“For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.'” Isaiah 41:13
I find it so interesting that ringing bells can be a spiritual exercise!
The other day, some of us were learning the process of “ringing the bells up.” This can be a frightening experience because if you don’t do it properly, you can have an accident. As the Lord is accustomed to doing, he taught me a lesson in the process.
I was so stuck in my fear, that I was doing things that blocked me from going forward in the process. I wasn’t breathing, my knees were locked rigid, and I couldn’t even hear Br. Matthew’s instructions he was giving me to help me. I had been quietly saying out loud, “Jesus, I trust in You. Jesus, I trust in You.”
To my surprise, all of a sudden, I found myself saying, “Br. Matthew, I trust in you.” When we stopped ringing, I had a good laugh with those ringing with me, but realized, sometimes my lack of trust isn’t just a lack of trusting Jesus. It’s not trusting my friends around me that want to help and that the Lord has put there for me. I realized I allow my fear to block myself from going forward. Things don’t always have to be as difficult as I allow my own sin to make them.
A few weeks ago, we had the privilege of hosting the Ringers from Trinity Church in New York City for an afternoon of ringing. Their tower is currently under construction for maintenance work, and they are using this time to travel to other towers and ring.
Whenever we have visiting ringers, we take advantage of the years of experience and helpful advice that they willingly share, and we embrace the opportunity to improve our skills. Bell ringing is an art form that takes years of practice to develop. The “subculture” of tower ringing includes a longstanding tradition of hospitality (a perfect fit with our Benedictine heritage!), and of sharing experience and instruction between bands of ringers. Taking our place in this tradition is a privilege that we gratefully treasure!
When a strong band of ringers visits, it is the perfect time to stretch our own abilities and try to ring something that is just a little bit out of our grasp of understanding. Only through these faith- and skill-building forays can we improve and build confidence in our ringing; and in keeping with our determination to do “all things to the glory of God,” we will keep at it.
We are very grateful for the fun afternoon that we spent ringing together and we look forward to the Area Meeting this week, where we will see more familiar faces!
The entire life of a Christian is an exercise in holy desire. St. Augustine
The Lauds reading this morning was from St. Augustine—about stretching our souls through holy desire. He used the illustration of a wineskin, the forerunner of the wine bottle, that could be stretched to hold more wine. I’ve never had to stretch a wineskin, but I’ve put too much in a suitcase, and been very grateful for a top zipper that expands my space. So I understand the concept.
St. Augustine’s point is that we are containers, of one sort or another, that should expand and stretch so that God can use us more and more. We do this through holy desire. As we desire God, we are being stretched, to be able to hold more of Him. I suspect spiritual stretching is like physical stretching. It takes effort, it’s sometimes painful, but always worth it. Lord, help me to desire you more and more, and not be surprised when I feel the stretching.
I did laundry the other day, and noticed a drip or two of liquid detergent on our new washer. A Christmas gift from a sister’s mother, it’s beautiful, state-of-the-art, and eco-friendly. It even plays a little tune when you open the lid, six musical notes that somehow convey how great clean laundry is. As I reached for a cloth and spray cleaner to remove the drips, I was reminded of an early lesson I received.
The lesson was about a grateful heart, and the teacher was my sister, twelve years older than I am. She had asked for my help at the laundromat, and we had several baskets full. After the last load was neatly folded, my sister added one more task: she cleaned and polished both the washer and dryer she’d used. I asked her why, and her reply made a deep impression. She explained that because she and her husband struggled financially, they were unable to afford a washer and dryer for their home. But she was grateful for the laundromat and the opportunity it provided. Why not treat their machines as if they were her own. It was a lesson about expressing love and gratitude in a practical way, for ordinary things. For me, a grateful heart is a concept with its feet on the ground.
Mode VIII is the most prolific of all the modes when it comes to antiphons! Mode VIII has a Reciting Tone of DO and shares the same Home Tone as Mode VII, which is SOL. Mode VIII pieces have a “major” sound to them because of the range of the modal scale they use. Our example this week is taken from the Easter Office of Lauds.”But the Angel answering, said to the women: Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus, alleluia.” (Matthew 28:5)
A look at our antiphon shows us many things. The opening intonation outlines the key structural pitches, SOL and DO. There is recitation on the DO on “Nolite timere” at the beginning of the second line. This piece reminds us of Mode VII (which recites on RE), as it rises in several spots above the DO to the upper pitch, reminding us that these modes are closely related, linked by their shared Home tone.
