Let’s start by disclosing this fact; I am not a gardener, at least not yet. One of the most common questions I’m asked by quests when giving them a tour of our monastery is “what does a religious brother do all day?” To which I smile, and say. “Well, it depends on the day and what I’m asked to do!” And while some parts of my day fall into a fairly routine schedule (like meals, choir rehearsal and liturgies), much of a day’s work depends on the needs of that particular day. I end up doing a wide variety of things, and often new things to which I may know little about.
This week I was asked to take care of the vegetable garden for a brother who was going to be away, to which I replied, “you realize I know almost nothing about plants” and was told, “I know, you’ll be fine, just ask for help if you need it!”
I didn’t say much initially, but this type of job sets off all kinds of panic inside my proud-self that is scared of trying new things and “messing up.” For example, tomorrow I need to plant some new cabbage, and I’m nervous. (I don’t think I’ve planted a seed since a 2nd grade science project, and there’s a lot of variables in soil, the weather, amount of sun, possible diseases etc.!!) I got some tips from a gardening friend, and the directions are pretty clear on the seed package, but I still think it will take a miracle for any plants to come from these tiny little seeds.
However, if I look past the nerves inside that make me want to quit the job before having any chance of messing it up, there’s also inside of me some excitement at this new mini-adventure and some child-like amazement that these tiny specs will grow into something edible. Maybe this is a fitting job for God to help me loosen up a bit, to have to trust others, and to look to Him for guidance.
Poetry by the 18th century English poet Christopher Smart seems to capture the all-encompassing awe, beauty and brilliance of the Almighty, which we celebrate in the resurrection season. The text below also speaks of God as a ‘force on which all strength depends’ — a comfort during this time.
From the universal…..
We sing of God, the mighty source
of all things; the stupendous force
on which all strength depends;
from whose right arm, beneath whose eyes,
all period, power and enterprise
commences, reigns and ends.
To the most intricate beauties…..
For the flowers are great blessings.
For the flowers have their angels,
Even the words of God’s creation.
For the flower glorifies God
And the root parries the adversary.
For there is a language of flowers.
For the flowers are peculiarly
The poetry of Christ.
May the joy of the Easter season fill your hearts with all hope at this time!
[Texts from Christopher Smart’s We sing of God, the mighty source & Jubilate Agno]
by Sr Fidelis
The reciting tone, FA is only two notes above the home tone. The antiphon, Beati omnes, has what we call a narrow range. All the notes, except one, fall in between these two important pitches. Take a listen to the antiphon which is both simple and graceful. Something else to note: The clef, which looks a bit like an old fashioned telephone receiver, is called the FA clef. We’ve been looking at lots of examples of chant, and the clef most often used is the DO clef. The FA clef is a sure sign that we’re in Mode 2. We’ll be looking at other pairs of modes in the future, each set united by their shared home tone.
Now let’s take a look at the first section of the Tempus per Annum Kyrie again.
The chant begins on LA – the reciting tone, then descends to the home tone – RE, and back up again. The notes flow between these two anchor pitches, dipping above and below. Other melodies in Mode 1 might have a completely different pattern, but they will include the LA and the RE.
Gregorian chant is a particularly effective instrument for touching the “ear of our heart.”
Dom Jacques Hourlier –
Reflections on the Spirituality of Gregorian Chant
by Sr Fidelis
Back to the Basics!
If you listen, you will hear that this scale sounds different than the familiar DO scale.The half steps fall between MI and FA; TI and DO, but because we’re starting with RE, it gives a different “mood” or mode. Most Gregorian melodies have a range of 8 notes; some more and some less. There are two “anchor” pitches within the piece — one called the home tone, or final pitch — the other is called the reciting tone. Usually, a particular melody fluctuates between these two pitches, with notes above and below, but always ending on the home tone. Mode 1 chant melodies have a Home Tone of RE. Listen to the next example of a Mode 1 melody, and the anchor pitches RE (Home Tone) and LA (Reciting Tone).
This “snippet” is the beginning of one of the most famous Kyrie melodies, sung during Tempus per Annum on Sundays.
How many ways are there to Praise God? The question caught my attention at choir rehearsal this weekend, because we sang two very different versions of Psalm 146. First we chanted it antiphonally to a tune by Henry Smart. Then we sang a rhythmic and boisterous setting by Ned Rorem. Monday morning at Lauds, I noticed the praise psalm for the day was also Psalm 146. A Google search showed me that there are well over 2,000 settings of this single psalm text. How can I apply this model of seemingly endless creativity to my daily life? Perhaps there is one answer to my initial question (how many ways are there to praise God?) that I could apply to how I’m feeling today.
Today was a tough Monday morning. I did not want to get out of bed. It felt like every other Monday, with the same chores, same people, same jobs, same rehearsal schedule, same service times, etc. Plus it’s darker longer now, and colder (you know the feeling). But as in the seemingly limitless number of music examples, the Holy Spirit of creativity is infinite…and never “bored” or “in a rut.” The Bible says God’s mercy is new every morning, so there must be a new “piece of music” for today. No day is the same, just as no setting of Psalm 146 is exactly the same. Maybe If I look for it, even expect it, then every day I’ll find yet another new version of Psalm 146:1 Praise the Lord, O my soul.
Gloriae Dei Cantores returns home after our 17-day tour, and it will be autumn on the Cape -– my favorite season. I can imagine the crisp air off the water of Rock Harbor, the crunch of leaves under foot and the smell of wood burning in the outdoor fireplace. I will be happy to see my little niece, probably looking a little different two weeks later -– they change so fast when they’re only two months old. And I can’t wait to see my dog, even though I know already what that greeting will be -– a quick jump, then the ball drop at my feet and the impatient bark demanding I make up for lost time. And our church… It’s funny how I miss it when I travel…the familiar faint scent of incense, the colors and textures, and the familiarity of Lauds and Eucharist and Evensong. We will all return to “normal” (if there is such a thing), and slip gently back into the rhythm of daily life. Twenty-four hours will go by and it will seem like we never left. Maybe this is what the Psalmist was trying to capture when he wrote “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by” (Psalm 90:4). In a strange way it’s somewhat comforting — that while I’m busy stressing about today, God is already working out tomorrow.
It never fails to seem uncommonly busy during the summer on Cape Cod — and by extension here in the Community of Jesus. This year we are not putting on large theater productions, performing choir concerts, or sending the field band out for shows and workshops. But we’re still going full tilt with building, renovating, cleaning, gardening, hosting — you name it — in and around our daily rhythm of corporate and private prayer. So it was a blessing to me at the close of a full day to look up from cooking dinner and see a golden hue of the setting sun reflecting off the church, as if to remind me: all is well.
by Sr Fidelis
Recently, I had some members of my extended family come for a brief visit. On the last morning, they attended our 7:00 am Lauds and Eucharist service. I deliberately planted myself next to my 10-year-old great-nephew, figuring he might need a little “guidance” through the service. The church was quiet and still as we took our seats in the visitors’ section. The introduction to the opening hymn came floating from everywhere, as the organist surrounded us with the most beautiful melody. I turned and caught the look of wonder and pure delight on Luke’s face as he reveled in the moment. I thought to myself, “Don’t ever take this for granted”.