Stones

By Sr. Spero

Recently a sister wrote about learning to leave well enough alone—learning not to straighten the crooked picture. That’s not my bent. My struggle is careless inattention to detail. I’m more apt to say: “crooked picture? what picture?” We are all different, and we all need help.

Scripture calls us “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5). Some are smooth, others rough. Some are perfectly round, others have interesting shapes. We are all needed, and this is what makes community.

Building stone walls at the Community of Jesus

Feng Shui: Early American Style

By Sr. Nun Other

I’m told by a sister of Chinese heritage that I practice feng shui. And I thought I was merely rearranging furniture! I convinced her to join me, and, as we worked together, I periodically asked, “What’s that called again?” Feng shui, pronounced “fung shway,” the study of the relationship between environment and human life.  It’s composed of two Chinese words, feng (wind) and shui (water), two life sustaining natural elements that flow and circulate throughout the Earth. It is also referred to as the art of placement: how to place furniture, possessions, and yourself within your surroundings to best achieve balance, comfort, and harmony. The wing of the Convent, where my Chinese sister and I live, leans toward early American design. Matters not what your particular decorating taste is. With prayerful consideration, we can create a space of beauty that reflects God’s presence in our lives.

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Fiery Disk

By Sr. Fidelis

We’ve had two beautiful days at the Community of Jesus on Cape Cod….not a cloud in the sky, and the sun a true disk, arching through its course.

St. Gregory’s hymn for Wednesday Vespers speaks eloquently of the 4th day of Creation and describes such a day. In our digital world, it is a good reminder that God’s creation is what determines time and the length of days. The natural world and the spiritual world are so closely linked.

Most holy God of heaven, you who paint the shining center of the sky with the brightness of fire, enriching it with beautiful light,

You, who establishing on the fourth day the fiery disk of the sun, set up the orbit of the moon, and the wandering courses of the stars,

So that, to the nights or to the days you could give a line of separation, and to the beginnings of months, a most familiar sign:

Illumine the hearts of men; banish the sordid things of their soul; release the chain of guilt; make void the mass of their crimes.

Grant this, O most loving Father, and you, the only One equal to the Father, with the Spirit, the Paraclete, who reigns through every age. Amen.

The Community of Jesus

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

The Life of Christ in Chant

Happy Easter!

We have just experienced the most amazing of weeks in the liturgical year — Holy Week leading to Easter.

The chants composed for this week audibly take us through each of the various parts of the week. Christ’s entry into Jerusalem was heralded by one of the most famous of all chants, Hosanna, Filio David (Hail, Son of David!).  Maundy Thursday, on which Christ gives “a new commandment,” was characterized by the chanting of Ubi Caritas (Where true love is, God himself is there.) > On Good Friday we had the ancient Gospel Passion chanted for the Veneration of the Cross. Holy Saturday opened with the well-known response Lumen Christi (Christ, Light of the World), followed by the Exultet in which the history of our salvation was chanted. Ultimately, we heard chanted the most famous Gregorian Hymn — Victimae Paschali Laudes (Christ, the Paschal Victim) to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection!

This is the richest time in the entire church year for which Gregorian chant does her most beautiful work of illuminating Christ’s life.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Introit for Easter Day: Resurrexi,
 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Chant: The Lord’s voice in Song

I started to write this blog four different times this morning. I try to pray and meditate each week on some aspect of chant about which to write. Sometimes the ideas appear quickly and sometimes, like today, they did not. However, as I started over for the fifth time, I realized that the Kyrie chant from the Gregorian daily ordinary time mass was quietly going through my head. Very gently, this simple tune was repeating itself over and over. The chant itself carries a profound cry – “Lord, have mercy” and yet is no more complex than a nursery rhyme tune.

I wanted to share this with you for two reasons. One, it is often the simplest of chants which become part of our subconscious, just as children’s songs do, through both their simplicity and daily repetition. (You can find this Kyrie online and make it part of your daily prayers – see p. 56 of the pdf located at this link:  http://media.musicasacra.com/pdf/kyriale-solesmes.pdf).

