Yesterday was the funeral celebration of one of our Clergy whose family had moved to the community 40 years ago.
Ed was a farmer at heart and he loved taking care of the vegetables, flowers (roses were his specialty), and all the animals. One of the hymns sung during the liturgy, “In the Garden” (based on the scripture Genesis 3:8), says it all for Ed: “And they heard the voice of the Lord walking in the garden….”
One of the post-funeral traditions we hold dear is going to the cemetery after the funeral, to place our loved one in the ground. Each person takes a shovel full of dirt to lay on the coffin. The Community family takes care of the body from the moment of death — keeping vigil by the coffin — to the laying of the sod over the coffin when the last shovel full of earth has been laid.
Another custom, while we are filling the grave, is to share any remembrances of our loved one. All ages enter in — from the 10-year-old who remembered Uncle Ed always giving the children lollipops every Sunday, to a landscaping manager who got his first love of landscaping from Ed, to the fellow community member who remembered when he was struggling spiritually being told by Ed, “Come into my office (which was under a shade tree) and let’s talk.”
What a wonderful way to say goodbye to a fellow traveler on the road to our eternal home!
A wise abbot recently described lectio divina as taking a bite of scripture and chewing on it, like gum. I tried this with a verse from Lauds this morning, Psalm 42:7, “deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls.” I soon realized my bite was too big, that “deep calls to deep” was enough to chew on. After a while, I understood that deep calls to deep is exactly what God wants for us. Out of the depths of his love, he calls to the depths of our souls. I may be personally satisfied with a surface life, but he wants more. And sometimes he has to ruin my plans and destroy my superficial life so that I can hear the depths calling to me. Deep calls to deep. And what about “the roar of the waterfall”? That is for another time of chewing.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined. Psalm 50:2
I take pleasure in providing blessings for My children. The beauty you see and enjoy is a gift of My love. You have a super abundance of it where I have placed and kept you. To enjoy it fully you must accept it as My gift of love. To reap all the benefits I intend, you must surrender your fretting. The earth is Mine and the fullness thereof. Do not lust after what I have denied you, but embrace what I have given so freely. I take pleasure in providing blessings for you, but I am saddened and grieved when you despise them and fail to recognize My fatherly care.
This week is the anniversary of the Dedication of the Church of the Transfiguration at the Community of Jesus, and we opened the festivities with First Vespers on Saturday night. The chants selected for the feast were pulled from various liturgies, pieces written hundreds of years ago for the dedication of other churches and monasteries — Texts from the Old and New Testaments, and poetry speaking of adoring and worshiping God in his Holy Temple. One of the hymns we sing is by Prudentius (4th-5th century), a writer who lived in exciting but fearful times in the history of the Church and the world. He begins the hymn: Whosoever you are who seek Christ, raise your eyes on high; there you will be allowed to see a sign of eternal glory!
In our weekly chant class this week, one of our Community members shared his thoughts on this hymn – the encouragement of knowing that we are not alone in our feelings of ups and downs, that we are not alone in the living through of difficult and troubled times. This hymn-writer was encouraging us: Lift up your eyes! It was clear as he shared that the message of this hymn was touching a number of people deeply. It was not just another piece of music to learn but a very meaningful reminder, encouragement, and link to Christians through the ages.
As the weather steadily improves, we look forward to ringing in our tower on sunny days, with the doors wide open, and we also look forward to welcoming the many guest ringers who come to share our joy!
Our tower is probably one of the more “seasonal” towers in the United States. Most towers welcome visitors all year long, but our tower definitely sees a rise and fall in the number of guest ringers, depending on the season. Of course we never question why our ringing friends aren’t clambering to visit in January or February, when a down parka, hat and snow boots are required to stand in the “ringing room”. But we also understand the smiles on ringers’ faces as they enjoy ringing on a beautiful summer day, with the sun streaming in, and a gentle breeze wafting through the open tower doors. That season is approaching and we eagerly anticipate the arrival of our friends from Boston, New York, England and elsewhere.
