A Groundswell of “Alleluia”

by Cantor

Cognoverunt Discipuli (“The disciples recognized the Lord”) is the Alleluia text for Week III of the Easter season. Occurring on the Sunday of the “Walk to Emmaus“, this Alleluia is defined by a melody which starts as a swirl in the bottom part of the mode before quickly shooting upwards. Equally colorful is the moment at which this same “swirl” occurs in the verse. In this very narrative piece one can almost hear (and see!) Jesus lifting His arms to break the loaf of bread. These melodic curves are not just gentle waves but rather huge, sweeping swells, created by quick succession of patterns rising or falling the distance of a perfect 4th. The setting of the word “fractionis” with its melodic repetition draws out the alliterative nature of the word, the sounds of “fr” and “ct”, giving us the sounds crackling of breaking dry bread. In addition to the emotional excitement of this chant, it is an excellent example of the process of “centonization” – the process of composing a chant – with repetition of patterns based on text meaning.

Here again, right in the middle of the Easter season, we find ourselves chanting a piece with all the excitement of Easter morning itself. Again, we find in the chant an unexpected  gem which offers to us that same recognition of Jesus as the disciples experienced.

Simple Trust

by Sister Fidelis

It’s Eastertide! And along with the return of Alleluia we find some other changes in the repertoire for this season: an unexpected simplicity that makes us take notice. Looking through the various elements of liturgies we find many pieces in Mode VI during this season, for example the brief responses and various antiphons and Mass Propers. Mode VI has some typical characteristics: in general a narrow range and a very simple melodic form. This week we have two Propers in Mode VI: the Introit, Quasi modo geniti infantes, and the Communion, Mitte manum tuam.

It’s interesting that we find this simplicity introduced at such a “high” feast in our church year. What is our take-away? As we chanted these pieces on Sunday I experienced the perfect marriage of texts and scriptures—a theme of peace and reassurance. In the Communion piece Mitte manum, we hear the story of Jesus telling Thomas to touch him and see that he is real. It is set to a melody that is so simple it is almost recitative. The tune gives us a feeling of calm, peace, and forgiveness as Jesus says, “Reach out your hand and know the place of the nails, and do not doubt but believe, alleluia.” Typical of Mode VI the piece begins and ends on Fa. The piece begins with a phrase which is largely repetition on Fa balanced with a responding phrase in scalar syllabic writing, both offset with slightly ornamented Alleluias at the ends. A very clear narrative pointing out to us the message that Jesus is with us and we need not fear!




Waiting for the Doors to Open

by Faithful Friar

Throughout the Triduum leading into Easter our bells ring at various times during services. At one point there is a tolling of the tenor bell, the heaviest lowest bell, a sound only heard at funerals. At another point, all the bells “fire” striking simultaneously celebrating the first “Alleluia” sung at Easter. Unlike the rest of the year, where ringing comes before or after a service, these rings come during the liturgy. In order to get the timing right, ringers attend the service until just before it’s time to head out to the tower and ring. Once in the tower, we wait for a “cue”. The “cue” in this case is the front doors of the church opening. Interestingly, the doors usually seem to take longer than expected before opening. As I was standing there, it seemed to me a microcosm of Easter. Here we are standing in the tower, looking out at closed doors, wondering what is happening inside, knowing the doors will open…and waiting. And of course what follows but a cacophony of clangorous celebration. He is Risen!

Victory Chant!

by Cantor

The title of this week’s blog might lead you to believe we might be talking about the explosive cheers following the winning of a sports championship.

In its own way, the Easter chant sequence hymn, Victimae Paschali Laudes, is exactly that! And why not? Christ himself fought with all his might against those enemies which would destroy us–and He won!

Thought to have been penned by Wipo of Burgundy somewhere around 1048, this is one of our most ancient chants still in such wide spread usage. Its extraordinary range and “march-like” character give it the same verve as an early American camp hymn, expressing both faith questioned and faith reborn. Perhaps for these reasons this chant has had more influence and impact than any other in the last thousand years of western music, finding its way into works from Josquin, to Mathias. Most recently, it was the subject of an organ improvisation by Daniel Roth, the organist of St. Sulpice in Paris, following in the great tradition of French organ improvisation.

What better way to celebrate Easter than with a true chant of victory that has united us through so many centuries of celebration of Christ’s Resurrection!

Sacred Seeing: The Resurrection

A few years ago, the Community of Jesus published a little book, Sacred Seeing: Praying with the Frescoes in the Church of the Transfiguration. As we approached the New Year, it seemed like a good opportunity to share this simple guide to praying with the art here in the church, especially for those of you who aren’t able to come and see it for yourselves. Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing the meditations from the book. We hope that it helps to enrich your prayer life in 2017!

The Resurrection

The Resurrection, fresco by Silvestro Pistolesi, Church of the TransfigurationSpend a few moments looking at the fresco image.
What is your first impression of this fresco?
What thoughts and feelings does this image evoke for you?

