Welcoming Words

By Melodious Monk
 

A reading from the book of James:  “Welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.” There’s so much hope in this instruction from James. I love 3 words in particular from this NRSV translation: 

1) Welcome! This word, welcome, is both a warm invitation and a call to action. 
 
2) Implanted word (yes two words, but hooking them together as one idea!) The “implanted word” makes me think of a garden that is constantly and abundantly producing new “words.”  Moment by moment, God in his mysterious genius has planted in us the perfect word for this particular day. (Imagine for a moment how much creativity and love God has planted in every soul)  Something that is implanted is also permanent, but not stagnant. 
 
3) Power. Do we realize the power that has been entrusted to us? For in this implanted word is the ultimate power of the universe. St. James reminds us that if we are meek enough to trust in Jesus’ words, He has the power and willingness to heal anything we ask for ourselves or for others.
 
 

Time and Place

 
Not long ago, someone whom I love and respect asked me to institute a small procedural change.  Because the instruction came in the short space between Lauds and Eucharist, and action would have been disruptive, my instinct was not now. My desire for approval, however, invaded perceptual thought. Now? Not now? Now? I mentally bounced from gaining approval to losing it, distorting a basically simple request. The next day, during my morning bible reading, I opened to an obscure scripture, one I’d never read before:  “Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and place.”  Ecclesiastes 8:5

For someone who plays it safe, whose favorite defense is but they told me to, this was a very convicting scripture.

IMG_1871

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

The time to teach chant: NOW!
 
Over the course of the past six weeks, I have spoken with a number of people who are either sponsoring a chant “teaching event” or teaching one themselves. The sheer mixture of people is truly extraordinary; ranging from music teachers to folks who simply love chant and want to bring in a person to help them spread their enthusiasm for chant.

        
To these people, for all of your efforts and willingness, I say “thank you and God multiply your efforts!”  I find myself inspired by their creativity in how they plan to teach and their verve to make sure that their students have every possible aid to learn the chant. They set an example for all of us that the time for teaching chant is ever-present. One need not wait for a week-long series of seminars to teach (though those are indeed wonderful) — chant teaching can happen during a five minute talk prior to a Sunday prelude! My New Years prayer for all of us is that we might be so on fire to offer our love for chant to others, that our own creativity burgeons with ideas of how to do so!  
 
I have often quoted Mary Berry, and will do so again to close for this week: “You must pass this on!”
 
Blessed Epiphany!
chant image.1.3.14

Ask and Seek

By Melodious Monk

“The worst temptation, and that to which many monks succumb early in their lives, and by which they remain defeated, is simply to give up asking and seeking. To leave everything to the superiors in this life, and to God in the next—a hope which may in fact be nothing but a veiled despair, a refusal to live.”

This past week I’ve been mulling over this quote from Thomas Merton. I’ve often thought of Jesus’ well-known direction, to “ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you,” as a loving invitation more then a command to stay living in Christ. It’s certainly both, but I don’t regularly think of “asking and seeking” as a very active way to fight daily temptation. Seeking truth can be a challenge, causing turmoil internally that feels safer to avoid. Merton is right in his challenge to us. When we stop the active life-giving task of seeking and asking God to show us his face in all that confronts us each day, we are the poorer for it.  In doing so, we risk not being able to see all the doors that God would like to open for us.

merton

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

Hart Felt

 
I woke up with the music of a beautiful anthem by Herbert Howells, Like as the Hart, performing in my memory.  Assuming God had something to say to me, I decided to read the Psalm on which the anthem is based.  From Psalm 42, Verse 1:  As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.  Hmm. Pants. Not a lovely word and certainly not a weak word. It means “to search for in a state of exhaustion.” It’s less about resting in the pleasant beauty of a stream and more about a vigorous search for the One who can calm my fears, heal my wounds, and deliver me from inward enemies.
 
