When Heaven and Earth Converge

By Sr. Nun Other

At Christmas, we have the opportunity to dwell in the fruition of this beautiful imagery: Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. (Psalm 85:10)  We kneel at a manger to discover a mystery, a holy riddle, beyond human reasoning. He is Mary’s son, entrusted to Joseph, a carpenter from Nazareth. He is God’s son, sung to by angels and visited by kings. He is the reconciliation of all that divides us, and, if we follow his footsteps, the one who makes us whole.

The Community of Jesus

About Feet

By Melodious Monk

I got to thinking about feet this week.

Way up high in the ceiling of our church I find lots of them. While changing some light bulbs along the wood trusses, I begin to notice some faint, yet clearly distinguishable foot prints high up on the beams. Unknown and unnamed prints left from the original construction of the church. Little did these construction workers know that they would be leaving their lasting footprint in this house.

And I got to thinking about feet – which turned into a series of prayers.  Feet evoke action and choice. As I leave my footprints this day–where are they headed?


‘Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.’
‘He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm’
‘…and(Jesus) began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel’
‘guide our feet into the way of peace’
‘Do not turn to the right nor to the left; Turn your foot from evil. ‘
‘For You have delivered my soul from death, Indeed my feet from stumbling’
‘and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them’
‘I have restrained my feet from every evil way’
‘My steps have held fast to Your paths My feet have not slipped.’
‘..but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair’
‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden will be an inheritance to you and to your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God fully.’

The Community of Jesus

 

Discipline of Gratitude

By Melodious Monk

One November many years ago, our first president proclaimed: 

“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country…” 

Following in Washington’s footsteps during a difficult time for our nation, Abraham Lincoln said this:

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.” 

Fast forwarding to our generation, the late Henri Nouwen, a man who seemed to know and cherish man’s universal purpose to glorify and give thanks to God, left us this advice. “In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy. Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint…the choice for gratitude rarely comes without some real effort. But each time I make it, the next choice is a little easier, a little freer, a little less self-conscious.”

Each day, and especially today, we can continue the generations-old tradition of choosing to place our thanks and trust in the loving “great disposer of events” as president Lincoln affectionately worded our creator.  I hope that in some way, my small offering of thanks today, together with yours, can join myriad legions of angels to help guide all of us to taste some inestimable blessings.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit:  Artist’s depiction of George Washington praying at Valley Forge. (Public Domain)

Stand up for The King!

By Cantor

We often hear the phrase “chant is so peaceful.” Certainly, many chants do have an inherent sense of peace about them.  But not all of them — sometimes the chant demands our attention, insisting that we stand up and listen!

Last week, the communion antiphon began with the text “Amen, dico vobis.”  Translated, that means “So be it, I say to you.”  These words of Jesus are not set to a gentle recitation but rather burst forth on a trumpet-like motive that leaves no room for doubt that we need to listen to Jesus’ words that follow.

All week, I found myself “hearing” that trumpet motive from other times of the church year. In fact that same sound occurs in the communion for Pentecost — “Factus est repente de caelo sonus” (A mighty sound came rushing out of Heaven); the introit for Christmas Day mass — “Puer natus est” (A boy is born unto us); the procession for Palm Sunday — “Hosanna, Filio David” (Hosanna to the Son of David), to name a few. In moments, I had been taken through much of the church year, reminded by a simple musical motive of the Kingship of Christ.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit for image 5070 – Music – Gregorian Chant

mw.mcmaster.ca275 × 400

Heavenly Questions

By Melodious Monk

When I finished high school, I was given a new Bible. The front cover had a picture of a young man, about my age, with three questions; What’s the purpose of life? Does God care about me? And Does anything last? These are eternal questions, the type we ponder whether we are aware of them or not, whether we consider ourselves religious or not.

I’ve been studying a poem by William Wordsworth for a piece of music that our choir will be performing at an All Saints Day concert. One line reads, “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting.” Thinking about this line of text, there is a lot of theological belief packed into it. Wordsworth goes on to explain that “heaven lies about us in our infancy,” but as we grow up, “shades of the prison house” (earth) build up around us, and we forget from whence we came and to where we are headed.

