by Sister Fidelis
On September 8 we celebrate the Nativity of Mary, a feast that was established as early on as the 6th century. Once again we have a collection of beautiful hymns, antiphons, and Propers, all written very specifically for this day. The hymn for Lauds is especially lovely: O gloriosa Domina, taken from the second half of a larger hymn written by Fortunatus in the mid 500s. The four verses used at Lauds have many wonderful descriptions of Mary: glorious Lady; gentle one; door of the high king; shining gate of light….
The melody of the hymn has a very simple and gentle feeling. While it covers a range greater than an octave, it moves largely in step-wise motion or leaps of a third. The second and fourth quarters of each verse have a lovely cascading pattern of pedes and clivi rippling from re to sol and landing finally on the home-tone, la.
It’s amazing to think of this piece being sung annually on this date for close to 1500 years. Several sources state that it was the favorite hymn of St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231), that the song was always on his lips, even on his deathbed (Catholic Encyclopedia).
Here below is a visual sample of the first two verses as well as a recording of Gloriæ Dei Cantores Men’s Schola singing the hymn (from the CD, The Chants of Mary).
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?
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.
Photo By Kate Shannon
By Sr. Nun Other
We recently celebrated a special birthday for one of our Sisters. It was a lovely party, with many sisters sharing in preparations, and contributing a variety of creative gifts. It was beautiful. It was delicious. And it was fun. But more importantly, it was a unifying moment, when we each brought the best of who we are. I was reminded of Psalm 122:2,3: Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem stands built up, a city knitted together. Other translations use the word compacted, having all necessary components or features, and yet another reads a city that is at unity in itself. I find inward unity elusive; anxiety where I could have faith, anger when I need compassion, fighting for my own way, saying yes when I really mean no. At unity within myself – that’s my hope, prayer, and personal journey.
By Gourmet Nun
When it is a Sister’s big birthday at the Convent we try to make it as special as we can. Last week for her 60th birthday the Sister celebrating it chose for a theme “Spring on Cape Cod.”
Decorations included a variety of spring flowers and plants, forsythia and pussy willow and beautiful sea shells.
The menu was “Fish and Chips” served in divided little baskets. The atmosphere was purposefully casual with lots of fun and merry making. The food owed its success to this simple yet “Special Beer Batter” used for frying.
Special Beer Batter
1 cup flour
1 can beer
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon mustard
2 cups crushed potato chips
Pour beer into flour ’til thin. Add 1 beaten egg, Worcestershire sauce and mustard. Dip fish or chicken in the batter and then roll in potato chip crumbs. Fry at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 3-4 minutes.
by Artist Eye
My Godmother was the most creative person I knew when I was a kid. Handmade, never before imagined, uniquely crafted items arrived in the mail for Christmas and birthdays. A visit to her home always included a tour of the latest renovation, remodeling, or re-purposing she had dreamed up. No wall was too sacred to demolish, no paint color too outrageous to try, and no material too unfamiliar to hazard. She was not, as it happened, a Christian. I have often thought that God knew that that department of my little life was well in hand and so He gave me something else He knew I needed. My Aunt Dorcas had an eye for beauty and life. She was not about the status quo or worrying about what the whole neighborhood thought. She was what I now think of as a model of the “courage to create.” Being creative can sometimes seem like a dicey business so I thank God for those people I’ve known who were willing to run the risk.