Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

A Willing Spirit

While chanting Psalm 51 this morning at Lauds, this phrase caught my attention:

“…et spiritu promptissimo confirma me” (…and give me a willing spirit).

What struck me was the word translated as “willing” is “promptissimo,” and from which is derived our word “prompt.” I ran home and looked up the Latin translation which reads “The most eager.” So, that phrase from Psalm 51 could be read in English as “…and give me the most eager spirit.”

The response to the first half of the verse is: ‘Restore to me the joy of my salvation.” I asked the Lord to tell me what he wanted to be said today. When I saw the word “promptissimo,” I knew instantly that I had my answer. I gave a prompt and resounding “thank you” to God for having answered me so readily! In that word, he told me he was listening to my prayer and that my joy would return in quick response of thanks to him! Amazing — all within one word in the middle of a chant recitation!

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image Credit: Gregorian Chant Splash Page
www.gregorianchant.org.uk

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor 

On my mind

At Lauds this morning, I found myself quite distracted. The more I chanted, the more distracted I became. By the time we arrived at the final psalm — the Praise Psalm — I was in no mood to praise anyone or anything, let alone the Lord who I knew was hearing every word going through my head!

Then something happened. We were a few verses into the psalm when I realized I was being swept along with it. The psalm and the chant had simply moved in and taken over my thoughts.. I was not overwhelmed by any large emotion, no “lightning bolt,” but rather a “still, small Voice” which was making itself heard through the chant.  That moment left me more able to ask God what was upsetting me, and for me to hear His answer. I am so grateful that He used the chant that way — to let me know what was really on my mind!

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit:Chants from a choirbook from Florence – Victoria and Albert Museum www.vam.ac.uk1000 × 1500

 

Keeping Godly Perspective

By Sr. Nun Other

I frequently tell people how busy I am, how stressed, how overwhelmed with important tasks. And I’m not the only one. Our younger sisters often say, “I was given a huge project today — HUGE!” When questioned, this can range from painting a bathroom to making several dozen cookies. And then, I happened upon Psalm 65. Let’s look at a day in the life of the God we love:

Psalm 65 Paraphrased                              Perspective Statistics (Googled)

He hears our prayers,                                   World population  7.125 Billion
And forgives our sins

He stills the roaring of the seas,                  Earth in square miles 57,491,000
The turmoil of the nations.

He cares for the land and waters it;            One year’s water consumption
He enriches it abundantly.                           3,622,439 liters

God fills our streams with water,                 Food consumption 11 million pounds
And provides grain for the people.              per minute per day

I receive a quick lesson in humility, now overwhelmed by my insignificance. And then I realize, all of the above is for me. And you. One additional verse from Psalm 65:  Where morning dawns and evening fades, He calls forth songs of joy. And gratitude.

The Community of Jesus

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Chant “back then”

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of traveling to the city of Barga located in the northern part of Italy. As part of that travel, our chant schola chanted the midday office and compline in a church which was constructed and then added to over the course of several centuries. Towering above us in this church was a 12th century wooden statue of St. Christopher, still bearing its own wounds from centuries of war and unrest made visible in the arrowheads still in its torso.

As we chanted, I was struck by the thought that when that statue and that church were new, it is quite likely that chants we were praying were also relatively new. We were actually chanting in the surroundings in which these chants first came to life! Listening in this extraordinary building, the acoustic “told us” the tempo to take, allowed us to hear and experience the building of harmonies which hung in the air like incense, and gave us a sense that this chant had been heard in this room many thousands of times. The span of centuries was instantly crossed as we joined our voices with those voices of chant from “back then” – when the voice of the church was much younger and yet full of all the years that it would carry through. It made me realize again that we have the privilege every time we chant, of joining instantly with all of those centuries of prayer.

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www.sanctamissa.org384 × 307

 

 

Sound of Silence

By Renaissance Girl

Four times a week I feed the fish in the Koi pond near the church.  It’s an enclosed space – literally inside the walls – and I’ve started looking forward to those moments of quiet, me and the fish and the sound of water trickling and wind through the bamboo. Sometimes I laugh as they tussle over first dibs on their food. Sometimes I barely want to breathe so as not to disturb the silence. But I always smile when they see me coming and rush to the side of the pond, mouths gaping. So eager and dependent and just themselves.

Sometimes I’m surprised by the things that start out as “duties” and end up being gifts. I just have to allow my perspective to be changed.

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In Times of Plenty

By Sr. Nun Other

I’m rethinking my personal definition of times of plenty. It isn’t about having, getting, or owning.  It isn’t about money or the best of anything. It’s about the presence of God’s love, protection and care.

I’m enjoying a time of plenty and here’s some practical evidence: recently, along with two more sisters (and the generosity of others), I went to Fenway Park. It was a perfect game day, blue skies and a comfortable seventy-one degrees. Our drive to Boston was uneventful until we searched for a parking place. I’m not good in traffic. I sit in the back by popular demand and have to ask the driver permission to speak. “Do you want me to tell you that you almost hit a pole?” That sort of thing. We pulled from bumper to bumper traffic into a lot. The attendant quoted a price ten dollars higher than anticipated and announced they only took credit cards. As sisters, we don’t carry them. Except this time . . Enter God’s love . .  one of us had a VISA Gift Card she’d been given for her birthday. That worked. Next we went to dinner and ordered specialty burgers. I specified that I didn’t want the caramelized onions. When our orders arrived, I immediately noted onions among my mushrooms and Boursin cheese. The waiter noticed also and offered me a new burger. I thanked him but said I’d just pick them out, no problem. When he brought the bill, he told us my dinner was free. We recouped the extra $10 for parking. The game included amazing defensive plays, outstanding pitching and a Red Sox win, more rare this season than last.

