Alleluia

By Renaissance Girl

So much contained in a single word….word made flesh. It strikes me that the Resurrection is like a second Incarnation.  Christ, now bearing the wounds of our sins, after three days again stands among us-visible.

I had the privilege this past weekend to be involved with the chant group for the Triduum services. It brought the text alive in a new way, and no text more so than ‘Alleluia’.  We slipped up behind the altar after one of the scripture readings at the Easter Vigil and turned to face the church. I felt suddenly overwhelmed, there under the mosaic of Christ, with a church full of people robed in white, faces full of expectancy, bells poised to ring…the excitement was palpable.  We burst into the Alleluia chant with it’s rising line and everything burst into song, as creation must have on that morning.  The tower bells joined the sparkle of hand bells and the vigorous chanting of the congregation of ‘Alleluia’, let loose after 40 days of being silenced….and I thought my heart would leap from my chest. He is risen indeed!

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Beauty Behind

By Renaissance Girl
 
I drove home last night from a lesson. It was 6:30 PM, and I remarked to myself how light it still was. The first few miles my primary focus was my GPS, guiding me around small streets to find the highway. When I hit the highway I could breathe and relax — straight shot from here. And then I noticed the sunset. In my rear view mirror streaks of pink and orange lit up the road as I passed over it, and brought the trees out in stark contrast. I wanted to be facing the other way, I wanted to indulge in the beauty, which wasn’t an option. I passed a sudden opening in the trees — a window on to a small lake. The color seemed to come from within the water itself, ripples of gold and pink and yellow that merged the sky and the water together.  
 
I think I may have even said out loud “I wish I could stop.”  And the thought came to me — sometimes we have to leave beauty behind. Sometimes it’s just there for us to catch on the way to something else — a sudden splash of glory that inspires a smile and a deep breath and the knowledge that God is All Beautiful. How silly of me to think I’m going to catch it all, and save it in a frame. Within 15 minutes, the colors were gone, but not my reminder of what God is always doing whether I notice or not, and my gratitude that I was there for this one.
 
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Nearer than we think

by Renaissance Girl  

Let us thus think often that our only business in this life is to please GOD, that perhaps all besides is but folly and vanity” 
― Brother LawrenceThe Practice of the Presence of God

Someone recently suggested to me that I read The Practice of the Presence of God by Br.Lawrence. I’m embarrassed to say that in years of seeing it on a bookshelf, I’ve never picked it up. Br.Lawrence was a monk in the seventeenth century. He received a revelation of God at age eighteen, and from then on, his whole life was devoted to the love and service of God. His words are so simple and yet so challenging. 

Everything he did, was in the midst of a loving conversation with God and all for his pleasure — including years working in the monastery kitchen where washing pots and pans became a source of love and revelation from God. 

I find myself clinging to his words with all the hope I can muster as I struggle to bring God into that place in my own life. 

He does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, at other times to thank Him for the graces, past and present, He has bestowed on you, in the midst of your troubles to take solace in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.” 

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Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

Chant in moments of our daily life
       
Earlier this week, I picked up my copy of Mary Berry’s book entitled “Cantors” and opened to the chapter noted as “Hours of the Day and Moments of Life.” While looking at the contents, I was struck again by her inclusion of  “A Grace for Meals.” This endearing little chant is taken from the ancient monastic “Benedicite” and is a simple prayer of thanks for God’s many gifts.
 
I watched  Dr. Berry, several times a day, day after day, chant this prayer before mealtime. Here was a world-renowned Gregorian chant scholar living out the daily use of sung prayer. And, as she began the intonation of “Benedicite” at each meal (or even before afternoon tea!), her two beautiful dogs would come leaping into the room for their snack! Of course,we would laugh and were delighted to see the animals do this as they politely waited until Dr. Berry had completed the blessing. They seemed to know that, they too, owed thanks to God for the treat they were about to receive. 
 
What a great example of how chant is able to move us up and out of our daily routine, offering  moments of reflection, gratitude, and joy.
 
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Another Year of Grace


So hard to believe another year has drawn to a close. On Sunday, the sermon encouraged us to look back and record God’s blessings from the year as we turn to face a new one. I find it easy to get too introspective about it — reviewing events and what I could have done differently, and what will I face this year — so the suggestion to focus on the blessings was needed.  This hymn came to mind and it seems to capture the right attitude in passing from one year to the next.  “What need we fear…?” 
 

“Now greet the swiftly changing year with joy and penitence sincere;
     rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace another year of grace.
For Jesus came to wage sin’s war; this Name of names for us he bore;
     rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace another year of grace.
His love abundant far exceeds the volume of a whole year’s needs;
     rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace another year of grace.
With such a Lord to lead our way in hazard and prosperity,
      what need we fear in earth or space in this new year of grace?
“All glory be to God on high and peace on earth” the angels cry;
     rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace another year of grace.”


 
sunrise

 
I am embarrassed to say it hit me yesterday that Christmas is what it’s all about. Of course, I’ve known it to some extent but yesterday, for some reason, out of the clear blue, it was an “aha! moment.”  This day, with its month-long advertising lead up, its marketplace pressures of “what are you getting for the ones you love?” Its frantic “get-it-while-it-lasts” message — is really about a quiet birth. And, amazingly, this quiet birth is really about the saving of the world! God wrapped and sent his most precious gift. His Son — our salvation, wrapped in our flesh and in the arms of a young woman who said Yes.
 
