Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

A Willing Spirit

While chanting Psalm 51 this morning at Lauds, this phrase caught my attention:

“…et spiritu promptissimo confirma me” (…and give me a willing spirit).

What struck me was the word translated as “willing” is “promptissimo,” and from which is derived our word “prompt.” I ran home and looked up the Latin translation which reads “The most eager.” So, that phrase from Psalm 51 could be read in English as “…and give me the most eager spirit.”

The response to the first half of the verse is: ‘Restore to me the joy of my salvation.” I asked the Lord to tell me what he wanted to be said today. When I saw the word “promptissimo,” I knew instantly that I had my answer. I gave a prompt and resounding “thank you” to God for having answered me so readily! In that word, he told me he was listening to my prayer and that my joy would return in quick response of thanks to him! Amazing — all within one word in the middle of a chant recitation!

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image Credit: Gregorian Chant Splash Page
www.gregorianchant.org.uk

 

Degrees of Unpleasantness

By Melodious Monk

A sacrifice is not, as so many people imagine, a mortification; it is not something that is meritorious according to its degree of unpleasantness; on the contrary, in real sacrifice, there is a joy which surpasses all other joys, it is the crescendo and culmination of love. -Caryll Houselander

This is an interesting quote from an early 20th century British mystic and poet. It’s difficult for people, even many Christian people, to not view God as an authorial figure who is constantly judging, accruing and tallying the results of our every day. We’ve all been taught since early Sunday school that God loves us unconditionally, and thank God he does. But, do we really take advantage of this gift of sacrifice?

Sacrifice can be defined as: the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone.

I laugh at the phrase that Houselander uses to describe our human viewpoint of sacrifice, imagined as “according to its degree of unpleasantness.”  I know I childishly base many decisions each day on this “degree” of unpleasantness!  What I don’t usually keep measure of, and perhaps should start, is joy.  If true joy is something I desire each day, then a new way to look at sacrifice would be to realize that any sacrificial acts will help crescendo my daily “degree” of joy, and perhaps decrease my degree of unpleasantness!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit for image
Sancta Missa – Liber Usualis – PDF
www.sanctamissa.org225 × 291

 

Keeping Godly Perspective

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.

The Community of Jesus

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image Credit: www.bloggen.be198 × 240

 

Uncontrollably Unabashed

By Melodious Monk

This past Sunday, our marching band was part of a parade celebrating the 350th anniversary for a nearby town. Marching down the narrow streets, I noticed a particularly happy group along the side of the road — young kids! It’s fun to see how the rhythm of the drums, or the sparkle of the uniform, or the sound of the instruments, the twirling flags, or just the sheer size of the long marching unit makes kids smile.

You know when a toddler or infant is excited and they just start flailing their arms and body with lots of energy and smiles?  They aren’t controlled enough yet to do much else, but when something inside is sparked to life, they respond with a type of dancing (of sorts!) and there is absolutely no care of what they might look like! Some of us older kids, I’m afraid, are often too embarrassed to follow this impulse to dance. We care what we look like, and perhaps we are afraid we might look like the uncontrolled toddler trying to dance. The young child doesn’t care about pride, or how they look — they’re just excited and want to express that innate joy. Marching in the parade, I wondered if this instinctive response to express, to dance, to let oneself be sparked by joy, is part of what Jesus means when He tells us to live child-like.

So I wonder, what form of control often robs me of this unabashed joy as an adult? Is it simply pride?

The Community of Jesus

 

Kaleidoscope

By Renaissance Girl

I was thinking about God’s will, and the focus and discipline that it takes to see His vision and follow it no matter what. Focus and discipline are two words I do not say lightly, or with a lot of joy. I am just starting to be willing to believe that they are the avenues to spiritual freedom, although it takes every ounce of my energy to choose them over my desire for ease and independence.

And suddenly, I had a picture of a kaleidoscope. As if that is what it is to see God’s will. I have to narrow my scope, cut away the extra little plans I’m holding on to, and be willing to look through the small little hole.  Because each explosion of color and design that surprises you on the other side are more than worth it.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

Gifts That Keep On Giving

By Sr Nun Other

Galations 5:22-23  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

I’d like to add one other: the fruit of beauty. Not just that achieved through man’s creative efforts, but the beauty of a soul transformed. I watched as hydrangeas outside our kitchen window passed through their cycle of life. From the first budding of leaves, to a radiant burst of blue, purple and pink, they quietly moved toward the delicate colors of fall, the petals no longer supple, more like lace that can be broken.

The Community of Jesus

 

Speaking of Words

By Sr. Nun Other

I’m privileged this summer to be part of a once-a-week vocal class. Our teacher, to help us better convey the meaning of our song, assigns an interesting exercise. We choose an English translation of a sung Latin phrase and then read the sentence aloud, emphasizing a different word each time. The sound looks like this:

Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.
Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.
Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.
Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.

And so forth. In a world where communication often consists of abbreviated texts such as, “How R U?”  “K. U?”, we risk losing the personal touch of word selection. Having both the capacity to hurt or heal, to cause laughter or tears, words express our humanity. Jesus did this like no other, choosing his words with both compassion and honesty. I need to follow his example.
The Community of Jesus

Lessons From My Dog

By Renaissance Girl

I was working on a project the other morning — one that involved keeping careful count of an item, and therefore required my full concentration.

My dog was with me, quietly hovering just on the edge of my circle of focus . . . except for his insistent repetition of dropping his tennis ball on a box in front of me, or at my feet, and then backing up expectantly, waiting for me to catapult it into the air so he could give chase. He’d pull back and wait for a minute, then, if he did not get the desired response, he’d snatch it up again and drop it an inch away (as if maybe just a slightly different location would inspire a better result).  We’d had our play time so I ignored him while I finished up.

But at some point he pulled my focus away from my task and onto his face, his ears alert, jaw twitching, and wide brown eyes full of confident and hopeful expectancy — truly believing if he just kept at it, eventually I’d turn his way and kick the ball — which I did.

And it hit me — here was an image of our relationship with God — or perhaps what it should be. Not that He ignores us, but sometimes the answer doesn’t come in the time I want it to. Too often I quit and simply walk away from the ball — or maybe snatch it back in frustration and sulk — or tear it to pieces. But maybe the point — and the work — is to stay in the constant state of hope and expectancy, believing that the answer WILL come — and poised and ready to spring after it with all joy.

The Community of Jesus