Into the Desert

Lent begins this week, with Ash Wednesday. We associate Lent with a time of both repentance and hopeful renewal. The life of our Lord Jesus becomes a model for us to contemplate in a deeper way.

The first Sunday in Lent often includes the Gospel account of Jesus being led into the desert, where we has tempted by Satan, and fasted for 40 days and nights before beginning his earthly ministry.

This story is aptly portrayed in the Gospel Canticle Antiphon, Ductus est Jesus. This Mode I antiphon sticks to the lower part of the Modal range throughout, only touching on the Reciting Note LA three times, and never ascending above this pitch. It gives the piece a sense of gravity and mystery. One thing to note are the quilismas (saw-toothed notes) on the word Spiritu. They give an upward sense of energy to the text.

“Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit, that he might be tempted by the devil; and when he had fasted for forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry”.

Into the Desert

Unto Us

By Sr. Nun Other

I recently helped remove strands of Christmas lights from a forty-four foot fir tree. I had the simple job of plugging in each strand – close to one hundred of them – to test and eliminate any that were defective. The tree climbers expertly coiled ropes of light, then piled them beneath the tree. As I retrieved them, I noticed how much each circle resembled a crown of thorns. It was a fascinating physical transformation and conveyed a distinct change in emotion that I wasn’t expecting. We rightfully honor and proclaim Christ’s birth with our best attempts at majesty and beauty. But look closely. Tucked within the ancient story are reality reminders. His life was rugged, filled with conflict, rejection, and suffering.  All for us.

CrownofLightsandThorns

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

The Chanted Passion

Yesterday, Palm Sunday, we entered into Holy Week, in which our greatest remembrance is the Passion of Christ. One of the most ancient of all chants — the chanted Passion according to St. John — reflects this remembrance. This gospel passion has been chanted for centuries on Good Friday, first being noted in the scriptures with nothing more than symbols indicating those parts chanted  by Christ, those by other characters (such as the “turba” or crowd,  or  Pilate) and finally, a narrator.

Here is a perfect example of the ancient  tradition of  chanting scripture to “lift it up.”  God’s word was meant to be sung in order to help reflect the depth of its meaning.

There is no other chant that carries more weight — more spiritual “gravitas”  — than the chanted Passion narrative. It is perhaps one of the simplest chant recitations, yet it carries some of the greatest truths. I think that that is the real lesson inside of this particular chant: its sheer simplicity is the very thing that seems to let it bring forth the incredible beauty of the Good Friday Passion.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image credit: chant grégorien – Music in Parc musicinparc.canalblog.com

Three Lenten Threads

By Sr. Nun Other

I was listening at our Lauds service today. (I don’t always and am easily lured into thinking and re-thinking my own agenda.) But today, three phrases begged me to listen. From Luke 1, the Benedictus: to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins; the Lenten Reading for Wednesday: Is not our Lord just now ready to bless you? To increase your faith, and love, and patience, and gentleness? (Charles Wesley); and finally, the Collect for the Day: You crown the merits of the saints and pardon sinners when they repent. Lent is power-packed with hope. Salvation, forgiveness, and the freedom to repent, open a corridor to Easter’s joy.

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

A Few More Pieces of Lent

By Melodious Monk

Such grief is not Lent’s goal; But to be led to where God’s glory flashes i For by your holy cross and passion you redeemed the world ii The message of the cross is folly to those who are perishing But to us who are being saved it is the power of God. iii [We] are getting deaf, so that when we find ourselves in trouble, we prefer to listen to the enemies that harry us. But when will spring arrive for us? iv Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears the deceitful face of hope and of despair Where shall the word be found, where will the word Resound? v Yet even now…”Return to me with your whole heart” vi  Make clear, make clear, make clear where truth and light appear! vii

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[i] Percy Dearmer [ii] Good Friday antiphon [iii] 1st Cor. 1:18 [iv] St. Augustine [v] T. S. Eliot [vi] Joel 2:12 [vii] Percy Dearmer

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Lent III: Sounds from Advent and Pentecost!

