Always Reserved

By Melodious Monk

In the Reservation Chapel
Jesus Waits
He waits for our yes
He waits for us to ask
He hopes we stay.

In the Reservation Chapel
Light comes and light goes
like a mirror of our souls
and Jesus waits
through the darkest night.

In the Reservation Chapel
Morning Sun is never late
it always comes
and Jesus waits
for our hearts to do the same.

The Community of Jesus

 

Born Again

 

By Melodious Monk

“But the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You  must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell from where it comes or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Thus says Jesus to Nicodemus when he asks how is it possible to be born again. There’s much mystery and depth of meaning to this 3rd chapter of John. This spring, I found a new connection with this scripture in a place I did not expect–Emily Dickinson’s poem, April.  She reminds us that Mother Nature is continually teaching us more and more of the beautifully vast depths of the mystery of the spirit, and I’m reminded that we must always be listening for this “wind” of the spirit-as we never know when or how it may come!

April    

An altered look about the hills
A Tyrian light the village fills
A wider sunrise in the morn
A deeper twilight on the lawn
A print of a vermillion foot
A purple finger on the slope
A flippant fly upon the pane
A spider at his trade again
An added strut in Chanticleer
A flower expected everywhere
An axe shrill singing in the woods
Fern odors on untraveled roads
All this and more I cannot tell
A furtive look you know as well
And Nicodemus’ Mystery
Receives its annual reply!

Emily Dickinson

 

Back to Heaven

By Melodious Monk

“Back to Heaven”
I’ll go back to heaven again. Hand in hand with the dew That melts at a touch of the dawning day,
I’ll go back to heaven again. With the dusk, together, just we two, at a sign from a cloud after playing on the slopes
I’ll go back to heaven again. At the end of my outing to this beautiful world I’ll go back and say: It was beautiful…
By Ch’ôn Sang Pyong

I wonder what I will say when I arrive at heaven’s door — will it be words of thanks? Ch’ôn was a Korean poet who suffered greatly in his life from brutal torture as a prisoner, and from alcoholism. But Ch’ôn was said to be a very happy man despite all of his hardships. There’s a reassuring simplicity to his words and his poetry reflects a hope that grew out of him through his struggles.

This Easter season, through the power and miracle of the resurrection, God has given us a perpetual chance to live, repent, and keep living, with-in and as His creation.  As the weather warms, and the earth starts to grow again, we should take time to notice and appreciate what he has given us—for all creation is beautiful!

The Community of Jesus

 

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

Heaven Is Home

By Melodious Monk

In his thought-provoking and deeply moving poem, Intimations of Immortality, I see poet William Wordsworth beautifully wrestling with one of the basic human questions — Why am I here? The title suggests there are indirect clues around us, intimate clues that hint at something beyond this mortal life. I like to believe that all of us are born knowing of heaven. The poem begins reflecting on childhood

There was a time when meadow, grove and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem Apparell’d in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;–Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day, The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

This final line of this first stanza begs the question, Why? Why can I see these things no more? The poem continues reminiscing about childhood “intimations” of immortality mostly in nature, until stanza four ends with two lines of questions:

Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?

These are good honest questions. Questions that I want to take more time to pray and meditate about. I think of my Christian life, and how some of the wonder, joy, and belief in the impossible has seemingly run away. I like the start of Wordsworth’s answer to these questions:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

How can I re-establish my agendas to see “celestial light” in “every common sight?” What a Joy this adventure home can still be!

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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

Peace

By Melodious Monk

This week, we are preparing to perform Vaughn Williams beautiful and heart-wrenching work, Dona Nobis Pacem. Using Walt Whitman poetry as the primary source of text, Vaughn Williams wrote the work just before WWII as an outcry begging the world not to enter another world war. The piece takes the listener on a journey through all sorts of human emotions about life and war. There’s an outcry for peace, followed by a ruthless depiction of the sheer horror and un-humanness of war. Next comes a beautiful portrayal of the hope of reconciliation, followed by a martial and respectful, but sorrow-filled movement titled Dirge for Two Veterans. In the fifth movement the ensemble reaches its height of anguish, crying out to the heavens asking why? Why all this death, turmoil and suffering? Echoing the prophets of the Old and New Testament, the work closes with a triumphal hymn reassuring us that God will have the last word. The work is set down quietly with one last plea for peace.

In the fourth movement in particular, Vaughn Williams is juxtaposing the inexplicable horror and gut-wrenching sadness of war with the dignity and respect of human life. The music sounds triumphant and victorious as the poetry is depicting a tragic scene of a father and son killed together on the front lines.

