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

 

Wrestling with stupid questions

By Melodious Monk

This week’s Gospel reading was the story of Jesus calling Peter and Andrew to be his disciples.  Jesus says to come and they drop everything and immediately follow him. In Sunday’s Eucharist bulletin we were given a short meditation by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“The Story of the call of the first disciples is a stumbling-block for the natural reason, and it is no wonder that frantic attempts have been made to separate the two events. By hook or by crook a bridge must be found between them. Something must have happened in between, some  psychological or historical event. Thus we get the stupid question: Surely they must have known Jesus before, and that previous acquaintance explains their readiness to hear the Master’s call.”

I still laugh each time I read the humorous line “what a stupid question!” There’s much in the ways of God that we cannot understand, and I think it a bit humorous at times to laugh at some of our attempts to rationalize God’s doings.  Bonhoeffer goes on to explain why he believes that the disciples so quickly dropped everything at Jesus’ beckoning:  “…for the simple reason that the cause behind the immediate following of call by response is Jesus Christ himself. It is Jesus who calls, and because it is Jesus, they follow at once.” 

As Bonhoeffer alludes, our tiny reasoning brains are finite. God is the architect of all things, with a capacity to orchestrate much more than I can even imagine. Perhaps my daily questions don’t need to ask how God’s plans will work out or how I might recognize Him; rather maybe my job today is to stop asking so many questions.  Questions that only get in the way of what our hearts are intuitively designed to do.

I had a trumpet teacher who’s favorite mantra was KISS, short for Keep- It-Simple-Stupid!  It was his way of getting rid of unnecessary questions and tensions that get in the way of one basic truth of trumpet playing – simply that you must start with a good resonant sound, always. I often think of this “kiss” method in regard to the spiritual life.  In many ways, Christianity can be very simple. Jesus is Lord, God of the universe, and I am not. He created me, loves me and has the best purposes for me, even if, and especially if I feel lousy today!  This isn’t to say life here on earth can’t be very complicated, for there certainly are many gray areas, and lots of questions arise for all of us.  But scripture tells us that on earth we barely see a glimpse of our future glory.  It tells us that all things, yes all things can be used for the glory of God. We forget who created us, and that He promises to make us whole.  Simply put, we need to have faith in Jesus and follow him. If we choose to let our hearts trust, then like the disciples, we will recognize Jesus exactly in his timing, and follow him immediately. Now of course we don’t always want to follow Jesus and we rebel and so forth–but that does not change God– and certainly does not change God’s promises to us.  I think both Bonhoeffer and my trumpet teacher would agree on at least one life philosophy, Keep It Simple!

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

An Ecounter With Joy

By Sr. Nun Other

If I were to write a musical, I would juxtapose two hymns that are beautifully simple, and simply beautiful. Our Communion hymn for last week was the 18th. century Shaker hymn, Simple Gifts.  I stood near the altar during the singing of it, surrounded by delightful mosaic tile flowers, insects, butterflies, mammals, and sea creatures. They swirled and flourished beneath my feet with enviable freedom and energy, content to be as God created them. Mind and imagination took over, and I added my own (non auditory!) touch as we sang: ‘Tis the gift to be simple,’tis the gift to be free…all things bright and beautiful…’tis the gift to come down where we ought to be…all creatures great and small…in the place just right….all things wise and wonderful…in the valley of love and delight… the Lord God made us all!  Creation interrupts our busy, sometimes chaotic lives, to teach simplicity of heart, humbleness of spirit, and unfailing trust in God.

The Community of Jesus

 

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!

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Last week, I had the privilege of co-teaching a chant seminar in Barga, Italy. Though thrilled to be involved, I felt some concern that the entire seminar would have to be taught almost entirely through a translator because I do not speak Italian! However, almost instantly upon my arrival, those concerns dissipated.

Our translator had taken it upon herself to study Gregorian chant! She had obtained a marvelous volume of music history that gave many details surrounding chant providing her additional vocabulary for the seminars. She loved it! Our preparatory meetings went quite smoothly largely because she had quietly taken this generous approach.

Likewise, there was an extensive range of abilities and knowledge among the participants who attended the seminars and the mass which we chanted on Sunday morning. Most of them spoke very little English.  However, once again, there was such a level of enthusiasm and willingness to try everything that we offered, communication happened in ways that transcended spoken language.

Everyone’s attitude and willingness had a powerful effect on the success of the seminars. It was an extraordinary opportunity to experience this mutual love for chant in an international circumstance where the main language used was “a willing spirit.”

