Composting

by Sister Spero

I’m learning about composting, and it’s reminding me about how God works with us to build spiritual maturity. The composter takes kitchen scraps, discarded hair, shredded newspaper, lawn clippings, (and more!),  and lets them sit together, sometimes passively (which takes longer), and sometimes aggressively—using plenty of rotation and heat—to break down the discards (which most of us send to the dump) into soil-enriching organic matter that will make a garden thrive.

God does the same thing. He chooses “the lowly and despised things of this world” (1 Corinthians 1:28).  He takes our weaknesses, our failures, the parts we want to hide, and transforms them into something precious. Sometimes, as in composting, it’s the “cold method”—our lives are proceeding smoothly with little interference. At other times (speeding up the process), heat and turbulence may make us feel like we’re living in the middle of a revolving compost bin. But it’s okay. Either way, we are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus, who is love, and, eventually, all around us will thrive.

ADVENT I: A Season of Wonder

Birth: Wonder…Astonishment…Adoration. There can’t be very many of us for whom the sheer fact of existence hasn’t rocked us back on our heels. We take off our sandals before the burning bush. We catch our breath at the sight of a plummeting hawk. “Thank you, God.” We find ourselves in a lavish existence in which we feel a deep sense of kinship – we belong here; we say thanks with our lives to Life. And not just “Thanks” or “Thank It” but “Thank You.” Most of the people who have lived on this planet earth have identified this You with God or gods. This is not just a matter of learning our manners, the way children are taught to say thank you as a social grace. It is the cultivation of adequateness within ourselves to the nature of reality, developing the capacity to sustain an adequate response to the overwhelming gift and goodness of life.

Wonder is the only adequate launching pad for exploring this fullness, this wholeness, of human life. Once a year, each Christmas, for a few days at least, we and millions of our neighbors turn aside from our preoccupations with life reduced to biology or economics or psychology and join together in a community of wonder. The wonder keeps us open-eyed, expectant, alive to life that is always more than we can account for, that always exceeds our calculations, this is always beyond anything we can make.

Excerpted from God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, Edited by Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe (Paraclete Press)

 

 

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Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Sr. Fidelis

The Summer Hymns for Lauds 

The weekday hymn for Lauds has a new text for each day of the week.  The season is indicated by a different tune for winter and summer; but the text remains the same for each day.  Right now we are chanting the summer tune, which we began right after Pentecost.  We will continue to use this tune until after the autumnal equinox toward the end of September, when we will switch to the winter tune.

The Lord’s Day Lauds hymn however has a completely different tune as well as different text for each of the seasons of Ordinary Time.  As one might expect, the text of the summer hymn begins with reference to longer days. It is attributed to Alcuin, who died in 804.

Behold, already the shadow of night is diminishing, the dawn of light is gleaming red:  Let us all keep on with every effort beseeching the Almighty.

May our compassionate God drive away all our anguish, bestow health, and give us by the lovingkindness of the Father, the kingdom of the heavens.

Grant us this, O blessed Godhead of the Father, and of the Son, and also of the Holy Spirit, whose glory resounds in all the world.  Amen.

The Community of Jesus

 

Blessed or Stressed?

By Sr. Nun Other

One of my friends has a coffee mug that reads, “Too Blessed to be Stressed.” It’s a morning reminder to approach life through the template of what is instead of what isn’t. This spring God placed a blessing just outside our front door. A house sparrow (and her ever vigilant mate) chose our porch as a nesting place. She wove a home of great beauty and allowed me to visually participate from a distance. I honored her wishes by opening and closing the door with care, sweeping the porch only in her absence, and respecting her family’s right to privacy. It seemed over too quickly, once the youngsters arrived. I watched nestlings flutter awkwardly from their haven to test the air currents and ability to explore. But the empty nest remains, a reminder (when we choose to notice) that God does all things well.

