Room to Wander

By Sr. Nun Other

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 Community of Jesus

 

 

Security Blanket

By Melodious Monk
One of my favorite prayers at Eucharist is the Proper Preface leading into the Sanctus of the Mass. These prayers seem so resolute, so secure, and so unwavering in faith. For the second Sunday of Easter, one version prays: “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, at all times to acclaim you, O Lord, but in this time (Easter) above all to laud you yet more gloriously.” The absoluteness, the beauty imagined, and the clarity from these words temporarily pushes away nagging thoughts of self, of doubt and of fear. It’s a hopeful moment when the best promises are again declared aloud that they will be so. For “Through him, the children of light rise to eternal life and the halls of the heavenly Kingdom are thrown open to the faithful…”

The Community of Jesus

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Chanting by Heart: A Path to Lively Prayer

Just by reading the words “Salve Regina,” many of us have a very familiar and beloved tune begin streaming through our “inner ear” — a sound many of us have known since childhood. Likewise, “O Come Emmanuel” will instantly whisk us inwardly to the time of Advent. If we even begin chanting “Humbly I adore Thee, verity unseen”, we are reminded of Maundy Thursday or the celebration of Eucharist itself.

In current-day language, most people speak of performing “by memory” or “without music.” As I re-read my old notes from classes with Mary Berry, I am struck with her continual references to knowing the chant “by heart.”  “By heart” says something very different than “by memory.” “By heart” implies having something buried deep inside ourselves, something which has truly become part of us and which has become connected not just to our memories, but our emotions and spirit as well. THIS is chanting “by heart” and is one of the greatest joys of chant — to learn and know it so well that it becomes a conduit for prayer as a living conversation, full of spirit and verve!

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Image Credit
Gregorian Institute of Canada: News www.gregorian.ca

An Unknowing Gift-Giver

By Melodious Monk

One of the ways I have often known God to talk to me is through other people, and at often unexpected moments. Last Tuesday, in the middle of a physical therapy appointment for my back, the therapist said rather plainly, “if your back starts to hurt doing an exercise, the answer here is not to push through the pain.” This was sort of a side-bar comment in between sets of exercises as she gave me the next set of instructions.  Inside of me, everything froze for a split second, and these words were emblazoned in my ears and minds-eye like a bright neon light.

Laying there on my back on top of the physio-ball, I immediately felt like these words were coming from God. As God often seems to be, His help was simple, clear…and unexpected!  “The answer here is not to push through the pain.”  Right away I knew this was God’s answer to a prayer I’d been specifically asking for guidance and clarity of direction on since early Monday morning. (The prayer request had nothing to do with my back)

Initially I was so excited I wanted to ask the therapist to: 1) please repeat what she had just said, 2) if there was any more to the message from God? 3) could she possibly answer a few more questions I have for the Almighty?!  I’m sure she had no idea that she might have been speaking on behalf of God. Nevertheless, I still believe she was. I think God used those words to care for me, and to assure me once again that he is listening, and responding to our prayers.

The Community of Jesus

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.

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Image Credit:  Chants from a choirbook from Florence

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

 

Interior About-Face

By Melodious Monk

Have you ever asked yourself honestly, does God love me? While the answer YES! comes quickly to mind, I know many times today I’ll ask myself this question and doubt. Over small worries, unfairness, fears — and over situations I don’t know how to handle, or am powerless to change — I’ll ask this question and doubt.

These words from Henri Nouwen’s well-known meditations on the story of the Prodigal Son are hopeful in bridging the gap of faith between knowing about God’s love, and allowing oneself to live inside of this love. Nouwen shares: ‘For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life–pray always, work for others, read the scriptures–and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.  Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?”

I’m certain I put forth much extra work to answer the wrong questions; extra efforts to “find God,” and to “know God” rather than simply allowing myself to be loved by him.  Nouwen continues: “But if I am able to look at the world with the eyes of God’s love and discover that God’s vision is not that of a stereotypical landowner or patriarch, but rather that of an all-giving and forgiving father who does not measure out his love to his children according to how well they behave, then I quickly see that my only true response can be deep gratitude.”

I have so much to be grateful for, all the time, every day.

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.”

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Image credit: www.musicappreciation.com200 × 283Search by image
Illumination from the Cantigas de Santa Maria medieval-era manuscripts.

Gems From A Little Red Book

By Melodious Monk

Tonight I was inspired to pick up my small copy of the Rule of St. Benedict. While looking for a 3-ring binder, this little red glossy cover buried in a stack of books caught my attention, so I placed it in my coat pocket for later reading. Just before bed, I remembered the little book.

Today was a difficult day for me. It was the type of day when nothing seemed to work out – at least on the surface. I found myself in several arguments, which eventually got settled, but left me somewhat disquieted.

So at the end of the day, opening the little red book, I was more than drawn into its words, surprised to discover that St. Benedict’s pen was addressing me directly.

Listen carefully, my son… this is advice from a father who loves you… First of all, every time you begin a good work… You must pray for him most earnestly to bring it to perfection… for the Scripture arouses us when they say: It is high time for us to arise from sleep. (Rom 13:11)… If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts (Ps 94:8) Come and listen to me and I will teach you the fear of the Lord (Ps 33:12) Keep your tongue free from vicious talk… Let peace be your peace and aim… Once you have done this, my eyes will be upon you and my ears will listen to your prayers.” (Isa 58.9)

(Excerpts from Prologue to Rule of St. Benedict. 1980. Edited Timothy Fry)

What a treasure of wisdom. If you haven’t read St. Benedict’s Rule, I recommend it.  It’s full of so many rich gems. There’s good reason why fifteen hundred years later so many people still follow his teachings.

The Community of Jesus

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Come, Holy Spirit

Veni Creator Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit) is one of the best known and most beloved of all chants. It is sung at the opening of the election process of a new pope, monastic chapter meetings, as well as Pentecost Sunday. Mary Berry always opened her teaching sessions with this chant. An invocation for inviting the Holy Spirit to be present, it is truly a chant for all occasions.This chant is also found in today’s hymnals, set in modern notation, and is frequently put into choral anthem settings.

As we begin a new year, it seemed a good time to point out that of all the Gregorian chant repertoire, perhaps the most famous work also has one of the largest audiences. Below, I have put an English translation of the text that can serve as an opening prayer for 2015!

Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,  and in our souls take up Thy rest; come with Thy grace and heavenly aid to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

O comforter, to Thee we cry, O heavenly gift of God Most High, O fount of life and fire of love, and sweet anointing from above.

Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known; Thou, finger of God’s hand we own; Thou, promise of the Father, Thou Who dost the tongue with power imbue.

Kindle our sense from above, and make our hearts o’erflow with love; with patience firm and virtue high the weakness of our flesh supply.

Far from us drive the foe we dread, and grant us Thy peace instead; so shall we not, with Thee for guide, turn from the path of life aside.

Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow the Father and the Son to know; and Thee, through endless times confessed, of both the eternal Spirit blest.

Now to the Father and the Son, Who rose from death, be glory given, with Thou, O Holy Comforter, henceforth by all in earth and heaven. Amen.

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Credit for image Misa Tradicional en La Plata: Secuencia de Pentecostés misatradicionalenlaplata.blogspot.com

An Exposition in Defense of New Year’s Resolution

By Sr. Nun Other

Sounds pompous doesn’t it? Let’s put it this way: isn’t a little forward progress better than none?  If I refrain from a cupcake today and a hot fudge sundae tomorrow, I’m approximately 1100 calories to the good. If, three days from now, I gobble down a piece of pie, I’ve still consumed 1100 calories less than were offered to me. I make this point because I easily fold under the pressure of personal failure. I do not cheerfully “pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again” as the old song goes. A prayerfully considered declaration of intent, however, holds me accountable. It invites small memories of success that are grounded in faith and lead to the will of God.

The Community of Jesus