Ponder In Our Hearts

By Sr. Nun Other

Advent is a time to pause and consider, to wait with patience as action builds and events unfold: an angel’s visit, a young woman’s obedience, and a husband’s acceptance; a journey to a hostile city, unwelcome and unprotected; shepherds and choirs of angels, noble kings bearing gifts, and a treacherous king bearing destruction. It’s only Act I and we are witness as a child-king is born into the hands of all mankind.

The Community of Jesus

An Advent Search For Quiet Moments

By Sr. Nun Other

Yesterday, I experienced quiet in a room with several people. Each was absorbed in their work, but not isolated from the other. It was an active quiet, and brought to mind my personal Advent reading for the day: Luke 1:26-38, the Annunciation. There is no written proof, but traditionally, Mary is pictured alone, in quiet work, when Gabriel appears. The scene unfolds (at least in my mind) in discreet tranquility, in a quiet village in Nazareth, a quiet event, that will one day alter the course of humankind.

The Community of Jesus

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)

Quiet Reminder

By Renaissance Girl

Tucked behind the set of our theater production of “Julius Caesar,” I have had the unexpected privilege of hearing comments from the audience as they return to their seats after intermission. The set is outside in the atrium of The Church of the Transfiguration — the stone paving and imposing columns setting a believable scene for this historic tale. Inside the side aisles, the roof gives way to open air — the moon and stars add to the elemental thread through the play.

As I stood there two nights ago in silence and out of sight, I heard two women walk by, heading back to their seats. One of them said “I just can’t help but look up to the heavens now and again — it’s so beautiful” and her friend replied, “I know, and to see that huge angel looking back down on us — amazing!” I smiled to myself at the reminder to look up to the heavens now and then, and know there are angels looking back whether we see them or not.

The Community of Jesus

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

So Much Color!

We find ourselves today in a “liturgical waiting period” between the Feast of the Ascension and the Feast of Pentecost. The chants for both of these feasts always strike me with the extraordinary musical coloring of their respective texts!

Have any of you ever played the game where you stand and look up into the sky, and wait for others to stop and see what it is you are looking at? Well, the chants for Ascension do exactly this with each of us! For example, look at the opening of the Introit for Ascension – Viri Galilaei (O Men of Galilee) – in which angels ask the disciples why they are looking up. Instantly, your eyes will be led in an upward direction as will your voice, chanting from the bottom to the top of the mode on just the first two words!

The chants for Pentecost are equally descriptive but in a rather more “fiery” way. The Communion antiphon for Pentecost – Factus est repente (A mighty sound from Heaven) – opens with a dramatic horn-call motive that gives an almost operatic quality to the opening words.

These are but two examples of the incredible ways which the sound of the chant is really the “sound of the words.” If you have a moment, take time during this wonderful period of anticipation between Ascension and Pentecost to learn and chant these two works I mentioned and enjoy the “discovery process!”

 

chant blog may 30.2014

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

A Beautiful Departure 

One of our long-time community members died quite peacefully and happily this past week. She was 97 and extraordinarily full of life!  We always observe a vigil 24 hours prior to the funeral service and burial, during which the Divine Office moves from whatever season we may be in, to the Office of the Dead.  It was amazing! The use of “major modes” was everywhere — the psalms hopeful and full of praise for God’s mercy and grace — such joy for the believer’s return to Heaven. 
          
At the funeral Eucharist, we closed with the exquisite “In Paradisum” chant. That chant moved me to tears as we told our friend good-bye until we see her again in Heaven. 
           
I guess what was really on my mind and heart is that again, here was chant at such a crucial point in life — the time to return home to God. And, such a simple and beautiful chant — a “send-off” to Paradise”. This is one of the truest beauties of chant: helping us to keep our wonderment and awe of God’s love at such turning points in our lives!
 
“In paradisum deducant te Angeli; in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem. Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere æternam habeas requiem.”
 
May the angels lead you into paradise; and when you arrive, may the martyrs receive you and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem. May the ranks of angels receive you, and along with Lazarus, once a poor man, may you have eternal rest.
 
chant blog.4.8.14
 
 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

Chant – God’s Love and Reminder!
 
A friend and colleague who primarily sells educational materials came over to my desk late yesterday afternoon to relay her most recent phone conversation. She had been offering a collection of religious education materials to a Director of Religious Education (DRE) in a Catholic church. As usual, my colleague was describing the materials to the DRE and was getting an interested but not overly excited response. The last item to be described was a recording entitled “The Chants of Angels”. At this point, the DRE interrupted the conversation – now with some amazement – because she had just been given that recording by a friend. You see, this DRE had been fighting cancer and her friend had given her that exact recording, hoping it would bring some peace into her life.
 
I am sure that many of us run into these “events” from time to time, with our own reaction of ‘WOW”!  I am sharing this story because the Lord also used it to remind me that others are suffering, that they need prayer AND that I never know how a person may be touched  by something such as chant. We say and hear so often that chant is first and foremost “sung prayer,” that this reminder from the Lord once again made me stop and ponder just how real that prayer actually is!
 
Have a blessed Thanksgiving!
 
chant.11.22

Mysteries

 
At Eucharist we acclaim and aspire to “live to the praises of God’s Glory.” And I wonder, what does this mean – will I really aim for this during my day today? I love the timeless mystery present in the Eucharist. I love the hope that my voice and our small number of voices gathered together this morning will somehow connect to heaven, to guardian angels and saints, to the Apostles, to those on the other side of the world that are also seeking God. Yet, I feel small and weak, knowing that when I leave church I will wrestle inside with the gap between the vision of Eucharist and how my stirring, conflicting emotions feel throughout the day. A friend likes to remind me that “praise is the key that unlocks countless blessings.” Perhaps putting praise first will help me to live in the vision of God’s glory.
 
journey

Late Have I Loved You

 
Beauty So Ancient and So New
 
In the ruins of the monastery of Monasterboice, Ireland, there is a nineteen-foot carved sandstone cross from the tenth century known as Muiredach’s High Cross. The central panel of the cross’s west face shows a crucifixion scene with a young beardless Christ on the cross. As is typical of medieval Irish depictions, He is the Christus Triumphans type; He is shown alive and without suffering. Above his outstretched arms there are two angels.
 
These two angels have appeared in crucifixion scenes for centuries. Often when the details of their features are more clearly articulated, they are shown distraught with grief over the suffering of their Lord. The softened abstraction of what remains of Muiredach’s High Cross suggests a different attitude to me. I imagine the attentive affection of the heavenly ones as they brood over their Love laid slain; an affection resisting despair and poised to rejoice at the renewal they await; an attitude I hope they still bear today when they look down and contemplate the troubles of our times. 
 
detail of the Muiredach Cross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo copyright © Mary Ann Sullivan.