With Unveiled Faces

By Renaissance Girl 
This past weekend was the Gala celebration of Gloriae Dei Cantores 25th Anniversary.  A culmination of 25 years of following the Holy Spirit, and watching him take a small group of people and transform them and their sometimes feeble efforts into an expression of God’s love and healing. The church sparkled on Friday and Saturday evenings, bouquets bursting with peonies, roses, snapdragons. Sparkling branches seemed to bring out the vibrant colors and light of the mosaic and I found myself constantly being drawn to look at the apse.  
 
Of all the pieces, “Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice” by Finzi caught me off guard. It is a stunning interpretation of God’s love and sacrifice for us in giving his son. The harmonies literally seemed to carry the words through my skin and into my heart. The piece reaches a high point with this text, made all the more meaningful by the face of Christ overlooking us all from the apse. And it brought with it the overwhelming sense that this is where it is all heading — what we are all striving towards. 
 
“When this dry soul those eyes shall see,
and drink the unseal’d source of Thee.
When Glory’s sun faith’s shades shall chase,
and for thy veil give me thy face.”
 
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Advent

by Renaissance Girl

 
I stood outside this weekend welcoming guests who were coming for our Advent Teas, Bake Shop and Advent Service of Lessons and Carols. It reminded me why Advent is my favorite season. It’s not the shopping and sales and pressure to get all the right things. It’s the feeling of hope – the anticipation of something good being on its way, something that will change your life for the better. I could see it on people’s faces and it moved and inspired me – an open, child-like expectancy. Not frivolous but confident.
 
One woman came up to see the life-sized nativity with her 3-year old son. After spending some moments with the shepherds, we walked into the church. An almost inaudible “oh boy” escaped him and it was like watching a child in a toy store. He ran around exploring and touching mosaics, the bronze bowls of the font – full of questions and exclamations – seeing everything for the first time. Maybe this is what this season is about – letting go of the pressures and expectations we have on ourselves and our families, and being open to a new and hope-filled expectation of the one who is coming to save us.
 
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Christmas Gifts

by Melodius Monk  

I know its not yet thanksgiving, but since this coming Sunday marks the start of Advent, our community is holding its annual service of Advent Lessons & Carols. The carol tunes are simple and beautiful, and opens inside of me a joyful sparkle of child-like enthusiasm..

In preparing the music this year, it has been the poetic texts that I am finding the most meaningful. In one hymn in particular, an English hymn titled, “Tomorrow shall be my dancing day”, recounts the events of Jesus’ life in the first person. After each event, Jesus exclaims “this have I done for my true love”.

I don’t often think of our salvation from Jesus’ point of view. He was excited, and longing for his “chance” to come save us from ourselves and to bring us to his dance! It is so easy for me to forget how loving God is. It’s a reminder that Jesus is daily looking for opportunities to call us to come dance with him – an invitation I don’t want to miss!

Here’s a few more of the verses!

Then was I born of a virgin pure,
Of her I took fleshly substance
Thus was I knit to man’s nature
To call my true love to my dance.

In a manger laid, and wrapped I was
So very poor, this was my chance
Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass
To call my true love to my dance.

Into the desert I was led,
Where I fasted without substance;
The Devil bade me make stones my bread,
To have me break my true love’s dance.

Then on the cross hanged I was,
Where a spear my heart did glance;
There issued forth both water and blood,
To call my true love to my dance.

Then down to hell I took my way
For my true love’s deliverance,
And rose again on the third day,
Up to my true love and the dance.

Then up to heaven I did ascend,
Where now I dwell in sure substance
On the right hand of God, that man
May come unto the general dance

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A Gift

 by Renaissance Girl

I received a special gift this past week. I’m about as white, Anglo-Saxon as they come – Irish, Swedish, Scottish three generations back, but my friends have teased me about having some Russian Orthodox blood in me. Ever since visiting Russia with the choir in 1998, and then again with our youth group in 2002, I have hoped to go back someday. There is something about it that I love – a depth and history to the country and the people that just grabs hold of your heart. Especially in worship. I’ve never seen people so eager to be close to the Eucharist – so unconscious of the personal space that we Americans fight to preserve. They press in and past each other to draw close to the altar. And their music – impossible to describe with words how years of persecution and perseverance and love pour out in achingly beautiful harmonies.

So earlier this week, I happened to mention to a friend that I was wanting to pray the rosary, something I used to do as a teenager, but had lost my rosary years ago. The next morning she showed up at work and said “I have these two rosaries if you’d like to use one.” She handed me a red, knotted rope with beads and said “this one was blessed by the Patriarch.”

It’s been in my pocket and passed through my fingers since then. It helps find words for what’s in my heart.

 
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Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

 
I sometimes refer to our Community Schola rehearsals because these rehearsals teach me many things. Last evening, those of us teaching realized that we had a great deal to prepare for All Saints, a new chant hymn for a special service as well as next week’s pieces for mass. We diligently trooped through each work, checking spots, getting the overall flow, throwing in ideas and asking questions as we went along. And then — Surprise! 
   
