By Sr. Nun Other
Christmas decorating is low on my list of favorite activities. Somewhere around a visit to the dentist. My expectations are so high, my desire to create beauty so intense, that I’m certain to disappoint myself. Last night, I placed, replaced, and repositioned three decorative Christmas pillows on a bench. After a half hour of this, I realized there was no perfect that was perfect enough. But my building frustration led to a re-thinking of, “What is it I’m really looking for?”
Anticipation and expectation come with the Christmas territory and are worthy attributes. When rightly directed and defined, they lead to faith, hope, and a joyful reunion with all who gathered on that holiest of nights. They speak of someone achieving great things of which we’re the beneficiaries of inheritance. Candles in the window, trees dressed in light and shining tinsel, evergreen wreaths on doors — all are invitations, our warm welcomes, to the One that truly matters.
By Renaissance Girl
John the Baptist astounds me. His entire existence was about Jesus. And not just in the way we endeavor to “live for Jesus” — but literally — all about Him, from the moment John leaped in his mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice (perhaps eager to get started on his task), to the moment he submitted to the will of God and baptized Christ (despite his humble protest that it should be the other way around). He was beheaded at the whim of a girl and her mother, because his message to “prepare” threatened their comfortable existence. Everything he did — wild and confronting as it was — was meant to point to Jesus. And then John quietly stepped aside when He arrived.
I am astounded by this, because this is not how I live at all. But what if I could? What if, instead of seeking accolades myself, I was ALL about Jesus? My prayer as we draw closer to Christmas, is for the grace to become a little more like John the Baptist.
We often hear the phrase “chant is so peaceful.” Certainly, many chants do have an inherent sense of peace about them. But not all of them — sometimes the chant demands our attention, insisting that we stand up and listen!
Last week, the communion antiphon began with the text “Amen, dico vobis.” Translated, that means “So be it, I say to you.” These words of Jesus are not set to a gentle recitation but rather burst forth on a trumpet-like motive that leaves no room for doubt that we need to listen to Jesus’ words that follow.
All week, I found myself “hearing” that trumpet motive from other times of the church year. In fact that same sound occurs in the communion for Pentecost — “Factus est repente de caelo sonus” (A mighty sound came rushing out of Heaven); the introit for Christmas Day mass — “Puer natus est” (A boy is born unto us); the procession for Palm Sunday — “Hosanna, Filio David” (Hosanna to the Son of David), to name a few. In moments, I had been taken through much of the church year, reminded by a simple musical motive of the Kingship of Christ.
Credit for image 5070 – Music – Gregorian Chant
mw.mcmaster.ca275 × 400
“But I don’t know any chant!”
Whether I’m conducting a chant training session for choir members of parish churches, choir directors, or organists, or even doing a choral anthem workshop, inevitably, someone raises their hand and states with considerable firmness and clarity, “I don’t know any chant!” Frankly, I’m glad for the honesty because it bursts open a grand opportunity to point out to people just how much chant they “know but didn’t know.”
For instance, open the hymnal in your church pew – in ANY church and go to the Advent and Christmas hymns. Most likely, one of the first hymns you will find is O Come, O Come Emmanuel. Instantly, your participants will probably express a certain amount of joy in that “certainly, we know this.” Then, they know a chant. Keep going through the hymnal and they will continue to be surprised by just how much chant they have been singing their entire life and did not realize that it was a chant.
However, it does not stop there. Point out the fact that Hollywood is no stranger to Gregorian chant. Movies such as The Name of the Rose, The Hunchback of Notre Dame or even The Matrix employ Gregorian chant to evoke a certain mood or frame of mind.
We hear and experience chant in both its original context and unexpected places. Sometimes it takes a moment of thought and realization – better known as an “aha moment” – to understand that whether we know it or not, we are influenced by chant in whatever context it may be found. But, we do know some chant!
Credit for Image:http://library.umkc.edu/spec-col/chantbook/antiphon.htm
by Sr Nunother
I’m not the most inquisitive person in the world and therefore, until yesterday, never questioned why Christ’s baptism is celebrated in January, just after his birth. We know from scripture that Jesus was baptized not as an infant, but as a young man, just prior to beginning his public ministry. Logically, I would have left a few months between the celebrations of birth and baptism to emphasize the age difference. I decided to research the date choice for this important feast and discovered its symmetry. There are four major epiphanies or revelations of God to man: the Birth of Jesus, which revealed Christ to Israel; the visit of the Magi, who represent the Gentiles; the Baptism of the Lord, which unveiled the Trinity; and soon to come, the wedding miracle at Cana, manifesting Christ’s transformation of the world. These four events create a perfect circle with God’s love at its center.
Chant and Christmas: Reminders of our extraordinary heritage
I don’t know that there is anything quite like the Genealogy which is chanted on Christmas Eve or the Proclamation of the Birth of Christ which many of us were privileged to hear on Christmas Day. Each one reminds us of thousands of years of lineage leading to the birth of Christ and by extension, our salvation. Each reminds us that God had Jesus’ birth in mind for centuries before it came to fruition. However, it’s the reference to events – such as the Olympic games – and to the everyday people who were part of the line of David and ultimately Christ himself, that I find most striking.
I had the privilege of cantoring the Genealogy this year, and found myself “washed over” by the sheer enormity of time and life represented in each name as it came and went. The chant itself seemed to take these names and events and simply lift them from temporal time to eternal time. I remember thinking as I left the ambo that I had just taken a very unique journey and I did not want to leave it.
As we give ourselves to the practice of chanting, I would challenge all of us to find that same “journey”. Whether a Kyrie, one of the propers, or a Litany, let’s work to discover the journey on which the chant would take us inside of the scriptures which it so beautifully serves.
by Gourmet Nun
I hope all of you had a very blessed and happy Christmas. Ours was a quiet celebration with reflection on what Christmas really means. But of course we had wonderful food to help us do just that. And the season continues as we face the new year and the celebration that goes with it. My favorite party is appetizers; small savory bites and wonderful hot cheesy dips. One great dish to prepare that everyone loves is spiced nuts. I love sweet and spicy, but decided to try out some spicy ones. They are easy and delicious and you can adjust the heat according to taste.
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 cups natural almonds
Kosher salt to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a saucepan combine all ingredients except almonds and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for about 3 minutes. Pour over almonds and combine well. Pour almond mixture onto a pan lined with parchment and cook in oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt to taste. Let cool. Enjoy!
by Melodius Monk
“Come Lord Jesus,” the Advent mantra, (today fulfilled!) means that all of Christian history has to live out a kind of deliberate emptiness, a kind of chosen non-fulfillment. Perfect fullness is always to come, and we do not need to demand it now. This keeps the field of life wide open and especially open to grace and to a future created by God rather than ourselves.
“Come, Lord Jesus” is a leap into the kind of freedom and surrender that is rightly called the virtue of hope. The theological virtue of hope is the patient and trustful willingness to live without closure, without resolution, and still be content and even happy because our satisfaction is now at another level, and our Source is beyond ourselves. …”Come, Lord Jesus” is not a cry of desperation but an assured shout of cosmic hope. Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM
In creation, God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. Today we celebrate the mystery of this “cosmic hope,” refreshing the inner longing that through the paschal mystery, we are made “good” again. Let us not be caught too tightly in our earthly longings for this day, but rather remember that our true satisfaction lies in bowing to our creator who comes again this celebrated morning. Wishing a Blessed Christmas to all!