Uphold me, Lord, according to your word, and do not disappoint me in my hope.
In the last 10 days we’ve received more than our yearly average for annual snow fall. This had been a mild winter until winter storm “Juno” blasted in last Monday. Outside in the cold sun, we keep trying to make the walkways and paths clear and safe around our community so that people can get to their cars, offices, and homes safely. We, and many others in the area, put a great deal of care and effort to protect people physically (with ice melt, sand, boots for better footing etc ), while trying to continue our lives “as normal” (the best we can due to the circumstances). We have all sorts of methods and tools we use to do this — plows, snowblowers, rock-salt, sand, shovels etc.
But what about our spiritual lives? Generally I spend much less time trying to protect myself from spiritual forces than I do for a snow storm. How many methods and tools do I gather, and what plans do I make to protect us from oncoming spiritual storms? Ephesians reminds us,”For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Maybe in the midst of all the snow clearing, God is reminding me to put more time and energy into fighting the battles that will keep me from slipping on our most important journey, the journey into the spiritual realms.
By Renaissance Girl
Isn’t it interesting that at the same time we are ending the calendar year, we begin the church year? My type A personality brain says — couldn’t we have coordinated this better?
But as I think about our decorating this past weekend, hanging lights from the huge tree in front of the Convent, stringing garland along the walkways, making baked goods for the gift shop or putting candles in windows, it strikes me that logic and coordination are not what this season is about.
Our human minds tell us the year is closing, things are ending, darkness is prevalent and sleep is the order of the day. Into this bursts the new Liturgical year, with light enough to illuminate the world, and cries “Sleepers Wake!” And we leave off endings and begin again.
By Sr. Nun Other
I frequently tell people how busy I am, how stressed, how overwhelmed with important tasks. And I’m not the only one. Our younger sisters often say, “I was given a huge project today — HUGE!” When questioned, this can range from painting a bathroom to making several dozen cookies. And then, I happened upon Psalm 65. Let’s look at a day in the life of the God we love:
Psalm 65 Paraphrased Perspective Statistics (Googled)
He hears our prayers, World population 7.125 Billion
And forgives our sins
He stills the roaring of the seas, Earth in square miles 57,491,000
The turmoil of the nations.
He cares for the land and waters it; One year’s water consumption
He enriches it abundantly. 3,622,439 liters
God fills our streams with water, Food consumption 11 million pounds
And provides grain for the people. per minute per day
I receive a quick lesson in humility, now overwhelmed by my insignificance. And then I realize, all of the above is for me. And you. One additional verse from Psalm 65: Where morning dawns and evening fades, He calls forth songs of joy. And gratitude.
By Renaissance Girl
I am one of those people that struggles not to live on a merit system. Time and time again, I compare myself with those around me, and evaluate who gets what, and why I don’t have what I think I deserve.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to listen to a recording of the Community’s founders, Mother Cay and Mother Judy. I was too young to have taken in their teaching at the time, and it’s a gift to be able to hear their words — spoken to individuals who lived what they heard and became the founding generation of our Community.
There was a lot to take to heart, but one phrase stood out to me about my constant comparing. In speaking about control, Mother Judy said “you negate Jesus Christ when you live according to a merit system.”
It seems so clear, but hearing it again had a fresh impact. Why do I assume God’s role, and decide what I should and shouldn’t have? And where does that leave space for the mercy and love of God?
We recently finished a series of chant classes in our community in which everyone joined a schola, prepared a chant, and taught it to the other scholas. It was amazing to see how various individuals came together in these ad hoc scholas, and in just a few weeks’ time, learned to work and communicate together as a group.
When we completed the final class, we asked folks what they believed they had learned. Their responses included: “We learned about supporting each other,” and “We felt a new sense of mutual support within this group,” and “It was a ‘rush’ to feel the entire community join the chant after we completed the intonation.” The word “support” was the most common remark, and not one word about neumes was mentioned, (though they worked quite hard with learning the notation)! Everyone seemed to agree that they gained a greater sense of unity through participating in a schola. Once again, chant served a purpose beyond itself as we learned to support each other more in learning the chant and ultimately, in the worship service.