I still don’t understand many of the answers to the three questions on the front of my Bible. But Wordsworth helps give me clues. When I choose to believe in Heaven as a place that I came from and am going to, small and large worries no longer seem significant. Life gains a tremendous purpose, hope, and bit of clarity as I remember that there is another vast world still to uncover.

The Community of Jesus

The Better Portion

By Sr. Nun Other

I had a plan for this morning. Rise early and get busy. I woke up at 4:30 to the sound of rain drops riding on a cool breeze, and like Mary (for once), chose the better portion. I listened to the rain’s unique music, and then drifted into a more peaceful sleep. There are moments in time prepared by God to bless us. In my agenda driven mind, I often miss or override their importance to the structure and balance of the day. I force my will, working hard and accomplishing little, because I’m out of sync with God. He sends love our way each day, when we’re open to receive 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

 

Fear Not

By Renaissance Girl

Gloriae Dei Cantores gave two concerts this past weekend.  The closing piece was Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem.  It is an incredibly stirring piece — first performed in 1936. Vaughan Williams, having seen first-hand the horrors of WWI, and already feeling the tensions that would lead to WWII, set texts from scripture and the expressive poetry of Walt Whitman. The full orchestra undergirds the choir’s cries for peace and laments over the relentlessness of war.  At one point, having reached a peak with a cry of “Is there no balm in Gilead?” the music takes a sudden turn with the baritone solo coming in with the words “Oh man, greatly beloved, fear not.  Peace be unto you.”  It’s as though the tired, ragged and spent body of the pray-er is suddenly breathed over and touched by the hand of God himself.  I was surprised to learn the text is from the book of Daniel.  Daniel has just seen a vision of the destruction of his people and says literally, “My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe because of the vision.” The vision before him is of a man who touches him and says the words that Vaughn Williams set — and “he was strengthened.”  It caught me that in our brokenness and exhaustion, if we can simply turn our face to God, all it takes is a word from him to strengthen us.  In international war, or our own internal battles day after day — God calls us “greatly beloved” and bids us “Fear not.”

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Photo By Kate Shannon

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

A Beautiful Departure 

One of our long-time community members died quite peacefully and happily this past week. She was 97 and extraordinarily full of life!  We always observe a vigil 24 hours prior to the funeral service and burial, during which the Divine Office moves from whatever season we may be in, to the Office of the Dead.  It was amazing! The use of “major modes” was everywhere — the psalms hopeful and full of praise for God’s mercy and grace — such joy for the believer’s return to Heaven. 
          
At the funeral Eucharist, we closed with the exquisite “In Paradisum” chant. That chant moved me to tears as we told our friend good-bye until we see her again in Heaven. 
           
I guess what was really on my mind and heart is that again, here was chant at such a crucial point in life — the time to return home to God. And, such a simple and beautiful chant — a “send-off” to Paradise”. This is one of the truest beauties of chant: helping us to keep our wonderment and awe of God’s love at such turning points in our lives!
 
“In paradisum deducant te Angeli; in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem. Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere æternam habeas requiem.”
 
May the angels lead you into paradise; and when you arrive, may the martyrs receive you and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem. May the ranks of angels receive you, and along with Lazarus, once a poor man, may you have eternal rest.
 
chant blog.4.8.14
 
 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

The Silence in Chant 

As part of our journey through Lent, we have been discussing the space between the chanted psalms within the Divine Office. That space — that silence — is meant for meditation and prayer on what has just been chanted and perhaps, what is yet to come.
 
I have  discovered I like my noises. I am not a great one for uncontrolled spaces of silence. The space between the psalms is comparatively long, and though it is less than a minute, it still seemed to me that my mind covered at least six subjects during that space. So, here is the learning point for me: Taking that same peace and engagement with God while chanting into the space of meditation. In a real sense, I am working to elongate the chant through silence while praying and meditating. 
 
Chant blog 3.7.14