The second reason I wanted to share this with you is that the Lord was using the chant the entire time I had been trying to “figure out what to write.” I had not been listening. God had been singing an answer to my request the entire time but I was not settled enough to listen. This time, I believe, the Lord himself was chanting into my ears a message that He wanted written and that I needed for that moment.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image Credit:  Chants from a choirbook from Florence

Victoria and Albert  museum  www.vam.ac.uk1000 × 1500

 

Everyday Holiness

By Sr. Nun Other

I live in a wing of our Convent called “Elim”. It’s a Biblical name that means oasis, a shelter in the desert, a place of serenity and refuge. I’m fully aware that my personality brings daily chaos to the oasis, and that its godly purpose rests on fragile ground. One thing I can do is help create order and beauty in the space itself. I discovered an interesting verse, Psalm 93:5, that says: Your statutes, Lord, stand firm; holiness adorns your house for endless days. It occurred to me that all places (and people) dedicated to God should be adorned with holiness. I’m not sure what all that means, but I do know that beauty in ordinary things is an important component.

The Community of Jesus

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Talk to Me today

In the Rule of St. Benedict, we find the instruction to “prefer nothing to the work of God.” The “work” to which Benedict refers is that of praying the Divine Office. In his monastery, the monks prayed the offices seven times a day, always coming from their various activities of work, recreation, or even sleep,  The number of Divine Offices prayed in monasteries today may vary, but the principal is still the same — “prefer nothing to the work of God.”

Sometimes, it is quite easy to stop what I am doing and attend the Office. Other times, it feels like an unwanted interruption. In either case, the opening chant of the Divine Office is always a reminder to me that God knows these thoughts and feelings I have. The service of Lauds, which means “praise,” opens with the text, “O Lord, open Thou my lips and my mouth will show forth Thy praise.” The other offices open with “O Lord, come to my aid and help me.”  In both cases, these simple opening chants, which are a “call and response,” remind me instantly that it is God’s action which “taps on my shoulder” and says “Remember and talk to me throughout your whole day.”

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Illumination from the Cantigas de Santa Maria medieval-era manuscripts.

Feeling Sheepish?

By Sr. Nun Other

While doing dishes in Bethany Guest House, I noticed a parade of fabricated sheep on their way to storage. Realistically-made and life-sized, they stood sentinel during Christmas and Epiphany, silently guiding the way to the manger. Sheep are not perfect and sometimes described in 3D: Dumb, Directionless, and Defenseless. Yet God gave them a prominent place at the birth of His Son. An often used biblical metaphor is that of shepherd and sheep. Perhaps my favorite is John 10:14 – I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and my sheep know me. We are chosen to be humble and to follow Him who knows our greatest need.

The Community of Jesu

Vows

By Melodious Monk

Last week was a particularly special and significant week for our monastic community, because it is the week in which novices, and simple professed members can make their professions.

The Rule of Life of the Community of Jesus states, “Though in its essence Christian discipleship is a vocation common to all believers, the vows made in a monastic life give that discipleship a distinct form.”  The next page continues on to say,  “Following centuries of monastic tradition, membership in the Community of Jesus is built upon three primary vows: obedience, conversion, and stability.”

Hearing these professions serves as a reminder to me of the life-choices I have committed to in this particular place. I think it can also serve to remind all Christians of their daily choices to follow Christ. Each morning I’m given anew the choice to step into the endless stream of the unceasing love, mercy, and creativity of God. The choice is mine to reject — or to wade forward on faith: the opportunity is always newly presented. Many days I have to remind myself to re-choose this discipleship, to choose to believe in God’s promised goodness as a backdrop for my life today.

The Community of Jesus

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

The Spirit of Solesmes

In 1997, Sr. Mary David Totah published a collection of various writings from writers associated with the Abbey of St. Peter of Solesmes.  This collection, entitled The Spirit of Solesmes, contains translations of inspirational works — many for the first time in English.  Recently, someone handed me a short, inspirational “word” from this book which I wanted to share with you as I thought it encapsulated the spirit of the monks who have given us so much through their guardianship of Gregorian chant:

“God clearly entrusts us with a task; obstacles present themselves, they accumulate. Should we leave the struggle, appealing to the name of “impossibility”? But the impossible is the very region of faith. As long as we move in the realm of the possible, we are only half sailing in the supernatural; but when someone leaves the shore and learns how to launch out generously under the watch of God into what he does not believe possible but what is clearly demanded of him, he carries out marvels. Happy are they whom God considers strong enough to track down in this way and compels to spring into the supernatural element of pure faith.”

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 
Credit for image: Photo: Abbey Saint Pierre – Solesmes – France
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