The Holy Innocents

This is the text of this morning’s Gregorian chant hymn from Lauds for the Feast of the Holy Innocents, by Prudentius (4th-5th c.). This is a tragic event in the history of God’s people. It is also referred to as “The Slaughter of the Innocents.” The Wise Men reported to King Herod that they were searching for the infant king of the Jews. This threatened Herod. To protect himself against being supplanted by this infant, Herod ordered the slaughter of all male children under two years of age in Bethlehem and the surrounding region. No one knows who or how many were killed, so the Church honors them as a group of martyrs. Augustine of Hippo called them “buds killed by the frost of persecution the moment they showed themselves.”

Christmas candle tower at the Church of the Transfiguration, the Community of JesusHail, flowers of the martyrs, whom, at the very threshold of the light of life, the pursuer of Christ destroyed, as a whirlwind would roses in bud.

You are the first victims of Christ, the tender flock of the sacrificers; pure ones before the altar itself, you play with palms and crosses.

Glory be to you, O Lord, who are born of a virgin, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, for everlasting ages. Amen.

 

Seeing the Signs

By Sr. Fidelis

Many of the chants for this season re-tell various “scenes” from the Easter story. This is a wonderful way for us to rehearse the true miracle of Jesus’ Resurrection! The antiphon Maria Stabat reminds us that Mary stood at the sepulcher weeping and saw two angels in white sitting, and the cloth that was on Jesus’ head. The story goes no further in this Mode VII antiphon, but there is a sense of anticipation and joy and the bloom of hope is conveyed with each consecutive phrase!
The opening phrase begins with an ascent from its Home Tone SOL, to its Reciting Tone, RE, and then back again to SOL. The repeated note pattern on the text Angelos in albis, sedentes builds with excitement! For the most part this is a syllabic chant save one word, fuerat. Here the lingering emphasis reminds us that this was the cloth that was on Jesus’ head.
There’s much food for thought in these seemingly simple chants!

MariaStabat

Be not unbelieving…

By Sr. Fidelis

The Communion for the 2nd Week of Easter comes from the Gospel of John – Jesus’ words to Thomas.

“Thrust your hand and know the place of the nails, and be not unbelieving but faithful.” is the literal translation.

There is a wonderful sense of conversation in this serene Mode 6 chant; two syllabic phrases punctuated with Alleluias.

The structural notes of LA (reciting tone) and FA (home tone) serve as the “backbone” of the piece.

One of the beauties of this simple chant is the actual Latin text.  Jesus tells Thomas to thrust his hand and know the place of the nails….not just see them, or touch them, but know them.

The original notation highlights the text in several spots.  In the opening line, there is a 3 note neum called a “torculus”, (low-high-low) on the last syllable of the word tuam. The shape of this neum indicates that there is more emphasis on the 2nd and 3rd notes, rather than them all being even.   This is called a “special” torculus, and gives a sense of lift to the word.  On the final line of the chant, we see this same sign on the accented syllable of the word fidelis, and in the final alleluia, only this time, it looks angular.  This tells us to emphasize all 3 syllables of the word.  You will hear these subtleties, which add points of interest and arrival in the overall scope of the chant.

Mitte Manum

Officially Next Year

By Sr. Nun Other

Baseball season opening day. Defined by colorful uniforms against green grass. Flags unfurled and the Star Spangled Banner sung by someone famous or a regular person deserving a chance. A Blue Angel flyover, and the two best words in all of baseball, “Play Ball!”

And right there, lurking in the background, are the naysayers. They’ve already predicted the third baseman (who they loved three weeks ago) is a huge mistake, the #2 starting pitcher will breakdown mid-season, and at best, your team (fill in the blank) might have a shot at the wild card.

Don’t let them (whoever they are) pick-pocket your hope. They–we–make up stories because really, we don’t know what God intends and just might do. Our job is to hope, believe, anticipate and participate in a well-planned outcome that leads to ultimate good.

Image courtesy of Catholic Trivia Blogspot

Lumen Christi: Easter Encounters with Art

As Christians, the pursuit of beauty in all of its forms is ever before us. While the world’s definition of beauty – a wrinkle-free, almost inhuman imitation of so-called “perfection” – almost always leads to self-abasement and discouragement, true beauty as we seek it only leads to a further knowledge of God’s love for us, to a clearer and brighter reflection of who He is, and to a deeper desire to become co-creators of beauty with him in all the quotidian elements of our lives.

