Making Connections

By Sr. Fidelis

I recently had the privilege of working with a small group of people for a day’s workshop on Gregorian Chant. We started with a brief review of some basics; the four line stave, the square notation, etc. After singing some simple chants, we launched into a more complex piece from the Graduale Triplex, and discussion ensued about the light hieroglyphics that appeared above and below the square notation. As I explained that these were the original neums from the early manuscripts, they were intrigued. I fortunately had included a snippet from an actual manuscript, and we were able to chant the opening of the piece straight from that. One woman piped up and said it was easier to sing from the original notation, than from the square neums. I then asked them, that judging from the appearance of the ancient neums, how did they think the chant must have sounded back then. They all agreed that it must have been light and speech-like, with places of emphasis. We also talked about the value of the square notation that showed us the actual note relations. We concluded that to have both…the “best of both worlds” so to speak, gave us the best possible way to study, interpret and chant these divinely inspired songs of prayer.Gregorian chant

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Sr. Fidelis

Much to learn!

Antiphons are wonderful “miniatures” that we can study to glean knowledge about Gregorian Chant.  Below you’ll see a short antiphon, Vos reliquistis, which translated means: You who have left all things and followed me, shall receive a hundredfold, and life everlasting you will possess. (Matthew 19:28-29) This is Jesus’ word to his disciples in regards to them answering the call to follow him.  The Latin word, reliquistis, immediately brings to mind the English cognate “relinquish” – to hand over to another person.

Vos Qui revised










This antiphon is used at Lauds, setting the right “tone or mode” for the chanting of the Benedictus for that particular day.  You’ll see that it’s in Mode 1.  At first glance, the antiphon looks low, and indeed it is.  One listen to the audio file will confirm that!

Mode 1 has a reciting note of LA and a home tone of RE.  We call this a RE Mode. ( Mode 2 is also a RE Mode, and we’ll be looking at that next week.) RE is located on the bottom line of the staff, and the antiphon begins and ends on this principal pitch.  With this particular antiphon, it barely makes it up to the reciting note LA.  We can hear the rise of the phrase to the words estis me, and the climactic point on the first two notes of centuplum (a hundredfold!).  Then the melody gradually subsides to its final resting place on possidebitis (will possess).  A simple sentence, a simple range of 5 or 6 notes; yet it conveys the conversation of this text!   Other Mode 1 antiphons have a broader range, and often ascend past the reciting note of LA.  But this particular one resides in the lower part of the modal range.

One more thing to note and that is the ending within the double bars.  This is the ending for the recitation of the psalmody that would normally accompany this antiphon.

The vowels E u o u a e, are a shorthand for the last verse chanted at the end of the psalm, the Gloria Patri.  These vowels are the last 6 in the Latin words, saeculorum, Amen.

Notice that this ending “hovers” around the Reciting tone LA!

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Sr.Fidelis
Under the Microscope!

There is much to be observed when looking at a piece of Gregorian chant!  The Introit for Week 9 is a wonderful confident chant based on verses from Psalm 26. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

Take a look below.  First to be noted are the items circled in aqua.  IN.II tells us that this is the introit, and its in Mode 2.  You’ll see a series of letters below this information:  R B (greek letter) K S.  These letters represent the oldest Antiphonaries of the Mass, before notation of any kind was added.  In other words, these showed text only!
This same Introit’s text appeared in:
R = The Gradual of Rheinau (about 800)
B = The Gradual of Mont-Blandin – (8th to 9th century)
K = The Gradual of Corbie (after 853)
S = The Gradual of Senlis (between 877 and 882)
The clef is also an important item.   This is the FA clef, located on the 2nd line from the top.

The yellow box to the left of this information tells us that the neums above and below the square notation come from certain manuscripts.  The neums above come from the Laon Manuscript [ L ], folio or page number 150.

The notation below comes from the Einsiedeln manuscript [E ], folio or page 316.  What does all this mean?  It means the chant that we sing today, was a part of the liturgy used in the 800’s, and the text and tune together were found in 10th and 11th century manuscripts.  This living tradition has tap roots that go back centuries!

One more thing to note: there are two strategic pitches in any Gregorian chant; the reciting tone, and the home tone, or place where the chant “settles.”  A quick glance at our piece below shows us that this melody fluctuates between these two important pitches,dipping below and above.  The reciting pitch, FA is circled in red, while the home tone, RE is shown in green.

