Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow!

Many of those who have toured the Church of the Transfiguration, attended a concert, or joined us for worship have told us that their visit was an opportunity for peace, recollection and spiritual refreshment. As most of us in our nation (and indeed across the globe) are currently at home, we wanted to continue to share the gift of the church with short, meditative videos of music and art. 

There are countless settings of “Old 100th” or, what we have come to call “The Doxology.” This short hymn of praise is a wonderful antidote to fear and anxiety and a reminder of God’s blessings.

Click through to hear Robert Lau’s setting of this work, played by Jim Jordan on the E.M. Skinner organ at the Church of the Transfiguration and read more about the text and tune below…

Really, any hymn verse which sings praise directly to each person of the Trinity is called a “doxology” (just like the final verses of Gregorian Chant hymns from the Liturgy of the Hours.) But, this text and tune, which are not original to each other(!) have become part of “us”, regardless of our denominational background and one of our earliest examples of singing hymns in the vernacular!

The tune itself is first found in the Genevan Psalter (1541), attributed to Louis Bourgeois, a Parisian who moved to Geneva and was actually the church musician working directly under John Calvin. This tune was originally set with Psalm 134, later used with Psalm 100, “All People that on earth do dwell”, made most famous in the last century in Ralph Vaughan William’s setting for choir, orchestra, organ and congregation for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Today, you can open almost any hymnal and find this hymn – perhaps our best known and most oft-sung hymn of praise!

 

The Annunciation of Our Lord — Feast Day March 25th

“Do not be afraid”, these words spoken by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary over two millennia ago, still resonate in the human heart. Imagine a young Jewish girl, the daughter of Anne and Joachim, possibly trained in the temple, experiencing this Visitation. There is no record in the Scriptures of anyone who was spoken to as she, “Greetings favored one! The Lord is with you”, and then, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God”. Mary, barely out of childhood, believed deeply in God. And although she was astounded to learn she would conceive and bear a son, she listened intently before asking how this would be possible. 

Gabriel answered, “The power of the Most High will overshadow you, therefore the child to be born will be holy; He will be called the Son of God.” And he went on to say that her kinswoman Elizabeth, although long barren, had conceived a son six months earlier. She was encouraged to believe and accept what the Angel had said, but was also free to choose.

Her simple reply, “Let it be with me according to your word” still stands as our example of fully embracing a call full of mystery and the unknown. This was an integral part of the Good News which had been promised hundreds of years earlier in Genesis. So when the Angel Gabriel left Nazareth, Mary went immediately to visit her cousin Elizabeth in Judea. Elizabeth, who was well beyond child-bearing age, was already in her sixth month and awaiting the birth of a promised son. It was there that Mary, after greeting Elizabeth, was filled with the Holy Spirit and responded exultantly with God’s promise for Mary and many others: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant… He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, according to the promise He made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever”.  Her response, known as The Magnificat, remains a beloved vespers canticle in Christian liturgy.

The Annunciation was celebrated as early as the 4th century. Since then, many havemeditated upon this significant event; musicians, iconographers, artists, and others have captured some of its beauty and significance. In recent centuries musicians, Pachelbel in the 17th century and Mozart in the 18th century for example, have beautifully conveyed God’s faithfulness in moving Vespers antiphons. And there have been numerous inspired icons of the Annunciation. Many iconographers have fasted and prayed while creating their works.  One well-known icon is in Tinos, an island off Greece, and there are many other celebrated icons in Russian churches. All these are wonderful reminders that “God is compassionate and gracious, abounding in love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:15)

Annunciation Icon painted by a Sister at the Community of Jesus on Cape Cod

Icon of The Annunciation painted by Sr. Faith from the Community of Jesus on Cape Cod

He Slumbers Not

There is panic in the air, on the news, and in the faces of strangers we pass in the streets. I make a conscious effort to keep this sense of fear at bay and not allow it to invade my heart and dominate my thoughts.

What active things can I do? Certainly there are the outward directives provided by health professionals, our President, and his task force. But as a follower of Jesus, I need to do inward work.

Here are my notes to self:

Believe God is in charge.
Protect my mind with a mantle of trust and praise.
Remember others and offer to help where I can.

Allow life’s essentials to be enough.
Let my regular routine be “crossed out.”
Know that God’s goodness will prevail.

I was walking in the woods this morning and saw lichen growing on a tree. I had this thought, ‘don’t let the moss grow on your mind. Keep moving forward with trust in the One who is our only true anchor in times like these.’

I pray this beautiful Psalm for all of us, Psalm 121:

I will life up my eyes to the hills,
From where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved:
He who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
He will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
Your going out and your coming in
From this time on and forevermore.

Feast of St. Joseph – March 19

Saint Joseph is known by many titles: the Worker, the Carpenter, Patron of the Universal Church (in Catholicism) and Descendant of King David.  Perhaps he should also be called Saint Joseph the Listener, the man who believed an angel messenger when told he would be earthly father to the Son of God. When warned of impending violence against the Holy Family, Joseph immediately obeyed instructions and fled to Egypt.  And there, when he heard of Herod’s death did as the angel told him and returned to the Holy Land with Jesus and Mary. Avoiding the dangers of Bethlehem, they settled in the town of Nazareth in the region of Galilee. The Gospels describe Joseph as a tekton, the traditional name for a carpenter.  It’s believed that he taught his craft to the young boy, Jesus.

Saint Joseph listened and obeyed because he first loved God. If we’re forced by circumstances to sometimes “take a back seat,” we should consider Joseph. Entrusted with the care and protection of Jesus and His Blessed Mother, Joseph remained faithful, steadfast, and anonymous. He is last mentioned in the Gospels frantically searching for the child Jesus, lost in Jerusalem.  Our final glimpse of Joseph is of a confused and bemused father, confronted by the questions, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49

On Saint Joseph’s Day, let’s pray together for patience to listen, the grace to accept what we hear, and the wisdom of humility to recognize our own insignificance in the vastness of God’s plan.

Icon St. Joseph Church of the Transfiguration Cape Cod

Hand-painted icon of St. Joseph at the Church of the Transfiguration on Cape Cod

Feast Day of St. Patrick – March 17th

Saint Patrick is a greatly loved and celebrated saint. Why is that, and why is March 17th so significant?  One reason is that he lived a life filled with truth and simplicity; another was his willingness to give his all even in challenging circumstances. Born in late fourth century Britain, he grew up as a Roman citizen, his father, a deacon, and his grandfather, a priest. But at sixteen, Patrick was captured by Irish pirates and taken to the West coast of Ireland.  He was forced to work as a herdsman for six long years, similar to many other young men.

Patrick, however, began realizing that he had rebelled against the teachings of Christ and gradually turned more and more to prayer. He saw that God was with him in his difficulties and was indeed his Father and Protector. Then in a dream, a voice told him he would return to his native land, and in another, that his ship was ready. After much hardship and a brief sojourn in what was probably France, Patrick joyfully reunited with his family in England. But this was short-lived. For he had a vivid dream in which he heard the voice of the Irish people begging him to return, reminiscent of St. Paul’s vision of the Macedonian man pleading for help. 

Patrick was deeply moved but in great turmoil. He felt greatly hampered by his limited education and his many shortcomings. Finally, throwing off every doubt, Patrick plunged into his call, traveling all over Ireland, even to wholly pagan places, baptizing and confirming thousands! Among his converts were young men who became monks, and young women, often daughters of chieftains whose fathers often opposed their choices. Believing strongly in monasticism, Patrick approved the prominence of monastic houses in the Irish Church. A later and famous example of answering a monastic call was another patron saint of Ireland, St. Brigit of Kildare, who defied her chieftain father.

Knowing the power of petty chieftains, and lawgivers, Patrick learned to give many gifts, thereby guaranteeing the safety of the clergy. But he accepted no gifts in return. Always straightforward, he was much trusted. Nonetheless, his life was threatened. One time he was put in chains by those who wished to kill him, but was finally set free by the intervention of influential friends. Nor was he spared criticism. After becoming well-known in Ireland, he was charged by his superiors in Britain that he was seeking religious office for its own sake. Patrick was deeply grieved and replied that “in exultation of heart before God… I never had any motive except for the gospel and the promises of God …” 

His life and legacy are clear proof of the words of Jesus: “By their fruits, you will know them.” (Mt 7:16.)

Community of Jesus

Feast Day of Saint Gregory the Great — March 12

Pope Gregory I, was a man of many virtues and accomplishments.  Credited for organizing the first recorded large-scale mission from Rome, He also reached many through his prolific writings, more than any of his papal predecessors. During his papacy, his considerable administrative skills significantly improved the welfare of the Roman people.

In the the Middle Ages, Gregory was referred to as “the Father of Christian Worship” because of his devotion to the improvement of the Divine Liturgy.  Pope Gregory was instrumental in the standardization of Western Plainchant, later renamed Gregorian chant in honor of his work and dedication.

Gregory was born in the city of Rome, around the year 540.  His was a Patrician Roman family, wealthy and with close connections to the church. His father, Gordianus, served as a senator and for a time Prefect of the City of Rome. His mother, Silvia, and two paternal aunts attained sainthood, and his great-great-grandfather was Pope Felix III, making Saint Gregory’s family the most distinguished clerical dynasty of the time.

While contemporaries and historical biographers referred to him as Pope Gregory the Great (Magnus), he called himself “servant of the servants of God.”  He lived a devout life, punctuated by humility and sensitivity of spirit in spite of a long list of human accomplishments. Plagued throughout life with chronic illness, he never allowed physical pain to interfere with the plan to which God called him.  Not even imminent death deterred his sacred work.

Before he was thirty, Saint Gregory was made prefect of Rome but resigned the office after five years.  He subsequently founded six monasteries on his Sicilian estate and served as a Benedictine monk at his home in Rome.  An ordained priest, he became one of the pope’s seven deacons and served six years as a papal representative in Constantinople.  He was then called home to become abbot, and at the age of fifty was elected pope. In spite of great secular and religious success, he stated that his happiest years were those spent as a simple monk, a beloved calling he sacrificed to serve God.

The Immensity of His Love

This Lent, as I’ve been asking the Lord to turn my heart more towards Him, these words that our Prioress spoke in regards to sacred arts keep coming to my mind:

  “The sacred arts come from an expression of the soul that has found itself loved. That soul, in answer, longs to return to God the immensity of His love. The creative arts give voice, eyesight, color, wings to that ardent response of the heart.” Mother Betty Pugsley, CJ

I’ve especially pondered the word “found.” Is it a passive or aggressive word?

Am I suddenly surprised by my soul having an overwhelming reality of unexpected, undeserved love from God? Yes! Definitely! Do I sometimes need to aggressively seek for God’s love, patiently waiting?  Do I become impatient, asking questions, looking for hope and answers (sometimes even doubting or getting angry)? Yes! Definitely!

In both cases, when I allow the layers of superficiality to be stripped down to my broken and needy heart, those cracked places that are soft will let light in. Those places can let the Beauty of Jesus heal me, and the response can be none other than ardent love for the one who heals.

 

Emmanuel Chapel Doors, Church of the Transfiguration – Fr. Kim En Joong

Natural Solitude

A few courageous crocuses are poking their heads out of the ground (our New England version of Ground Hog Day!) It’s been a snowless winter on the Cape, and we remain bewildered about when winter will end because it never really began.  A flicker, equally confused, tapped on a tree the other day. He tapped aggressively and then suddenly stopped to look around, almost as if he wasn’t sure it was time to engage in springtime behavior. A few more vigorous pecks, and then he vanished into the treetops.

Lent is a little like the end of winter.  It’s not my favorite season, but certainly a necessary one.  I’m encouraged to prayerfully “pull back” from scheduled responsibilities, and curl up with devotional reading and make intentional solitude. 

This morning I walked along the border of the ocean: no particular time limit or destination. Just following the waves as they encroach with little fingers on the expanse of sand, the only sound, the rhythmic and persistent rise and fall of waves against the shore.  Tall dunes rise on my right, over eighty feet in some places. Winter tides have sliced them like a sharp knife cutting cake, exposing distinct layers. The layers are in chronological order: first grass and stunted trees, then organic soil of different colored sand deposited by glaciers, a black sheet of ancient marsh, and finally, a layer of blue clay formed some 20,000 years ago.  I’m reminded again of Lent, standing here, looking back on the biography of Earth in this place. Lent, reflective, pausing to look back, to look honestly at actions, motivations, and results.

I walk along the edge of the land, feet touching wave-washed beach stones glimmering in the sun. Each stone owns a unique color and shape. Together they make a lovely ribbon. I keep walking and will follow until I arrive at the end of winter to discover a new Easter.

 

Image by Scottslm from Pixabay

A New Twist on Tower Bell Ringing – Handbells!

Recently we’ve been trying a new twist on Bell Ringing – handbells!  Many other towers have used handbell ringing as a way to practice methods (off-site from the bell tower), but so far, our group has never mastered it.  But, with the help of our trusty guidebook, “The Beginner’s Guide to Change Ringing on Handbells”, and a beautiful set of Whitechapel handbells (loaned to us by a local ringing friend), we decided to give it a try.

Although handbell ringing does not require the same physical strength as ringing tower bells, it does have the added mental challenge of mastering two different bells at the same time.  This makes it a great way to practice your methods indoors, and get a break from the cold temperature of the outdoor tower!  Like tower ringing, it also requires concentration, teamwork, and good humor to laugh at your own mistakes.  We are looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish in the coming weeks and months!

 

And Don’t Forget…

Detail-oriented. Ever been called that? It’s something I hear a lot, and not always as a compliment. I’ve struggled with the reputation because I know it can be perplexing both to myself and others. I can trip over twenty details in five minutes, no problem. I’m a giant interruption to what I should be doing. When we have a special event, and I get my mitts on it, there isn’t a fork out of line or a flower out of place. When assigned to Sisters’ Sunday lunch, usually a casual affair, I apply the same modus operandi. The other Sisters say, “It’s okay. She almost can’t help herself.” (What do they mean almost?)  

For several weeks, I’ve been reading the books of the Bible dedicated to Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel…Ezekiel, now there’s a man with whom I sympathize. He saw four living creatures (four faces, four sides), wheels within wheels, and dry bones stand up and walk. But perhaps his most amazing accomplishment was the amount of detail he observed and processed. Chapter 40 begins the Vision of the New Temple. If you think details are irrelevant, give it and subsequent chapters a read! Here’s a three-verse example:

The man said to me, “Mortal, look closely and listen attentively, and set your mind upon all that I shall show you…The length of the measuring reed in the man’s hand was six long cubits, each being a cubit and a handbreadth in length; so he measured the thickness of the wall, one reed; and the height, one reed. Then he went into the gateway facing east, going up its steps, and measured the threshold of the gate, one reed deep.” Ezekiel 40:4-6   

And that’s just the beginning of what Ezekiel had to remember.

This morning I prepared for an event along with another sister, who tried hard to follow my directions. She sometimes looked puzzled and harried. I finally assured her, “Don’t worry, there’s always a reason behind my madness.” When we had completed the job, all that entered the room commented on how warm, welcoming, and beautiful it looked. I believe God is often in the details, and beauty enhanced by attention to the perceived insignificant. This concept applies to our spiritual journey and interactions with one another as well.