While traveling with my four-pawed brown-eyed friend I learned an important lesson about my relationship with Jesus. His favorite place to be was curled up on my lap like a cat, if I was seated. If was standing, he desperately wanted to be carried but would stand close by my feet with his eye pinned on me.If we separated, he would come, nose to the ground and eyes searching all the feet, to find my feet. If tending to his “own business” outdoors were to take him any distance from me, the corners of white-rimmed eyes would always be curled around to see where I was, no matter what!
He suffered thousands of feet, strange places, uncomfortable beds, food at any hour, being stuffed in a bag at my feet on a plane; not understanding and yet following any place, any time, into any circumstance.
He convinced me that I was his master and the only master in the world he wanted. His constant work and joy was to be with me, wherever I sent him, his face told me I would be in the center of his thoughts ‘til he was by my side or in my lap again. He moved and strangely warmed my heart, and I longed to tend to his needs and have him always by my side. His love blessed me. My greeting became always a caress and a special personal word.
Suddenly, I understood—Oh, Jesus. It is so easy to have You with me if only I would take You to my heart as I am in his.
Our miniature poodle, Liberty, is aptly named. She’s independent and self-determined! Were she a person, I’m quite sure she’d be blunt and opinionated. Because she is diagnosed with iris atrophy which causes eye sensitivity to the sun, we want to keep her happy and healthy on daily walks. One of the Sister’s found sun visors for dogs and ordered a couple. We chose pastel, calico prints, and a sewing sister altered them to fit perfectly. (See picture below.) Liberty’s expression radiates, “Really? You expect me to wear this thing?” She initially tried everything available to remove it: wiggling, head shaking, rubbing her head on the grass. The truth is, the visor makes her walks more enjoyable and her eyes more comfortable and she realizes that. She’s learned to tolerate the humiliation for the “greater good.” Like Liberty, I usually know what I want, but not always what’s best for me. It requires humility to reconcile the difference.
Even a brief watching of the nightly news shows a world in need, and inwardly, we are never far from a spiritual battle between our human natures and God’s divine purposes. Here we are at Ascension, a time when Jesus tried to explain to his closest followers why he had to leave them. He said, “If I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you.” The word Advocate can be derived from the Greek word Parakletos, also phrased as “one called alongside.” Or, as the NIV translates the word, “one who speaks in our defense.” I forget regularly that Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit, our advocate, to help, to comfort, and to defend us. As the season of Easter is fading away, we have a great gift coming from Jesus. A gift I want to learn more about. In moments of need, I want to learn to gain strength and trust by following this Advocate’s counsel.
A few years ago, I tried writing a folk song recounting the story of Jonah. While my song had several (now forgotten) verses, I do remember the first one:
Old Jonah looking for a ship to sail,
Ended up in the belly of a whale.
When the wind blew, he drew a lot,
And a hungry fish was the best he got!
Jonah’s testimony is a fascinating one. His four brief chapters of fame are a case study in vacillation between faithlessness and faithfulness. The cowardly man who “fled from the presence of the Lord,” is the same who later insists that the sailors, to save themselves, throw him into the midst of the sea. Swallowed by a whale and incarcerated in an unknown environment, his earnest prayer is one of thanksgiving to God. His gratitude quickly turns to indignation when Ninevah is spared, and he’s inconsolable when a worm eats his shade tree. Perhaps the greatest thing about this story is God’s love for and infinite patience with His wayward child. He uses everything at His disposal — from a whale to a worm — to accomplish His will in both Jonah and 120,000 Ninevites.
The Alleluia for the third week of Paschaltide takes its’ verse from Luke 24: 35.
Cognoverunt discipuli Dominum Jesum in fractione panis. The disciples knew the Lord Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
A Latin word study gives numerous enlightening meanings: to know….to become thoroughly acquainted with, to learn by inquiring, to examine, to perceive. One meaning implied that it required individual exertion to strive to know. Can we imagine the enlightening of spirit, paired with the reality of the recent Last Supper, and the breaking of the bread of the body on the cross that filled the disciples when the Lord Jesus broke the bread in their presence?