The more we look at these chants in depth, we realize we are handling something that has been the vehicle of the prayers and songs of the faithful for layers of time. In the chanting of them, we are transformed as they become our prayers and songs.
The Comuunity of Jesus

The True and Only Vine

By Sr. Nun Other

One of the Sisters suggested I write a blog called “bloom after pruning,” and she even provided a great picture!  She referred, of course, to the parable that portrays Jesus as the True Vine and God the Father as the Vine Dresser. Jesus says in John 15: 1-2, that He’ll remove every branch that bears no fruit, and prune the fruitful branches so that they bear more fruit. It’s a scripture I approach with caution, and not an experience I wait in line for. When one of my irregular branches is trimmed, usually through circumstance, I then have difficulty identifying who I am. I’m like a wibble-wobble toy without a fixed foundation — no idea how or where I’ll land.  Advice to me: keep reading. In subsequent verses, Jesus counsels His branches to (paraphrased), “Abide in me, abide in my love, until your journey is complete. Follow my commandments, as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and if you do, your joy will be complete.” It’s a passage more about relationship than pain–an intertwining of love, obedience, and joy — each dependent on the other — until we become not servants, but friends. So I’d like to modify my friend’s suggestion ever so slightly to say it’s possible to bloom during pruning.

The Community of Jesus

Pastor Bonus (Good Shepherd)

By Sr. Nun Other

This year I discovered that the fourth Sunday of Easter is Good Shepherd Sunday. Perhaps (probably) I’ve heard it other years, but this year I heard it for the first time. It’s certainly a fitting placement for such a Sunday, as the ultimate definition of a good shepherd is “one willing to lay down his life for his sheep.” And Jesus is our unparalleled role model, both obedient lamb and devoted shepherd. The shepherds in our lives are many and varied: parents, pastors, teachers, doctors, friends, authors, composers of music, and visual artists. We depend on them to teach us, to love, protect, guide, and search for us when we stray. To be a good shepherd, one must first be a good sheep, that is, listen with our hearts to recognize the voice of God when He comes calling.

The Community of Jesus


Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

The Chanted Passion

Yesterday, Palm Sunday, we entered into Holy Week, in which our greatest remembrance is the Passion of Christ. One of the most ancient of all chants — the chanted Passion according to St. John — reflects this remembrance. This gospel passion has been chanted for centuries on Good Friday, first being noted in the scriptures with nothing more than symbols indicating those parts chanted  by Christ, those by other characters (such as the “turba” or crowd,  or  Pilate) and finally, a narrator.

Here is a perfect example of the ancient  tradition of  chanting scripture to “lift it up.”  God’s word was meant to be sung in order to help reflect the depth of its meaning.

There is no other chant that carries more weight — more spiritual “gravitas”  — than the chanted Passion narrative. It is perhaps one of the simplest chant recitations, yet it carries some of the greatest truths. I think that that is the real lesson inside of this particular chant: its sheer simplicity is the very thing that seems to let it bring forth the incredible beauty of the Good Friday Passion.

The Community of Jesus








Image credit: chant grégorien – Music in Parc

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

The Community of Jesus


Pieces of Lent

By Melodious Monk

This year, Jesus again walks with us on our Lenten journey.  As we go, I want to try and find new delights of God that I can gather together and take into springtime, with the hopes of understanding a few more aspects of the love of God.  Here are a few nuggets I picked up this week from French writer Leon Bloy.

Freedom is nothing but this: the respect God has for us…

If [God] desires to have us, he must seduce us, for if his Majesty does not please us, we can throw it from our presence, buffet it, scourge it, and crucify it to the applause of the vilest rabble. God will not defend himself with power, but only with his patience and his beauty….

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.  (Rev. 3:20)

Suffering! Here then is the key word! Here the solution for every human life on earth! The springboard for every superiority, the sieve for every merit, the infallible criterion for every moral beauty! People absolutely refuse to understand that suffering is needful…Suffering is necessary. It is the backbone, the very essence of moral life. Love is recognized by this sign, and when this sign is lacking, love is but a prostitution of strength or of beauty. I say that someone loves me when that someone consents to suffer through or for me…

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

There is but one sorrow, and that is to have lost the Garden of Delights, and there is but one hope and one desire, to recover it.

The Community of Jesus

“Hope To Turn Again”

By Melodious Monk

It’s a shame that lent has so many negative connotations. The introit Mass Proper for Ash Wednesday opens the liturgical season with these words:

“Your mercy extends to all things, O Lord, and you despise none of the things you have made. You overlook our sins for the sake of repentance. You grant them your pardon, because you are the Lord our God.” —Wisdom 11:24-25, 27; Psalm 57 (56)

For any of us who struggle with self-acceptance, what a wonderful time to lean in towards a merciful God who made no mistakes in His creation. I still have so much to learn about this God of love.

In his eloquent poem titled “Ash Wednesday,” T.S. Eliot finishes the poem with a beautiful prayer-like litany to the Blessed Virgin. As we start this penitential and joy-filled season, I hope that my heart will echo his poetic words.

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto thee

The Community of Jesus








Image taken from :

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:

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.

The Community of Jesus









Image Credit:  Chants from a choirbook from Florence

Victoria and Albert  museum × 1500