so real – based in everyday experience.

But almost more inspiring was a scene where a younger monk was praying in his cell.  Each monk had agreed to pray and decide for themselves if they would stay or leave the country — knowing that staying put them in death’s path.  Br. Christophe was in turmoil — terrified of staying, and yet afraid to leave his call.  He literally cried out to God in the darkness of his cell, “Do not abandon me! Give me faith.”  It took my breath away — this raw, human, throwing of himself at God’s feet. 

And I came away with the knowledge that I want that — I want to love God every day — to cry out to him in the most real way — in joy and turmoil.

monks