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Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Sr. Fidelis

“Not so Ordinary” Time

At the close of Pentecost, we enter into Ordinary Time. Taken from the Late Latin word ordinalis, Ordinary denotes order, or place of succession. The Latin term for this period is Tempus per annum — time through the year. There are two periods of Ordinary Time in the church Calendar; the first is from the Feast of the Baptism of Christ, through to Ash Wednesday, and the second period, extends from the Monday after Pentecost to the First Sunday of Advent. So we are in a season of counted weeks! This second period is a much longer one, and will take us through the summer into the last weeks of autumn. The Propers for these weeks are becoming familiar “friends” as we revisit them year after year; each with a distinct melody, text and modal framework. But each annual repetition brings with it new revelation and inspiration – proof that these chants were inspired by the moving of the Holy Spirit!

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Embracing Seasons

By Melodious Monk

Our Lord is a seasonal God: He comes, He departs. His faithfulness never changes, but his seasons do.  There are seasons when the tree is green, there are seasons when it is dry, and seasons when, for the life of us, the thing looks dead. Now, does this mean we are serving some capricious God who comes and goes by whim? Or could it be, that it is only through seasons that true growth may come?

Seasons of joy, seasons of sorrow, times when the Lord is so real it seems any activity you undertake is a spiritual experience. Seasons of dryness, when things are so bleak that even a plateful of Sinai sand would be considered a feast!

The day must come when every season is taken fairly much the same. That is, you can go forward regardless.  We are all very subject to seasons; yet those seasons are there to make us eventually seasonless. There is only one way you are ever going to learn to triumph over all seasons, and that is to go through each and every season…many times.

Gene Edwards, The Inward Journey

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Caution, Slippery!

By Melodious Monk

In the last 10 days we’ve received more than our yearly average for annual snow fall. This had been a mild winter until winter storm “Juno” blasted in last Monday. Outside in the cold sun, we keep trying to make the walkways and paths clear and safe around our community so that people can get to their cars, offices, and homes safely.  We, and many others in the area, put a great deal of care and effort to protect people physically (with ice melt, sand, boots for better footing etc ), while trying to continue our lives “as normal” (the best we can due to the circumstances).  We have all sorts of methods and tools we use to do this — plows, snowblowers, rock-salt, sand, shovels etc.

But what about our spiritual lives?  Generally I spend much less time trying to protect myself from spiritual forces than I do for a snow storm.  How many methods and tools do I gather, and what plans do I make to protect us from oncoming spiritual storms?  Ephesians reminds us,”For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Maybe in the midst of all the snow clearing, God is reminding me to put more time and energy into fighting the battles that will keep me from slipping on our most important journey, the journey into the spiritual realms.

The Community of Jesus

Circle of Life

By Renaissance Girl

Isn’t it interesting that at the same time we are ending the calendar year, we begin the church year? My type A personality brain says — couldn’t we have coordinated this better?

But as I think about our decorating this past weekend, hanging lights from the huge tree in front of the Convent, stringing garland along the walkways, making baked goods for the gift shop or putting candles in windows, it strikes me that logic and coordination are not what this season is about.

Our human minds tell us the year is closing, things are ending, darkness is prevalent and sleep is the order of the day.  Into this bursts the new Liturgical year, with light enough to illuminate the world, and cries “Sleepers Wake!”  And we leave off endings and begin again.

The Community of Jesus

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.

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Credit for image 5070 – Music – Gregorian Chant

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Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

The Mood of the Mode

One of the beauties of chant is that it teaches through sound. It is difficult for most of us to realize, without considerable effort, what life would be like if we could not read — it seems unimaginable. Yet, in the centuries when many of our most ancient chants were newly composed, only the educated minority could read. So, in an effort to teach the chant, composers often united certain sounds with certain texts or seasons. In this way, through repetition, people started to learn things such as the seasons of the church year, feast days, etc., through association with sound.

However, these composers did not just wake up one morning, get out their “catalog of modes” and say, “today, I shall compose in Mode II.” The definition and categorization of modes actually came after the chant already existed. It was a subtle skill they employed which was based upon a sense of using particular sounds to evoke or underscore certain emotions, thoughts, or ideas.

The image below is actually a chart with simple, modal descriptions of some of the great music theorists and composers of the last 1000 years: Guido d’ Arezzo (11th century), Adam de Fulda, (15th Century) and Juan Espinoza (17th Century). If you look at these descriptions and then take a look at some of your favorite chants, you might find you have a  fresh perspective of some pieces that you know quite well!

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Image Credit:  Mode Chart copyright Community of Jesus, Inc, 2014.