Credit: Cartoon of St Philip’s Schola © Kath Walker 2011
By Renaissance Girl
Four times a week I feed the fish in the Koi pond near the church. It’s an enclosed space – literally inside the walls – and I’ve started looking forward to those moments of quiet, me and the fish and the sound of water trickling and wind through the bamboo. Sometimes I laugh as they tussle over first dibs on their food. Sometimes I barely want to breathe so as not to disturb the silence. But I always smile when they see me coming and rush to the side of the pond, mouths gaping. So eager and dependent and just themselves.
Sometimes I’m surprised by the things that start out as “duties” and end up being gifts. I just have to allow my perspective to be changed.
Keep Winding the Clock
This may seem a strange title for a chant blog. However, I have been thinking recently about two aspects of the daily and weekly repetition of chanting: the effect that it has on my daily life and what it teaches me about simply “keeping at it.”
Living in a Benedictine community, we are privileged to chant the Divine Office multiple times a day. Catch me on a different day and I might say we have the discipline of chanting the Offices daily. Find me yet another day and I would say, “I can’t believe it’s already time to do the next Office – I can’t possible get there at this moment!”
When St. Benedict states in his rule to “prefer nothing to the work of God”–which in his case, Opus Dei referred to the Divine Office–I believe he knew all too well that at any given moment we might really feel inspired to get to the service and, in the next breath, not! However, regardless of feelings, he also knew how much we need repetition to stay focused on God.
Chant has the most wonderful and gentle way of reminding me that no matter the circumstances of the moment and their accompanying feelings for either good or ill, God is eternally present right now. Listening to the opening antiphon for Lauds, I am reminded that this has been the same sound heard at Lauds around the world, throughout this Easter season and for centuries! There are thousands of people today with all kinds of circumstances who are opening their mouths and chanting these words.
All of a sudden, I am not so focused on myself! Chant has the inherent ability to raise me out of myself and unite with others in this process of staying focused on God.
I can’t think of a better reason to “keep winding the clock!”
As a teenager, I remember driving over a particular set of railroad tracks that crisscrossed the gateway to my home town. Someone decided a street repair was needed at that particular spot, and for months — if not years — cars were forced to drive through a huge sink hole. It’s specialty was the destruction of suspension systems and the irony of the situation emphasized by a sign that announced, “Your Tax Dollars at Work.”
On a recent Saturday morning, I was assigned to a wood stacking crew, a job I relished. After all, I’m from Pennsylvania and we do know a thing or two about wood(s)! I was the oldest member of the crew and determined not to be out-distanced. I crawled over piles of cut logs, slid through mud, and refused to take a break when suggested. It seemed quite admirable until I returned to the job site after snack, and reached down for some split wood. My lower back, once bendable, was padlocked in a vertical position. I quietly switched to a wheel barrow and continued to ignore good advice. Out of love for others? Wanting to do my share? Setting an example? Not really. My motivation was primarily pride. By not listening, I probably cut productivity by 5%, simply by getting in the way. But I enjoyed myself. I really did.
Countless stories surround the origin and the history of hot cross buns. Suffice it to say they are eaten as a simple little sweet during Lent after weeks of abstinence and looking towards the crucifixion. It is our tradition to serve them here at the Community of Jesus every Good Friday.
There is one little saying about them that I particularly like. It is said that a bun baked on Good Friday and hung in one’s kitchen will guarantee the success of all baked goods prepared in that kitchen. Worth a try?
HOT CROSS BUNS
3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees Fahrenheit)
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup white sugar
3 Tablespoons softened butter
1 Tablespoon instant powdered milk
1 egg white
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dried currants
3/4 cup citron
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg yolk
2 Tablespoons water
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons milk
Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water and let stand 10 minutes in mixer until foamy. Add softened butter, instant powdered milk, egg, egg white. Mix well with dough hook. Add salt and flour only adding enough flour until dough is slightly sticky. Add citron and currants and cinnamon. Continue to add rest of flour until the dough is soft and smooth and not too sticky to handle. You may not need all of your flour. Mix on slow for another 5 minutes – this will knead the dough. Let rise in mixer bowl until double in size. Punch down on floured surface, cover, and let rest 10 minutes.
Shape into 12 balls and place in a greased 9 x 12 inch pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place till double, about 35-40 minutes.
Mix egg yolk and 2 tablespoons water. Brush on balls.
Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 20 minutes. Remove from pan immediately and cool on wire rack.
To make crosses: mix together confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and milk. Brush an X on each cooled bun.