Perhaps these sound like small things. Perhaps they are. But right now, for whatever reason, I’m especially cognizant of God’s presence in my life. Work problems, strained relationships, things simply beyond my ability to control rest in his hands. When I admit my need and recognize my complete inadequacy, I grow in faith and trust.

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Perspective

By Renaissance Girl

This past Sunday was the 14th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Church of the Transfiguration. I can hardly believe 14 years have gone by since that incredibly hot day in June of 2000 when we filled the church with family and friends to celebrate the event that only a few short years earlier had seemed both thrilling and daunting!

The homilist on Sunday had us stand up with a series of questions – “If you were baptized in this church, please stand. . . If you were married here, please stand. . . had the funeral of a loved one. . . have come in for private prayer, . . . etc.” until everyone in the church was on their feet. It was a meaningful moment as we reflected on how we have filled the church with worship over the past 14 years and the church, in turn, has inspired in us a desire to raise our worship to meet the God who made this building possible.

What made me pause and think on this day, though, was when I looked around and realized there is a generation under 14 years old who have never known anything different. This has always been their church, the only one they have known. They were in strollers while their parents were having their faith stretched believing for this building and the art that fills it. They were learning to walk as the newly vowed walked the mosaic processional path to make their profession. Their generation will see other change and growth but they will never stand in the concrete shell of this new church celebrating the Easter Vigil.

I felt suddenly small in the face of how quickly time goes and how, to each generation, God brings the challenges and blessings that are perfect for them. And I felt a wave of gratitude and found myself whispering a prayer of thanks to have been part of the generation to build this house.

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Always Keep Learning!

By Cantor

I am forever looking at old books. If there is a used bookstore to be found, I will probably find it! Recently, I came across a wonderful “old” book (from GIA-1945) simply entitled “Gregorian Chant”, written by Father Andrew F. Klarmann, discussing all kinds of wonderful aspects of chant.

In reading through this book, I found a number of quotable “gems” which I will feature in this blog over the next few weeks. However, I thought a great point to start with has to do with the performance of chant in the responses found at Mass. Rev. Klarmann states that, “the reply et cum spiritu tuo should always be made in a steady, joyful voice expressive of the holy joy and lively faith abiding in the hearts of the faithful…the et cum spiritu tuo should follow immediately upon the Dominus vobiscum not unlike grateful replies which follow heartfelt greetings in our social life…Our meetings in God’s house should manifest every sentiment of joy and love.” (p.114)

What moves me about these remarks concerning the performance practice of chant is the complete emphasis on the spirit behind the words and why they are chanted in the first place. Spirit prior to technique – technique in service of the Spirit – chant in service to the text!  This must always be our approach to the understanding of chant or else we place the elements of chant in backward order! How wonderful it is to discover these principles so beautifully espoused in a small, post-World War II book intended to teach the basics of chant!

Chant Blog.June12.2014

God’s Love

By Sr. Nun Other

There’s a saying can’t see the forest for the trees. I find myself often in that state, surrounded by God’s love and unable to recognize it. Sometimes it doesn’t fit my mold of what love looks like, and sometimes events are shrouded in personal negativity. Yesterday, a sister approached me and said, “I heard you had some good news today.” My reply? “Well, actually, it was bad news that turned out less bad than I thought it would be.” We both laughed, but honestly, how’s that for short-lived gratitude?!

Here are some facts about a forest. It’s a highly complex, ever changing environment made up of a variety of living things (wildlife, trees, wildflowers, lichens, ferns and mosses). It’s also made up of elements like water, rocks, sunlight and air. The trees buffer the earth and underpin countless life forms. They help create an environment to support the kinds of animals and plants that exist in the forest. This is a perfect definition of God’s care for his creation. When I struggle and sometimes suffer, I need eyes to see and a heart to comprehend the complexity of my need and the answer of a loving God.

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Stories

By Renaissance Girl

We marched in a Memorial Day parade in Holden, MA Monday. We’ve marched it for a few years now and it’s a parade the whole band looks forward to. It’s almost more a liturgy than a parade – and rightly so – as we honor the men and women who have laid down their lives so that we have the freedom we have today.

For some reason I found this time especially moving. The parade route winds through the cemetery and we stop 5 times for a prayer, patriotic song by the Girl and Boy Scouts, a rifle salute and the playing of taps. When we got to our first stop, the honor guard called their men to attention and gave the salute and I happened to see a man on the sidelines. He was in shorts and a grey Army t-shirt, on a bike, wearing a black bike helmet. As soon as the men came to attention, he was off his bike and at attention, his hand to his forehead in a salute – and I think that’s what got me. This ordinary man, on a bike, had an internal response from whatever experience he’s had, that brought him to attention. And I wondered how many ordinary men and women on that street, maybe that we’d pass, had held the hands of a dying friend – or made it through boot camp with strangers who became brothers. Or, how many ordinary men and women in this town answered their phone (or their door) to the news they hoped they’d never hear. And I felt overcome with respect and gratitude and pride in our country that believes humanity is worth fighting for. God Bless America.

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