Read the Scripture: Matthew 28:1-7
28 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”

Some thoughts and questions to ponder
How would you describe the expressions of the two women? Take some time to imagine your own experience if you had been with them. What is it like approaching the tomb? Finding it open? Going in? What do you see, hear, smell, touch? What is happening to you?

What does this image say to you about the Resurrection that you have not considered before?

Look at the contrast between the angel and the black-garbed women. What does the contrast of light and dark in this image say to you?

Tradition tells us that the stable in which Jesus was born was likely a cave or grotto. How are these two caves – the place of birth and the place of resurrection – related? Consider one further connection: Emmanuel Chapel is also a “cave.” What does this say to you about the nature of this space?

In what place in your own life right now do you need to hear the angel’s message: “Do not be afraid.” The angel said to the two Mary’s, “Come see the place where he lay.” Jesus said something similar to Andrew, “Come and see.” (John 1:39) What does this invitation mean to you today?

Notice the pieces of rock on the ground. What stone in your own life needs to be shattered so that you can see the resurrected Lord?
Lord, you said that you would rise again.
I thought maybe it was just a metaphor;
something to make me feel better
as the road got rougher,
as the sky grew darker,
and death drew nearer.
But you really meant it –
not just that things would get better,
but that the roughness, and the darkness, and the death
actually had a purpose – have a purpose.
Because of your cross, mine.
Because of your resurrection, mine.
Because you live, I will live also.

“Go and tell them that he has risen.” 
Lord Jesus,
you have asked me to be a witness of your resurrection.
But I wasn’t there.
I didn’t watch them lay you in that tomb.
I couldn’t feel the earthquake.
And I haven’t seen an angel pointing to your empty grave clothes.
No, but you have made my heart your tomb,
the place of your repose,
and there I have seen you rise, again and again.
I am a witness of your resurrection.
Tell me today, who you want me to tell.

O God,
who for our redemption
gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross,
and by his glorious resurrection
has delivered us from the power of the enemy:
Grant us to die daily to sin,
that we may evermore live with him,
in the joy of the resurrection. Amen.
–Gregory the Great

A Word from the Tradition
An angel descended and rolled back the stone. He did not roll back the stone to provide a way of escape for the Lord but to show the world that the Lord had already risen. He rolled back the stone for the sake of faith, because it had been rolled over the tomb for the sake of unbelief. Pray, brothers and sisters, that the angel would descend now and roll away all the hardness of our hearts and open up our closed senses and declare to our minds that Christ has risen, for just as the heart in which Christ lives and reigns is heaven, so also the heart in which Christ remains dead and buried is a grave.
–Peter Chrysologus, Bishop of Ravenna (c. 380–c. 450)

Image: © The Resurrection by Silvestro Pistolesi at the Church of the Transfiguration

Seeing the Signs

By Sr. Fidelis

Many of the chants for this season re-tell various “scenes” from the Easter story. This is a wonderful way for us to rehearse the true miracle of Jesus’ Resurrection! The antiphon Maria Stabat reminds us that Mary stood at the sepulcher weeping and saw two angels in white sitting, and the cloth that was on Jesus’ head. The story goes no further in this Mode VII antiphon, but there is a sense of anticipation and joy and the bloom of hope is conveyed with each consecutive phrase!
The opening phrase begins with an ascent from its Home Tone SOL, to its Reciting Tone, RE, and then back again to SOL. The repeated note pattern on the text Angelos in albis, sedentes builds with excitement! For the most part this is a syllabic chant save one word, fuerat. Here the lingering emphasis reminds us that this was the cloth that was on Jesus’ head.
There’s much food for thought in these seemingly simple chants!


Be not unbelieving…

By Sr. Fidelis

The Communion for the 2nd Week of Easter comes from the Gospel of John – Jesus’ words to Thomas.

“Thrust your hand and know the place of the nails, and be not unbelieving but faithful.” is the literal translation.

There is a wonderful sense of conversation in this serene Mode 6 chant; two syllabic phrases punctuated with Alleluias.

The structural notes of LA (reciting tone) and FA (home tone) serve as the “backbone” of the piece.

One of the beauties of this simple chant is the actual Latin text.  Jesus tells Thomas to thrust his hand and know the place of the nails….not just see them, or touch them, but know them.

The original notation highlights the text in several spots.  In the opening line, there is a 3 note neum called a “torculus”, (low-high-low) on the last syllable of the word tuam. The shape of this neum indicates that there is more emphasis on the 2nd and 3rd notes, rather than them all being even.   This is called a “special” torculus, and gives a sense of lift to the word.  On the final line of the chant, we see this same sign on the accented syllable of the word fidelis, and in the final alleluia, only this time, it looks angular.  This tells us to emphasize all 3 syllables of the word.  You will hear these subtleties, which add points of interest and arrival in the overall scope of the chant.

Mitte Manum

Lumen Christi: Easter Encounters with Art

As Christians, the pursuit of beauty in all of its forms is ever before us. While the world’s definition of beauty – a wrinkle-free, almost inhuman imitation of so-called “perfection” – almost always leads to self-abasement and discouragement, true beauty as we seek it only leads to a further knowledge of God’s love for us, to a clearer and brighter reflection of who He is, and to a deeper desire to become co-creators of beauty with him in all the quotidian elements of our lives.