IMG_1345
 

The Sanctity of Human Life

by Melodius Monk

During college, one of the best courses I took was “bio-medical ethics.” It was the most engaging, shocking, and morally challenging course I had. We debated issues of genetics, assisted suicide, patients’ rights, abortion, and the selling of human embryos — polarizing subjects, and quite prevalent in our current everyday news.
 
To me, these moral ethics all hinged on one’s beliefs about the concept of the “sanctity of human life.” Is all life from God? Is the core of humanity something Holy, something sanctified and therefore something full of spiritual powers beyond our understanding?
 
C.S. Lewis believed that the greatest weapon of the devil in the 20th century was to convince people that he did not exist. In watching the news, it is full of suicides, murders, and much disrespect for human life. I fear more and more that we as a people are losing the belief in the spiritual realm and its powers.
 
When we discuss to make choices about our lives, we should remember that as humans we are created Holy. We need Jesus’ help to recognize the devil and to defend the sanctity that we have been given.
 
angel,tulips

Daredevils

by Melodius Monk

I wouldn’t say that I’m a daredevil, but I do enjoy roller coasters, and some day I hope to go skydiving. Recently I had an interesting discussion about so-called daredevils or adrenaline junkies, or whatever you want to call these types of people. Often there’s a misunderstanding that these risk-seekers have no fear of death. They seemingly are willing to take risks that most of us can hardly stomach watching–like the 34-year-old this summer who walked across the grand canyon without a harness. 

Perhaps it’s true that these people have a gene that allows them to take such risks, and maybe they do have less fear of death — but perhaps there is another reason.  I believe we all come from Heaven, and are destined to return there if we wish. Could it be that this search for adrenaline is a desire to live free and unbound by the sin of this world? A desire to be who God truly made us to be?  

While skydiving may not be for all of us, I’ll bet there are risks we can take each day that will remind us of the new Heaven for which we are destined. I say “risks” because the kingdom of heaven is not of this world and it takes courage to forgive our hurts, to stand up to bullying and injustice in ourselves and in those we know. Perhaps by risking our lives daily for another, we have the opportunity to become free from ourselves, making us available to experience the wonderful freedom that God intends for us.

 
in_tree

 

Still Gardening

by Melodius Monk

I had to do some pruning today, cutting back tall stalks whose once-beautiful dark purple flowers are now brown, ugly and dry. Embarrassingly, I felt sad, pausing to make sure I really needed to cut these withering stems down to the ground. I’d already waited a few days hoping they weren’t really dead, (maybe they’d have a second life!) but with things only looking deader daily it was time for them to go.

Now pruned, the garden looks better, crisper and cleaner. I got to thinking about how human this reaction is, not wanting to prune. We don’t always like to get rid of  “dead”  things, like sins for example. We probably all know of a particular sin that should go, but it’s our nature to procrastinate the pruning, which can be painful, and we try to find another way. Perhaps God is trying to teach me something about life through the garden. Seasons come and go, and cutting back the flowers reminds me that it takes faith and action (even pruning) to produce the best new fruit.

purple

Un-Mindful Prayer

 by Melodius Monk  

In the Gospel of Luke chapter 8, Jesus is in the country of the Gerasenes, healing many people. Near the end of the chapter, Jesus heals the leader’s daughter who had been proclaimed dead. St. Luke writes that Jesus called to the girl, “Child, get up!” and “Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up.”  It was the spirit that returned, giving her body life.

Many years ago I was taught this simple prayer, Come Holy Spirit, clear out my mind so that I can pray.” I have a mind that races, meaning it doesn’t turn off easily, like a pinball rocketing to and fro through its game board, bouncing from one idea to the next, and coincidentally from one emotion to the next. This prayer helps calm me down and sometimes gets myself out of the way so I can hear God.

I wonder how frequently each day I let the clattering thoughts in my mind push the Holy Spirit awayAs with the young girl in the gospel, it isn’t our minds or physicality that make us able to walk with God each day; rather clear minds and ears to hear God’s voice calling each of us to “get up!” and a heart and spirit that are willing to do so.

mind