And the shocking thing — it’s not what anybody asked for or wanted! No warrior on a steed to conquer the empire. No king in a chariot to overthrow the government. A baby, who would grow and suffer and die — and redeem the human race.
 
So perhaps Christmas isn’t getting what we want – it’s receiving what we need.
 
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Lessons From Chipper

By Melodious Monk 

If we are open to it, God can use anything to speak to us. A couple of years ago the brothers got a small black and white bulldog-bull terrier mix from a dog shelter in New Jersey. He was a rescue dog that needed a home, and we where lucky enough to get him before he was euthanized. Chipper, among many attributes, is unwavering in his desire to play! Whether it is tug-of-war, catching Frisbees, wrestling, or just being with someone, if Chipper isn’t asleep, then he’s eager to find you. This attitude is due in part to his gratitude to have a home, to have someone who has “saved” him. I know that Jesus has saved me from much in my life – but I forget this so quickly. When a circumstance goes against how I’d like it, seemingly spinning out of control, I feel angry and afraid. I feel like God has left me and I want to run. I’ve forgotten who feeds me and who has the power to save me. I stop looking to be with, to “play” with, to learn from, and to be fed by my master. Chipper, on the other hand, is even more grateful to see me, even if I’m a little late to feed him dinner, or for our normal time to go for a walk. In fact, he’s even more grateful that I finally did come!  And so is God with us – ever ready.

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With Unveiled Faces

By Renaissance Girl 
This past weekend was the Gala celebration of Gloriae Dei Cantores 25th Anniversary.  A culmination of 25 years of following the Holy Spirit, and watching him take a small group of people and transform them and their sometimes feeble efforts into an expression of God’s love and healing. The church sparkled on Friday and Saturday evenings, bouquets bursting with peonies, roses, snapdragons. Sparkling branches seemed to bring out the vibrant colors and light of the mosaic and I found myself constantly being drawn to look at the apse.  
 
Of all the pieces, “Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice” by Finzi caught me off guard. It is a stunning interpretation of God’s love and sacrifice for us in giving his son. The harmonies literally seemed to carry the words through my skin and into my heart. The piece reaches a high point with this text, made all the more meaningful by the face of Christ overlooking us all from the apse. And it brought with it the overwhelming sense that this is where it is all heading — what we are all striving towards. 
 
“When this dry soul those eyes shall see,
and drink the unseal’d source of Thee.
When Glory’s sun faith’s shades shall chase,
and for thy veil give me thy face.”
 
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With Mercy, Not Prejudice

by Sr Nunother  

I occasionally cause trouble by rushing to judgment. When I have an unresolved grievance against another, I’m primed to strike and easy prey to gossip and innuendo regarding that person. I wish to believe the worst because it validates my personal sense of rightness.  This happened recently and I hurt a friend for whom I have considerable respect. John Henry Newman in Parochial and Plain Sermons wrote, “In truth, the all wise, all-knowing God cannot speak without meaning many things at once.” What an amazing thought! Unlike me, God views the world with perfect understanding and sees multiple possibilities where I see only my own narrow perspective. For example, what feels like love to the neglected, could translate as excessive control to another. Each interpretation would be true and valid. God’s love and mercy are creative and fathomless, and for that, I’m extremely grateful.

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Christmas Gifts

by Melodius Monk  

I know its not yet thanksgiving, but since this coming Sunday marks the start of Advent, our community is holding its annual service of Advent Lessons & Carols. The carol tunes are simple and beautiful, and opens inside of me a joyful sparkle of child-like enthusiasm..

In preparing the music this year, it has been the poetic texts that I am finding the most meaningful. In one hymn in particular, an English hymn titled, “Tomorrow shall be my dancing day”, recounts the events of Jesus’ life in the first person. After each event, Jesus exclaims “this have I done for my true love”.

I don’t often think of our salvation from Jesus’ point of view. He was excited, and longing for his “chance” to come save us from ourselves and to bring us to his dance! It is so easy for me to forget how loving God is. It’s a reminder that Jesus is daily looking for opportunities to call us to come dance with him – an invitation I don’t want to miss!

Here’s a few more of the verses!

Then was I born of a virgin pure,
Of her I took fleshly substance
Thus was I knit to man’s nature
To call my true love to my dance.

In a manger laid, and wrapped I was
So very poor, this was my chance
Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass
To call my true love to my dance.

Into the desert I was led,
Where I fasted without substance;
The Devil bade me make stones my bread,
To have me break my true love’s dance.

Then on the cross hanged I was,
Where a spear my heart did glance;
There issued forth both water and blood,
To call my true love to my dance.

Then down to hell I took my way
For my true love’s deliverance,
And rose again on the third day,
Up to my true love and the dance.

Then up to heaven I did ascend,
Where now I dwell in sure substance
On the right hand of God, that man
May come unto the general dance

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