Gabriele Wilpers, an internationally celebrated painter and sculptor from Essen, Germany, knows all about this calling toward beauty, and all of the risks and rewards that accompany that vocation. After training as a photographer, between 1973 and 1978 Gabriele Wilpers studied free painting at the Folkwang Hochschule in Essen, Germany. Since then she has lived and worked in Essen as a freelance visual artist. In recent years she has taken first prize in competitions for art in the public domain, and she has designed entire church interiors for several parishes in the archidocese of Freiburg im Breisgau. Wilpers uses a variety of artistic methods in her artwork – painting, installation objects, film, and architectural glass – to reflect and describe the human existence. Her interventions in an existing space, which can be both sacred and profane in nature, question the context in which modern man lives today.

Back in July of 2005, Ms. Wilpers was invited by the Munster Chapter of the Catholic Women’s Organization to contribute to the 1200th anniversary of the diocese of Munster. The discovery of a medieval thimble, excavated from the ruins of the Uberwasser Convent, inspired Ms. Wilpers to create an installation for the nearby Uberwasser Gothic church. Entitled “As Numerous as the Stars in the Sky” Ms. Wilpers’ installation was comprised of thousands of thimbles gathered from the women of the diocese, and became a sort of memorial to the myriad, nameless women of Munster through the ages, who faithfully lived out their vocations. Upon entering the church, the viewer’s gaze was immediately drawn upward to a sparkling, starry canopy made up of these now almost meaningless, outdated objects, each suspended from different colored threads, and given new meaning by Ms. Wilpers for this occasion. As one journalist put it, “Each individual thimble—the protector of sensitive fingertips—hence becomes a symbol of that which women have experienced and achieved. They become centuries-old witnesses to female stories and histories, trigger many associations in connection with women’s lives and, taken out of their original context, artfully perform their story-telling role. The sparkling firmament speaks of the hard work of women, of suffering and poverty, but also of joy, and inside the church represents a symbolic space for the histories of uncounted women in the diocese.”[1]

Ms. Wilpers’ installation in the Munster Church was only temporary, but her art has found many other permanent homes, one of which is the Church of the Transfiguration in Orleans, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. Gabriele Wilpers designed the glass sculpture on the West Wall of the Church of the Transfiguration, connecting the oculus window and lintel (over the main doors) in a seamless design portraying Christ’s Transfiguration. In Wilpers‘ studio at Essen and at the Derix Glasstudios in Taunusstein, Germany, she and glass fabricators collaborated on the modern abstract sculpture. The sculpture features sixty-four individually cast glass panels covered with gold-leaf paint, which was partially removed with an acid wash.The varying intensity of the gold and the pattern of ridges and valleys evoke elements of the reflected light from sunsets over the Cape Cod sand flats and combine to gather, reflect, and refract light, becoming a glistening and shimmering wall of Transfiguration splendor.

This week, artists, art-lovers and all seekers of beauty have an opportunity to encounter and hear from Gabriele Wilpers first-hand here at the Community of Jesus. Lumen Christi: Easter Encounters with Art will be held April 5th through 9th. Ms. Wilpers is joined by Monsignor Timothy Verdon, a renowned Art Historian and prolific author, for this five-day series of illuminating lectures on Easter themes of light, resurrection and rebirth in sacred art. All are invited to come and be inspired by these beautifully illustrated lectures on art and architecture, from the baroque to the contemporary, hosted by the Mount Tabor Ecumenical Centre for Art and Spirituality. In a time when so many Christian women and artists suffer from isolation, lack of support and understanding, and a market-driven secular environment, Lumen Christi: Easter Encounters with Art offers an alternate experience of contemplation and creativity, focusing on the artists‘ vital contribution to the faith conversation. For more information visit www.mounttabor.it or call 508-240-7090.

04 Muenster 2005

02 Thimbles 200505 Muenster 2005All photos courtesy of Herbert Wilpers

[1] Frank Joachim Schmitz, Berichte, Das Munster,

GlassWallMarch 2005

The Bells Hang Silently

Bells play a special role this time of year – Holy Week through Easter Sunday. I was never aware of this, as I don’t think many people are, until we put in our own set of change ringing bells. I have always thought of bells in the role of ringing out as a call to worship, as well as news and celebration. But they also have a part to play in silence. Our Maundy Thursday service bulletin had a meditation to ponder on its cover and I was particularly struck by the words “the bells hang silently.” They are not rung from Palm Sunday until the Easter Vigil Saturday night. We have grown used to hearing them every day of the week and suddenly there is silence where there has been joyful “noise.” But even beyond the quiet of the week – no organ as well – it feels that the silent presence of the bells in the tower has a waiting feeling. It enhances my own sense of waiting for the Passion and the Resurrection of our Lord, and enriches the true celebration when once again they ring out with the news of our Salvation.