It’s the same 2 measures in this movement that put a lump in my throat every-time we sing them. The poet has just explained that he can see and hear a sad funeral procession approaching. As it arrives the listener is quickly swept from seeing a sad procession into the grandest and noblest British-sounding march with all the pomp and circumstance the orchestra, organ and choir can muster. It is a triumphal and victorious moment, thrust in among deep anguish. I know this moment is coming in the work, but each time I’m caught by surprise in the sweep of majesty and glory. Vaughn Williams captures this essence. As the created beings in God’s image, we need to be reminded that all human life deserves the utmost respect.

water

 

The Windows

By Melodious Monk

The Windows

Lord, how can man preach thy eternal word?   
  
He is a brittle crazy glass;
Yet in thy temple thou dost him afford    
   This glorious and transcendent place,    
   To be a window, through thy grace.

But when thou dost anneal in glass thy story,       
   Making thy life to shine within
The holy preachers, then the light and glory    
 
More reverend grows, and more doth win;     
  
Which else shows waterish, bleak, and thin.

Doctrine and life, colors and light, in one     
   When they combine and mingle, bring
A strong regard and awe; but speech alone     
   Doth vanish like a flaring thing,   
    And in the ear, not conscience, ring.                                                      George Herbert

 The first line of this poem indicates that the poet is portraying a preacher as a window to the divine, but I also venture to see all of us Christians, in one way or another, as a piece of this crazy, mysterious, weak, and powerful glass window.

I love the contrast in this poem, the tension between our brokenness, even our craziness, and the profound awe that can come through us. It’s awe inspiring, and a bit frightening, that this piece of crazy brittle glass, or the ones living next door, or the one I just passed in the grocery store, can glisten a light that reverberates with the power of divine eternity. 

When in our ear something of God “rings” for us, something in my bones feels it and hears its silent utterance – in this profound moment I know that something of God is mingling in the air, and inexplicably I am moved forward.  

As a musician, I find our work is searching for the right angle to allow “doctrine and life, colors and light”  to be expressed as one. Pursuing this collaborative “ring” in sound is why we practice, why we strive to create beauty. For, in my own efforts, I don’t accomplish much, and all I have to show for the work is “bleak, and thin.” But if God’s Spirit and ours are mingled as one, our tiny shard of a fiat has the possibility to ring with a “strong regard and awe.”
 
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Credo

by Melodius Monk  

Credo, the Latin for “I believe,” is a powerful word. It seems so basic to my faith, yet this fundamental starting block gets jumped over many times a day. When I wake up, do I believe God has a purpose for my day? Do I choose to believe this every morning, regardless of how I feel — that there is a loving, powerful God helping my every move? My whole self, physically and emotionally, can change if I take a second and choose “credo.”  To remember that a good, just, and amazing God, full of all the wonderfully powerful, amazing and mysterious things he tells us about in scripture is in charge of my life. Before I pray, I can believe that God will speak to me, and he will hear my requests. Before starting work, “I believe”…that with God all things are possible. Before ending my day, I can believe that God has my very best interest in his heart.

Teach me to seek you,
for I cannot seek you unless you teach me,
or find you unless you show yourself to me.
Let me seek you in my desire,
Let me desire you in my seeking.
Let me find you by loving you,
let me love you when I find you. -St. Anselm

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

Christmas Gifts

by Melodius Monk  

I know its not yet thanksgiving, but since this coming Sunday marks the start of Advent, our community is holding its annual service of Advent Lessons & Carols. The carol tunes are simple and beautiful, and opens inside of me a joyful sparkle of child-like enthusiasm..

In preparing the music this year, it has been the poetic texts that I am finding the most meaningful. In one hymn in particular, an English hymn titled, “Tomorrow shall be my dancing day”, recounts the events of Jesus’ life in the first person. After each event, Jesus exclaims “this have I done for my true love”.

I don’t often think of our salvation from Jesus’ point of view. He was excited, and longing for his “chance” to come save us from ourselves and to bring us to his dance! It is so easy for me to forget how loving God is. It’s a reminder that Jesus is daily looking for opportunities to call us to come dance with him – an invitation I don’t want to miss!

Here’s a few more of the verses!

Then was I born of a virgin pure,
Of her I took fleshly substance
Thus was I knit to man’s nature
To call my true love to my dance.

In a manger laid, and wrapped I was
So very poor, this was my chance
Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass
To call my true love to my dance.

Into the desert I was led,
Where I fasted without substance;
The Devil bade me make stones my bread,
To have me break my true love’s dance.

Then on the cross hanged I was,
Where a spear my heart did glance;
There issued forth both water and blood,
To call my true love to my dance.

Then down to hell I took my way
For my true love’s deliverance,
And rose again on the third day,
Up to my true love and the dance.

Then up to heaven I did ascend,
Where now I dwell in sure substance
On the right hand of God, that man
May come unto the general dance

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