They did it. Everyone threw themselves into the process and walked out of that rehearsal able to confidently join the Scholas for the upcoming liturgies. A year ago, the result would have been OK. Two years ago — this rehearsal would have been unthinkable! 
 
Mary Berry used to refer to the process of learning chant as “getting honey from the rock” — it takes time, patience, and great effort but in the end, how sweet!  I would love to know your experiences like this because I believe that as we share these points in our growth, we are greatly encouraged to continue!
 
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Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

 
The Big Picture

 
We have wonderful and stimulating disagreements in our scholas! It is thrilling when schola members are so engaged that the small details matter — the lengthening of a note, the shaping of a particular neume — all in an effort to bring out the meaning of a word or phrase within a chant. That being said, however, I would like to offer us a quote this week from Dom Eugene Cardine  about the final goal of chant:
 
“Gregorian Chant is a sung word, a sacred word which comes to us from God in Holy Writ and returns to God in praise…we must so greatly assimilate the result of our work that we end up by forgetting technique so that the listener does not hear it either…May good sense guide us and keep us halfway between inaccessible perfection and a routine which is too easily satisfied with anything at all.”    (pp. xxviii-xxxi, The Restoration of Gregorian Chant, Dom Pierre Combe, trans. Marier/Skinner,  Catholic University of America Press, 2003.) 
 
May all of our discussions have this blessed ending!
 
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Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

 
The Mi Mode
 

Now that we’re back to Tempus per Annum (Ordinary Time), we’ll be able to look in more depth at the Gregorian Modes.  Modes are scales that begin on various notes of the scale other than DO.  We’ll take a look and listen to the MI scale.  The root or home tone of this scale is MI.  The unique “sound” of the MI scale comes from the fact that the scale begins and ends with a half -step. (MI -FA, and FA-MI).  Listen as the cantors sing up and down this scale.  

 
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Modes 3 and 4 are known as the MI modes, because they share the same home tone.  The example below shows us that home tone and the reciting tone of Mode 3, which is TI.  Listen to the example to hear how this particular melody snippet fluctuates between the reciting tone and home tone.  The characteristic ending, FA MI, has a mysterious quality to it.  
 
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Recipes from A Monastery Kitchen

by Gourmet Nun

Spring is officially here. It’s a lovely day, sun shiney, a bit cool, but leaves are starting to come out. I am keeping a close eye on all of the perennials I planted last fall, and almost all have come up. And of course we have been babying our vegetable seedlings in our grow-tent, which will start to go into the ground any minute now. It’s a very hopeful time of year, full of new beginnings and promise.

We have been hosting special receptions each month as a part of the celebration of our choir’s 25th anniversary. Each month I am faced with the challenge of beautiful finger food that fits in a budget, and isn’t the same every time. I often use ingredients I’ve popped into the freezer. Cheese and crackers are always a good staple. We tried out two different recipes of cheese balls, and ended up combining elements of both to make a really classy cheese ball with lots of flavor. It’s a cheddar/Parmesan with port wine-soaked craisins folded into the mixture. Really delicious, and everyone loved it!
 
Cheddar/Parmesan Cheese Ball with port wine soaked craisins
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded ( I like a sharp one)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 cup onion, finely diced
2 cloves roasted garlic
pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup dried craisins
1/2 cup port wine
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
 
Soak craisins in port wine. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix cream cheese, sour cream, shredded cheeses, lemon zest, onion, garlic, pepper, cayenne until well combined, adding craisins at the end. Put chopped pecans on a piece of waxed paper. Remove cheese mixture from bowl, form into a ball, and roll in the chopped pecans. Can be refrigerated, but fine to serve right away.
 
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I Am Indebted

by Melodius Monk  

As part of our community’s call to ecumenism, the choir regularly sings music across many cultures and faith traditions. In this weekend’s concert, among others, we will visit regions of Denmark and Norway. We will be singing lyrics of a Danish pastor and hymn writer, set to music by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg. I would like to share some of the text from the second movement, titled “The Son of God hath set me free.” I find this text engaging and challenging, especially in the aftermath of a very unsettling week for our country.
 
Now I commend myself unto God
despite the snake a thousand times!
Let Him just stand and see me go
clad in the crimson clothes of freedom.
What good it doth my heart
to follow the voice of Jesus on the path of truth,
past all evil, to carefree Heaven!
Don’t let the world believe
yet again it can make me blind…..
No, I am too indebted
to play sin’s game of chance;
I whistle at the tempting food,
and look to heaven with joy.
 
.….My death is the ferryman
unto the solid ground of life;
the Lord Sabaoth, His own castle,
yes, it is for ever good.
Although the wind is oft against, mortifying the sprightly blood,…..
yes, the shape of the cross is precisely the sign to the proper realm of freedom.
The Son of God hath set me free.

                    –Hans Adolph Brorson

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Praise to God in the Resurrection Season

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]

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