The Song of Prayer
Dom Eugene Cardine, Benedictine monk and famed musicologist who lived and worked in the Abbey of St. Peter of Solesmes, left a document that he entitled his “last will and testament.” That, in itself, is not so unusual. However, rather than writing a document that bequeathed physical belongings to those closest to him, he wrote a letter leaving all of us his final thoughts about all he had learned about chant and what he had learned from it.
I have read Dom Cardine’s letter several times, and each time I am struck by one particular thought that he offers: any chant — its actual sound — is “drawn out” of the essence of the text which it is designed to serve. Ponder that statement for a minute and remember that the vast majority of chanted texts are quotes from scripture.
There is a long and cherished tradition and history of actually praying the words of scripture. So, it comes as no surprise that chant has come to be know as ‘the song of prayer.” As we move into the summer months during which many of us will attend workshops to increase our skills with chant, let’s remember to increase and deepen our prayers as we exercise the privilege of praying through the chant.