Give Thanks in all Things

By Renaissance Girl

I logged on to Amazon.com the other day and was startled to see, staring back at me, a “countdown to Black Friday” (which, as it turns out, now begins for many stores at 5pm on Thanksgiving Day).

The one day a year that we are actually encouraged as a nation to express gratitude for what we have, is fast becoming another day we are encouraged to aggressively go after what we want.

I felt myself self-righteously puffing up with a rant about lack of gratitude and “where are our values” and then ground to a halt. How often do I live this way myself? Not grateful in the moment for the blessings in my life, but clocking my own personal countdown to the next thing on the horizon that I am sure will make my life perfect.

Perhaps “Thanksgiving Day” could be every day.

The Community of Jesus

 

Whirlwind of Patience

By Melodious Monk

It’s hard to be patient. I’ve been told that this gets better as you get older, but I’m not there, yet. There are a few specific things in my life I know God has initiated. Things I know he’s given me hope and vision for, but either they just haven’t happened yet, or they are happening in a way I can’t see or understand.  In his steady way of writing, I find that these words of Oswald Chambers help re-assure my wavering faith.

God gives us a vision, and then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of that vision. It is in the valley that so many of us give up and faint. Every God-given vision will become real if we will only have patience. Ever since God gave us the vision, He has been at work. He is getting us into the shape of the goal He has for us, and yet over and over again we try to escape from the Sculptor’s hand in an effort to batter ourselves into the shape of our own goal . . . 

Allow the Potter to put you on His wheel and whirl you around as He desires. Then as surely as God is God, and you are you, you will turn out as an exact likeness of the vision. But don’t lose heart in the process. If you have ever had a vision from God, you may try as you will to be satisfied on a lower level, but God will never allow it.

Perhaps I just need to be more patient and let God do what he does best — transform us.

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

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

We recently finished a series of chant classes in our community in which everyone joined a schola, prepared a chant, and taught it to the other scholas. It was amazing to see how various individuals came together in these ad hoc scholas, and in just a few weeks’ time, learned to work and communicate together as a group.

When we completed the final class, we asked folks what they believed they had learned. Their responses included: “We learned about supporting each other,” and “We felt a new sense of mutual support within this group,” and “It was a ‘rush’ to feel the entire community join the chant after we completed the intonation.” The word “support” was the most common remark, and not one word about neumes was mentioned, (though they worked quite hard with learning the notation)! Everyone seemed to agree that they gained a greater sense of unity through participating in a schola. Once again, chant served a purpose beyond itself as we learned to support each other more in learning the chant and ultimately, in the worship service.

 

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit: Cartoon of St Philip’s Schola © Kath Walker 2011

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

 

Hot Chicken Salad Sandwich: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

By Gourmet Nun
What is it about sandwiches that make so many people so happy? It seems to me that the very same food served on a plate often gets less positive response than it does in a bun, on a roll, or even on a loaf of bread, as it was last night at the convent.Chicken salad was on the menu for our dinner and the cook of the day chose to serve it as a hot open faced sandwich, which surprised everyone. She sliced loaves of Italian bread lengthwise, placed a layer of chicken salad on each, topped them with grated cheese and melted them under the broiler for a few minutes. When they came out they were met with exclamations of “WOW, FANTASTIC, WHAT FUN!”

Because the meal was an informal picnic type, the loaf was served whole, allowing each person to decide what size piece they wanted cut for them. For a more refined touch it can be sliced in diagonal pieces and plated, and still be a sandwich!

Hot Chicken Salad Sandwich

3 cups cooked chicken or turkey, cut into large chunks
2 teaspoons onion, grated
2 cups celery, diced
1 cup slivered almonds
2 cups seedless green grapes
2 (6 ounce) cans water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup wine
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Favorite cheese if desired

Combine chicken, onion, celery, almonds, grapes, water chestnuts. Mix mayonnaise, wine, salt and pepper; toss with chicken mixture. Spread chicken salad on bread, top with a layer of your favorite cheese and melt under a broiler.

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Shared Vision 

Our scholas have just completed the recording sessions for a Gregorian chant CD to be released later in the year. Of course, much of the preparation for the recording involved chanting together.
 