Gabriele Wilpers, an internationally celebrated painter and sculptor from Essen, Germany, knows all about this calling toward beauty, and all of the risks and rewards that accompany that vocation. After training as a photographer, between 1973 and 1978 Gabriele Wilpers studied free painting at the Folkwang Hochschule in Essen, Germany. Since then she has lived and worked in Essen as a freelance visual artist. In recent years she has taken first prize in competitions for art in the public domain, and she has designed entire church interiors for several parishes in the archidocese of Freiburg im Breisgau. Wilpers uses a variety of artistic methods in her artwork – painting, installation objects, film, and architectural glass – to reflect and describe the human existence. Her interventions in an existing space, which can be both sacred and profane in nature, question the context in which modern man lives today.

Back in July of 2005, Ms. Wilpers was invited by the Munster Chapter of the Catholic Women’s Organization to contribute to the 1200th anniversary of the diocese of Munster. The discovery of a medieval thimble, excavated from the ruins of the Uberwasser Convent, inspired Ms. Wilpers to create an installation for the nearby Uberwasser Gothic church. Entitled “As Numerous as the Stars in the Sky” Ms. Wilpers’ installation was comprised of thousands of thimbles gathered from the women of the diocese, and became a sort of memorial to the myriad, nameless women of Munster through the ages, who faithfully lived out their vocations. Upon entering the church, the viewer’s gaze was immediately drawn upward to a sparkling, starry canopy made up of these now almost meaningless, outdated objects, each suspended from different colored threads, and given new meaning by Ms. Wilpers for this occasion. As one journalist put it, “Each individual thimble—the protector of sensitive fingertips—hence becomes a symbol of that which women have experienced and achieved. They become centuries-old witnesses to female stories and histories, trigger many associations in connection with women’s lives and, taken out of their original context, artfully perform their story-telling role. The sparkling firmament speaks of the hard work of women, of suffering and poverty, but also of joy, and inside the church represents a symbolic space for the histories of uncounted women in the diocese.”[1]

Ms. Wilpers’ installation in the Munster Church was only temporary, but her art has found many other permanent homes, one of which is the Church of the Transfiguration in Orleans, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. Gabriele Wilpers designed the glass sculpture on the West Wall of the Church of the Transfiguration, connecting the oculus window and lintel (over the main doors) in a seamless design portraying Christ’s Transfiguration. In Wilpers‘ studio at Essen and at the Derix Glasstudios in Taunusstein, Germany, she and glass fabricators collaborated on the modern abstract sculpture. The sculpture features sixty-four individually cast glass panels covered with gold-leaf paint, which was partially removed with an acid wash.The varying intensity of the gold and the pattern of ridges and valleys evoke elements of the reflected light from sunsets over the Cape Cod sand flats and combine to gather, reflect, and refract light, becoming a glistening and shimmering wall of Transfiguration splendor.

This week, artists, art-lovers and all seekers of beauty have an opportunity to encounter and hear from Gabriele Wilpers first-hand here at the Community of Jesus. Lumen Christi: Easter Encounters with Art will be held April 5th through 9th. Ms. Wilpers is joined by Monsignor Timothy Verdon, a renowned Art Historian and prolific author, for this five-day series of illuminating lectures on Easter themes of light, resurrection and rebirth in sacred art. All are invited to come and be inspired by these beautifully illustrated lectures on art and architecture, from the baroque to the contemporary, hosted by the Mount Tabor Ecumenical Centre for Art and Spirituality. In a time when so many Christian women and artists suffer from isolation, lack of support and understanding, and a market-driven secular environment, Lumen Christi: Easter Encounters with Art offers an alternate experience of contemplation and creativity, focusing on the artists‘ vital contribution to the faith conversation. For more information visit www.mounttabor.it or call 508-240-7090.

04 Muenster 2005

02 Thimbles 200505 Muenster 2005All photos courtesy of Herbert Wilpers

[1] Frank Joachim Schmitz, Berichte, Das Munster,

GlassWallMarch 2005

The Bells Hang Silently

Bells play a special role this time of year – Holy Week through Easter Sunday. I was never aware of this, as I don’t think many people are, until we put in our own set of change ringing bells. I have always thought of bells in the role of ringing out as a call to worship, as well as news and celebration. But they also have a part to play in silence. Our Maundy Thursday service bulletin had a meditation to ponder on its cover and I was particularly struck by the words “the bells hang silently.” They are not rung from Palm Sunday until the Easter Vigil Saturday night. We have grown used to hearing them every day of the week and suddenly there is silence where there has been joyful “noise.” But even beyond the quiet of the week – no organ as well – it feels that the silent presence of the bells in the tower has a waiting feeling. It enhances my own sense of waiting for the Passion and the Resurrection of our Lord, and enriches the true celebration when once again they ring out with the news of our Salvation.