The Sunday introit for the third week of Lent, Oculi mei semper ad Dominum (I will my eyes always to the Lord) has audible connection to the introit for the 2nd Sunday of Advent (O People of Zion) and the Communion (There came a mighty sound ) for Pentecost.

During this past Advent, we looked at several pieces whose incipits (opening motives) could be likened to a trumpet call. It is a unique sound in the chant repertoire and immediately demands your attention. Further, we looked at how this motive often appeared in chants speaking of the kingship of God.

Advent, Lent, and Pentecost are all seasons of waiting — waiting for the appearance of the Lord, waiting for His action of Resurrection upon our lives, and waiting for the arrival of the Holy Spirit.  Each of these chants speaks of waiting with excitement and expectation. With just a few notes at the opening of these chants, they remind us that we are not waiting on just anything but on God himself, coming to us in so many different ways.

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Image credit:  Gregorian Chant –
Elaborate initial with a face [IM-10068 …cepuckett.com

Pieces of Lent

By Melodious Monk

This year, Jesus again walks with us on our Lenten journey.  As we go, I want to try and find new delights of God that I can gather together and take into springtime, with the hopes of understanding a few more aspects of the love of God.  Here are a few nuggets I picked up this week from French writer Leon Bloy.

Freedom is nothing but this: the respect God has for us…

If [God] desires to have us, he must seduce us, for if his Majesty does not please us, we can throw it from our presence, buffet it, scourge it, and crucify it to the applause of the vilest rabble. God will not defend himself with power, but only with his patience and his beauty….

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.  (Rev. 3:20)

Suffering! Here then is the key word! Here the solution for every human life on earth! The springboard for every superiority, the sieve for every merit, the infallible criterion for every moral beauty! People absolutely refuse to understand that suffering is needful…Suffering is necessary. It is the backbone, the very essence of moral life. Love is recognized by this sign, and when this sign is lacking, love is but a prostitution of strength or of beauty. I say that someone loves me when that someone consents to suffer through or for me…

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

There is but one sorrow, and that is to have lost the Garden of Delights, and there is but one hope and one desire, to recover it.

The Community of Jesus

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Lent’s Return

Last Friday, I ran to the service of Lauds, leaving the house a little later than usual and feeling disturbed about something that I couldn’t shake. I wanted to just “wall off” for a few minutes while I went to the service, but the thought went through my head: “Don’t harden your heart.”

I threw on my robe, checked the page numbers in my service book, and hoped I wouldn’t be late. As I sat down, the words of the opening antiphon leapt off the page: “If today you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” The tune started, and I found my spirit lifting.

This particular antiphon is chanted every weekday at Lauds during Lent, giving us this message every day. What amazed me was that as I saw, and heard, this antiphon again for the first time this year, it was like hearing the voice of an old friend say my name after not having seen him for many months. There was no condemnation, but rather a hopeful sound that I would welcome again in my own ears and heart.

This is one of the most beautiful aspects of chant — its return! In the annual repetition of this antiphon, it has become part of my own spiritual life. This can be and is true for any chant learned, repeated, and savored — it will become part of you in unexpected ways and unimagined moments — even when running late to a service!

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

He Will Cover You with His Wings

All of the Proper chants for the first Sunday of Lent come from Psalm 91. In reading through them — from the Introit Antiphon to the Communion Antiphon –I was amazed that all of the texts focus on God’s love and protection.

Lent is a uniquely rich time for Gregorian chant. One notable difference between Lent and the other seasons is that there is a completely different set of Propers for each DAY, as opposed to each WEEK. Also, the texts for the Lenten chants are drawn from many different psalms and other Old Testament passages. What an incredible emphasis on God’s love and mercy for the beginning of Lent.

Psalm 91 also appears every night in the Divine Office of Compline. I find it so moving that that compliant has a long-standing connection with the season of Lent — times of physical and sometimes personal spiritual darkness. Psalm 91 bursts forth in both places, speaking of God’s love “covering us with His wings.”  I believe this is one of the most beautiful and powerful moments in all of the Gregorian repertory, as it reminds us at the beginning of this season and every night before we go to sleep, just how much we are beloved of God.

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