However, a large portion of the preparation and, I would venture to say, the most important part, involved the time we spent together not actually chanting. All of us had agreed together that we would, individually, take the time to really study the text – even use it in our devotional time – before delving into the chant itself. Then, we met several times as a group to discuss what we had discovered in the text and then how the chant illuminated the text.
 
After concluding this process, our chant rehearsals changed dramatically. We had a new unity of spirit, thought, and expression that went far beyond the neumes – the chant had transformed into a living conversation between us and God.  Did each of us think exactly the same thing at exactly the same moment? No. Were we committed to a shared vision of each work? Absolutely!  And, even more amazing was that within the groups, we had greatly varied levels of cantors – many very experienced – some brand new!
 
Perhaps though what I found most moving was that at the end of the sessions, we actually found it difficult to tell each other goodbye. We had experienced something together that would not have happened without  a shared vision of each chant and the conversation it helped create.
 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor
 
Easter and the return of Alleluia
 
Now in the second week of the Easter season, rehearsals have begun for the chants which will take us all the way through Ascension and Pentecost. When our Schola gathered for its first rehearsal, one particular comment kept arising: “This piece sounds familiar, but it’s somehow not quite the same.” So, as we looked at each of the pieces, we discovered the same thing — the insertion of an alleluia either within the body of the text or added as a conclusion to the entire chant.
 
This made us stop and try an experiment — chanting a piece without the alleluia. The piece sounded fine — even complete. Yet, when we put the alleluia back into the piece, an entirely different character awakened in the chant! What a fabulous discovery! As the saying goes, “You don’t really know what you have until it is gone.” How true that is with our beloved Alleluia! Instantly, we knew that the restored Alleluia was a gift to us — a reminder of the continued joy of the Easter season.
 
Chant blog.April 26.2014
 
 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Chant in Holy Week: Audible Mystery, Pain, and Love 

There is a vast well of spiritual illumination available through the chants found in Holy Week. As we move from Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, to his crucifixion and ultimately to his resurrection, the chants for Holy Week also reflect this journey. Many of us are familiar with some of the more well-known chants such as, “Hosanna, Filio David” (Hosanna to the Son of David) chanted during the symbolic entry into Jerusalem, or “Ubi Caritas” (Where true love is) which is chanted during Maundy Thursday Mass — the commemoration of the Last Supper. 
 
However, what I would like to highlight are the Lamentations of Jeremiah. These extraordinary pieces, typically chanted by a soloist and followed by a group responsory during the service of Tenebrae, are part of our Divine Office beginning with Vespers on Maundy Thursday and finishing within the Vigil for Holy Saturday. 
 
The outcries of Jeremiah become the outcries of Christ, and the indescribable grief at the downfall of Jerusalem. But what makes these pieces so unique is that each cantor takes these chants (which can be up to almost 10 minutes in length!) and spends weeks in personal prayer, preparing the lamentation so that he or she is able to chant the piece on behalf of themselves and the entire congregation.
 
In 2007, I was assigned the 8th Lamentation, which occurred during the Holy Saturday Vigil. It was a personally difficult time. As I offered this chant during the vigil, I knew that I was literally being changed as the sound came out of my mouth. Following that service, I remained in the church for several hours — I could not grasp what had just happened. All I knew was that Love itself had just greeted me and changed my life. More than at any other point, I knew that chant would be a part of my life forever.
 
Holy Week Chant Blog
 

Chicken and Roasted Vegetables Extraordinaire: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

We are still picking kale and digging up parsnips in our garden, and both are tasting so so good. From the garden straight to the stove….how much fresher could you ask for your vegetables to be, and what could taste better with these wonderful vegetables than a nice plump whole roasted chicken smothered with herbs and filled with your favorite stuffing? It seems we can never have this too often at the convent.

Most people seem to be sold on roasted vegetables these days and they are great. But to me the magic key to making them better than ever, is to roast them together with the meat or poultry with which they are being served.

DIRECTIONS-

Season a whole chicken with onion salt and pepper and herbs. Place in roasting pan large enough to hold vegetables as well. Surround the bird with equal amounts of parsnips, carrots, potatoes and onions. Roast uncovered at moderate temp 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or until juices begin to appear – stirring from time to time. Add chicken broth, water, or a splash of wine as needed making sure that every bit of flavor, fat and juice is being absorbed by scraping and stirring. Remove bird to a smaller pan to finish cooking, once the vegetables have reached the softness you desire.

photo 1 (1)