Motion Devotion

By Sr. Nun Other

During this morning’s exercise class, I considered the phrase full range of motion, pretty certain I didn’t have it. It’s medical definition is “the full movement potential of a joint, usually its range of flexion and extension.” I discovered that flexibility is the key – and most neglected – component for general good health, injury prevention, and outstanding sports performance. In my case, that would be ping pong.  As I stared at the ceiling, rotating my left ankle, I had this thought:what about full range of emotion? Isn’t that equally important? Emotions are a persistent companion, closer than the air we breathe. They help define and provide commentary on life around us. And we need them flexible and healthy as well.

I’m convinced God isn’t anti-emotion. In fact, I printed seven pages listing 190 emotions mentioned in the Bible. Here are some of them:  affection, anger, arrogance, bitterness, compassion, confusion, cruelty, defiance, delight, disappointment, eagerness, embarrassment, enthusiasm, exaltation, greed, impatience, kindness, laughter, loneliness, and optimism.  Though sometimes fickle, misinformed, and prone to jump to conclusions, emotions are the color and substance of who we are. They join the clay of body, mind, and spirit in God’s patient hands.

Snowdrops

This is My Body

By Sr. Fidelis

This week, we turn our faces toward Holy Week and the great sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. We find a depth of riches in the Gregorian chants that come from this sacred season. One of the treasures of the Church is the majestic hymn Pange Lingua, whose text is attributed to Thomas Aquinas. This chant is sung to accompany the translation of the Sacraments to a place of repose at the conclusion of the Maundy Thursday Eucharist. The Mode 3 melody gently sweeps up and back in a way that lifts the text and gives a sense of adoration. Read this wonderful translation by J.M. Neale and others, which is found in many hymnals.

Of the glorious body telling,
O my tongue, its mysteries sing,
And the blood, all price excelling,
Which the world’s eternal King,
In a spotless womb once dwelling,
Shed for this world’s ransoming.

Given for us, for us descending,
Of a virgin to proceed,
Man with man in converse blending,
Scattered he the gospel seed,
Till his sojourn drew to ending,
Which he closed in wondrous deed.

At the last great supper lying
Circled by his chosen band,
Duly with the law complying,
First he finished its command,
Then immortal food supplying,
Gave himself by his own hand.

Word-made-flesh by word he maketh
Bread his very flesh to be;
Man in wine Christ’s blood partaketh:
And if senses fail to see,
Faith alone the true heart waketh
To behold the mystery.

Therefore we, before him bending,
This great sacrament revere:
Types and shadows have their ending,
For the newer rite is here;
Faith, our outward sense befriending,
Makes the inward vision clear.

Glory let us give and blessing
To the Father and the Son,
Honor, might and praise addressing,
While eternal ages run;
Ever too his love confessing,
Who, from both, with both is one. Amen

PangeLingua

Leaving All

By Sr. Fidelis

“You who have left all things and followed me, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.”

This Gospel quote from Matthew takes on a new perspective during Lent. Whether we be leaving our agendas, our control, our comfort zones, to follow Jesus, he promises us much more in unlikely ways, including the promise of eternal life. Whatever we cling to so closely needs to be “relinquished” into his hands.

This Mode 1 antiphon begins on the Home Tone RE, and gently rises to its peak on centuplum (one hundred) one pitch above the Reciting Tone of LA. The pitch of TI gives this word an “acidic” edge as it descends to the FA MI on the last syllable, outlining an augmented 4th. Here is a classic example of Mode 1, utilizing the lower part of the range and giving a somber and mysterious element to the tonality of this antiphon.

Vos qui reliquistis

Reconciliation

By Sunset Septuagint

I am blessed to be working on an international Symposium on Ecumenism and the Arts occurring in 2017, the 500th anniversary of Luther’s Reformation, in four countries and six different cities. I have been asking the Lord to give me the vision of the significance of this event in our time.

The world situation is certainly more dangerous than at any other time in my lifetime, and maybe ever, with the capability of a nuclear holocaust. And yet, we have recently had a reconciliation brought about after 1,000 years – that of the encounter between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church. “Finally! We are brothers,” the Pope exclaimed. Seemingly, this meeting took place because of the persecution of Christians worldwide. One Orthodox cleric said, “We need to put aside internal disagreements at this tragic time…”

So hopefully in these dark days with the rise of secularism growing, the light of Christ will shine ever more brightly – that we might all be one!
Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill