A Need to Stretch

By Melodious Monk

I’m too small to understand much about God.  Perhaps this is why I’m drawn to ponder over a sermon from the 14th century.  Father John Tauler was a Dominican priest who taught that the way to union or friendship with God was through detachment from earthly matters. He said, “To be guided by one’s own light and not by God’s is the chief cause of our not attaining to union with God. There is an overmastering joy in self-guidance, even in spiritual matters; nature is intoxicated by this pleasure more than by any other; and withal, it is deceitful, and its hurtfulness too often remains hidden.”

I certainly strive to guide myself! I like to do things, to accomplish things, and to have things somewhat organized — not without change and variety mind you, for without could be boring and uninteresting! But I’d still rather have some foreknowledge of what’s coming so as to be prepared. And I do find joy in guiding myself through things…but at what cost?  Did my drive to accomplish a job today, even a job that may have been God’s will, cause me to miss being with Christ today?  And in the process of organizing and making the job happen, did I run over blessings God had intended for me or someone else, all in the name of finishing a “worthy” task?

“God’s friends are afflicted to the marrow of their bones as they see and hear the injury done to God and the harm to immortal souls by people’s affection for creatures, which is all too prevalent around them.”  I find this thought somewhat humorous when juxtaposed to the goal of loving ones neighbor, but nonetheless true. Our “affection for creatures” is very high, and takes a number of subtle forms, working hard, working for the joy of accomplishment, of self-worth, or looking for praise.  In getting this temporary joy and praise from other creatures, I find myself continually striving for more of this unrequited goal, pushing aside people and events that seem like interruptions.  I don’t stretch to think or pray about the hidden hurtfulness that this selfishness can cause.  I’m much too small to realize that God is in anything that comes into my day, yes, truly everything. He may be asking me to do more, or He may be sitting on the side of the road wishing I’d stop and sit with him a while.

The Community of Jesus

Pastor Bonus (Good Shepherd)

By Sr. Nun Other

This year I discovered that the fourth Sunday of Easter is Good Shepherd Sunday. Perhaps (probably) I’ve heard it other years, but this year I heard it for the first time. It’s certainly a fitting placement for such a Sunday, as the ultimate definition of a good shepherd is “one willing to lay down his life for his sheep.” And Jesus is our unparalleled role model, both obedient lamb and devoted shepherd. The shepherds in our lives are many and varied: parents, pastors, teachers, doctors, friends, authors, composers of music, and visual artists. We depend on them to teach us, to love, protect, guide, and search for us when we stray. To be a good shepherd, one must first be a good sheep, that is, listen with our hearts to recognize the voice of God when He comes calling.

The Community of Jesus

 

God is God

By Melodious Monk

God is God

…should we forget our Savior’s praise, the stones them-selves would sing!

As we finished the final stanza of James Montgomery’s hymn on Sunday, I turned to the person next to me to point out the humor and multiplicity of meanings to this last line. I was chuckling at the literal picture of a singing stone, and two other aspects as well: firstly, how it puts us in our place; and secondly, how it shows the bottomless depth’s of God’s love for us. Let me explain.

How quickly I forget that God is God. God loves us — but he doesn’t need us. I’m reminded of a conversation I had earlier this week were I was discussing how disappointed I feel with myself when I so often turn bitter and angry in certain situations. I fall again and again into the same trap of accusation and self-pity. It feels pathetic, and I assume God surely feels the same way about me. Or does he? A wise friend suggested to me that since God continually seems to be calling each of us to move  on with him, maybe He doesn’t care about my failings the same way I do.

Which brings me back to the stones. Why does God even bother to care for us? After all, he has the stones, or the ability to just create someone else who would be better at praising him! But God hasn’t given up on me, even though I give up on myself all the time – and I don’t know why, I just know he hasn’t. God calls us to life. The remembrances of Holy Week, especially, remind us of how much God wants each of us to live our lives to their fullest potential.

The Community of Jesus

 

An Everyday Question

By Sr. Nun Other

I’ve been thinking about the question Jesus posed to His disciples in Matthew 16:15: “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Who do I say Jesus is, not once, but, everyday? Is He the Messiah, Son of God, savior, liberator, and loving friend? Too often I mentally reduce Him to a mini me — selfish, unforgiving, fickle, sometimes present, sometimes not. During the remainder of Lent, I want to listen for His voice and stand in His presence — all that He is and all that I am not.

The Community of Jesus

On Thick Ice

By Sr. Nun Other

Last Sunday, I chose the path less traveled. That is to say, I refused to walk around, behind and through a building to get to my destination. Instead I followed a shorter path. Shorter, but ice-covered. With turtle-like steps, I wobbled atop a good three inches of frozen water. I sometimes wonder where memories come from. Not scientifically, but, why-and why now? My twenty-five yard journey from one door to the other stirred “the memory pot.” As a child, I lived in awe of my older sister and her best friend. We grew up country in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. They often took their younger siblings on adventures, and in the winter dare devil sledding and ice skating on Hettenbaugh Creek topped the list. One very cold night, we built a small fire on the bank of that creek, and skated beneath a star-laden sky. It was magic created, not digitally or by a list of gifted people whose names are read at the end of a movie. It was melded creation and courage, grounded in trust that we were loved and watched over. No foolishness, mind you, but neither was there doubt we would return home frozen but victorious.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

Risking Advent-ure

By Renaissance Girl 

I was talking with a friend last night, just in passing.  Talking about life, and change, and being afraid of new things. She said that someone had recently pointed out to her that the word adventure has the word advent in it.  I know Advent is still two weeks away, but actually, it really caught my attention. I love words, and I love exploring where they come from and what they mean. Both the root of advent and adventure can be traced back to the Latin advenire — “to come to, reach for, arrive at.” Later uses introduced a sense of risk or danger. One definition that struck me was, “a risky undertaking of unknown outcome.”

Look at the story of Christ, who arrived on earth as a vulnerable baby, forced to flee shortly after his birth, challenged in the desert by the devil himself, betrayed by a friend, nailed to a cross, and raised from the dead…  Talk about risk and unknown outcome!

But here’s what really got my attention — the suffix -ure indicates “act, process or result.”  Start putting these parts together and you get things like — “the act of reaching for, the process of arriving at, the result of coming to.” So of course adventure requires risk, and unknown outcome — but can’t we hang on to the outcome that we do know? That Christ’s “risky undertaking of unknown outcome” resulted in our redemption. And so we reach for the adventure of Advent.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

Surprised by Joy

By Melodious Monk

I haven’t wanted to get out of bed all week. I wasn’t sure if it was tiredness, the gloomy weather, or all of the above! I couldn’t muster enough will-power to make this feeling go away. I asked for help from friends, tried exercising, praying, eating differently, but even the parts of the week I look forward to and expect to uplift me, didn’t help. Sunday  a group of young kids from Boston came to sing in our Church.  As I came through the back door of our Church in the afternoon, I heard their sound, and stopped.  I had forgotten these suburban area kids had traveled down to the Cape to spend a day at our facilities. I ran to the back door to peek in on their rehearsal.  Youthfulness, joy and honesty rang around the room. I stopped and listened long enough to see and hear the joy it was for these kids to sing. It made me smile, and remember that sometimes we must just keep putting one foot in front of another, not knowing when God might use a moment to re-awaken us inside.

The Community of Jesus

 

Lessons at the Keyboard

By Renaissance Girl

Someone sent me an email on Saturday night that made me angry. On an impulse, I sat down and sent them an angry email right back! I knew I would regret giving in to the temporary relief of lashing back, and I even said as much in my reply. Normally, I pretend I’m not upset, console myself by playing out various venomous responses in my mind, and then store them away for future ammunition. This time, I wanted to do it differently. I hit “send” on the email, and on the way out of the room I ran into a friend. “How are you?” she asked. So I told her about the email I received, and my tort reply, and then I asked, “How do I do it — how can I be honest but not mean?” She said, “Just keep talking to God and asking him what he wants to teach you about yourself.”

So I re-read the email and asked God what he wanted to show me. I tried not to focus on what I thought the other person’s problem was. And I knew for what I needed to take responsibility

I went back to the person on the other end of my email rant and apologized. And here’s something I learned: When I focus on what God thinks of me, and what HE wants to say to me, then I don’t put so much pressure on people to assure me that I’m OK. And when I’m not putting pressure on others, we can just talk like two people doing the best we can to move towards God.

The Community of Jesus

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor 

Threads of Connection

I recently had the privilege of giving a seminar in my hometown on Gregorian chant and various chant book publications. The seminar was at a bookstore which is owned by a gentleman only three years my senior. We have had occasional talks over the past few years concerning chant and chant publications as part of our everyday business.

Recently, we started talking about our mutual hometown, discovering along the way we had attended the same high school and the same junior high, only four years apart. That led to the next discovery that we had grown up only three blocks from each other in this large mid-western city! Instantly, we had a connection — a common thread. It was this thread that led to an invitation for the seminar.

However, while setting up and conducting the seminar, we discovered a stronger bond — the mutual love of chant and its importance in both of our lives. What had begun as an everyday business relationship had become a shared passion for chant and chant education! I now have a new friend in my old hometown whom I would never have discovered without chant to draw us together.  Chant had been a mutual thread in both of us for decades before our paths crossed — what a joy!

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Pay it forward!

What FUN it was to speak to a group of University music majors last week about the need to have some understanding of chant in order to work effectively in the world of sacred music! It was wonderful to see their reaction as we chanted together the Credo Cardinale (sometimes nicknamed the “Jazz Creed”), and the two-voice setting of the tune of O Come Emmanuel, which Mary Berry discovered some years ago in a 15th century Processionale. It was so clear that these young people had NEVER experienced chant like this!

As I watched their faces and listened to them chant, I noticed the face of my own composition teacher of thirty years past, who had offered me the invitation to come and speak to these students. He was as enthusiastic as they were! What a joy it was to see. In offering something that enlivened interest and enthusiasm to his current students, he, too, was enjoying their reactions. The choral director, also an old friend, said that this hour had opened his eyes to chant in a completely different way!

Through all of their reactions and responses, I could almost hear Mary Berry’s voice saying, “You must pass this on,” remembering how much she enjoyed seeing someone make a new discovery. I can only believe that this experience was a living reminder to me to pay forward all of the love, enthusiasm, knowledge, and sheer joy which she so generously gave to so many of us!

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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