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image Credit:File:Pergamentmakulatur.martens.hispan.reise.jpg – Wikimedia Commonscommons.wikimedia.org1230 × 1754

 

Answers or Faith

By Renaissance Girl

“Faith offers the promise that everything will ultimately be renewed in God. This hardly means that we will, or must, receive an answer from God for every question in our lives.” —Notker Wolf, Faith Can Give Us Wings

I find this meditation challenging. Challenging, I suppose, because I want answers to every question in my life. I suppose the embarrassing truth is that I often treat God as a vending machine for my questions. I want to be able to insert a question and push the right buttons and get an answer. But where does that leave faith?

What need would there be for faith, if every question I asked had an immediate answer? It’s a risky and lively way of life that Jesus beckons us towards.

Maybe sometimes it is about asking the questions, and then continuing to move forward. Perhaps the answer comes as a gentle re-direct on the way, and not a sedentary note of explanation as I sit waiting to be sure that the way I am headed is safe.

Hilly Road

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor 

Threads of Connection

I recently had the privilege of giving a seminar in my hometown on Gregorian chant and various chant book publications. The seminar was at a bookstore which is owned by a gentleman only three years my senior. We have had occasional talks over the past few years concerning chant and chant publications as part of our everyday business.

Recently, we started talking about our mutual hometown, discovering along the way we had attended the same high school and the same junior high, only four years apart. That led to the next discovery that we had grown up only three blocks from each other in this large mid-western city! Instantly, we had a connection — a common thread. It was this thread that led to an invitation for the seminar.

However, while setting up and conducting the seminar, we discovered a stronger bond — the mutual love of chant and its importance in both of our lives. What had begun as an everyday business relationship had become a shared passion for chant and chant education! I now have a new friend in my old hometown whom I would never have discovered without chant to draw us together.  Chant had been a mutual thread in both of us for decades before our paths crossed — what a joy!

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit for image
Sancta Missa – Liber Usualis – PDF
www.sanctamissa.org225 × 291

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Pay it forward!

What FUN it was to speak to a group of University music majors last week about the need to have some understanding of chant in order to work effectively in the world of sacred music! It was wonderful to see their reaction as we chanted together the Credo Cardinale (sometimes nicknamed the “Jazz Creed”), and the two-voice setting of the tune of O Come Emmanuel, which Mary Berry discovered some years ago in a 15th century Processionale. It was so clear that these young people had NEVER experienced chant like this!

As I watched their faces and listened to them chant, I noticed the face of my own composition teacher of thirty years past, who had offered me the invitation to come and speak to these students. He was as enthusiastic as they were! What a joy it was to see. In offering something that enlivened interest and enthusiasm to his current students, he, too, was enjoying their reactions. The choral director, also an old friend, said that this hour had opened his eyes to chant in a completely different way!

Through all of their reactions and responses, I could almost hear Mary Berry’s voice saying, “You must pass this on,” remembering how much she enjoyed seeing someone make a new discovery. I can only believe that this experience was a living reminder to me to pay forward all of the love, enthusiasm, knowledge, and sheer joy which she so generously gave to so many of us!

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image Credit: www.bloggen.be198 × 240

 

Words

By Melodious Monk

Today I woke up angry at God, wishing for another Labor Day, wanting to sleep more, and wondering why it was so humid again. Trying to rev up for the day, but still feeling a bit grumpy, I thumbed through a daily devotional by Hal M. Helms, stopping at today’s date.

Is not my word like as a fire? saith the lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?       -Jeremiah 23:29

My word is like a hammer, breaking up the hardened crust of your heart. I want you to have a tender, feeling heart, able to be touched with the pain and sorrow of others. You have built up walls of deadness around your heart to protect you from pain and to avoid looking weak. Your weakness, My child, is My gift to you. Your strength is your rejection of that gift. There is a world of difference between your strength and Mine. I will show you that difference when this breaking and hammering have done their work. 

After a few slow breaths, and a silent Amen, I’m now ashamed to be angry at God. I have so much faith to gain. There’s a constant war inside. I say Amen to these words, and in the next moment fight to keep the crust of self-protection around my heart. I hate feeling weak. It makes me angry, aggressive and selfish.  But as Fr. Hal reminds me, the weakness is a gift from God, a loving force telling me it’s okay to not have it all together. I need to allow God’s Word to be the fire, strength, and comfort that it is meant to be.

The Community of Jesus