One thing we realized right away as we began our journey of learning to ring, was that every bell ringer in the world is hospitable and delighted to share their skill with any other would-be ringer. As a band starting out with not an ounce of experience among us, we presented a daunting task for any experienced ringer. But strangers became friends upon the first meeting, and we quickly learned that all bell towers and ringers share this modus operandi. We were surprised, relieved, humbled and grateful to find this was the case — and the rest is history. Here we are, years later, still struggling to conquer our fears and foibles, but enjoying every minute of it, and doing our best to emulate those we have met along the way — hoping to make those who visit our tower feel as welcome as we did in every tower we have visited. Hope to see you soon!
If you look in one of the chant books for the Divine Office, you will note that the services during “Ordinary Time” have a heading for the weekday offices, Per hebdomadae, which means “through the week.” The person who leads the opening prayers, hymn, and closing prayers is called the “hebdom.”
I was hebdom this past week for our Divine Office, and it is quite an experience every time do it. I admit, I sometimes go in to chant the offices by rote — simply hear and respond, hear and respond, etc. But when you have this particular responsibility, you have the task of setting forth the prayers so that others can respond. In other words, rote doesn’t work! In fact, it can be a little startling to put your own voice “into the air” without everyone else chanting with you.
One of the great joys of having the job of hebdom for a week is that it heightens your sensitivity to the service as a whole, as well as the individual prayers and responses. I find myself suddenly more aware of my neighbor and that I have re-engaged with the chanting of the Psalms. Offering your chant as a prayer to God and vehicle for the benefit of others is a privilege and pathway for singing to God and re-igniting love for the chant!
As you may have read, seen or heard, the CJ Ringers hosted a day of ringing this past Saturday, and we were thrilled to have expert ringers join us from various towers around the globe. We had many from England, and some from as far away as Australia, along with our Boston friends, and others nearby. Two of our ringers joined a full peal of Grandsire Caters in the morning which is 3+ hrs long! In the afternoon about 40 of us gathered around and in the tower.
Under the beautiful summer sun, the young people could sit on the common, play, chat, enjoy the sun and even sneak away to the beach for a quick swim while the bells continually rang. Benches were set around the tower for the older crowd looking for a bit of shade. Old and young came and went from the tower when the bells stopped, and when we gathered for a new method or exercise we wanted to ring. Fun drinks and snacks helped keep us all going.
We elected a leader who ran the time so everyone had a chance to ring and learn, no matter whether a beginner or an advanced ringer. For new ringers, the better the band, the better for you! The more experienced ringers always had us stand behind them and taught us by having us watch them; or they stood behind us giving clear instructions whispered in our ears along with helpful tips to improve our ringing.
What I love about ringing with the experts is their open willing hearts to pass on what they know with enthusiasm and love of the art. They show pure joy in the art of ringing and mentor with inspiration. A helpful smile or nod comes our way when we are supposed to be ringing ahead or behind them. Many advanced ringers have been ringing since they were children so it’s “in their blood”. They know the pitfalls and have helped many a novice gain confidence. It reminds me of Benedict’s “school of love.” We couldn’t be more fortunate having our new friends share their love of ringing. We are a blessed tower and a blessed people.
The Peal Band at the Church of the Transfiguration, June 4, 2016
Area meeting ringers at the Church of the Transfiguration Bell Tower at the Community of Jesus, June 4, 2016
I have been taken with this fresco of St. Francis for the last two months. Monsignor Timothy Verdon spoke about how St. Francis spontaneously threw off his cloak to offer it to a nobleman he met who had fallen on hard times. He knew that the extent of his poverty would cause him great shame. He sympathized with the other man and was merciful, without consideration for himself. St. Francis’ gesture of disrobing was full of symbolism — emptying himself and detaching himself from his worldly goods, which would take place later.
Last week I was reminded again of “removing the cloak” when we read the story of Bartimaeus, the blind man. Bartimaeus was on the side of the road, crying out to Jesus. When Jesus called him to come, he threw off his cloak so he could run! Then Bartimaeus was healed.
If only I will remove my cloak of fears, hurts, rights, and selfishness that keep me from running to Jesus and being available to be healed!
Recently a sister wrote about learning to leave well enough alone—learning not to straighten the crooked picture. That’s not my bent. My struggle is careless inattention to detail. I’m more apt to say: “crooked picture? what picture?” We are all different, and we all need help.
Scripture calls us “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5). Some are smooth, others rough. Some are perfectly round, others have interesting shapes. We are all needed, and this is what makes community.
In 2007, I had the privilege of being part of a group of four cantors who spent the entire summer studying chant with Mary Berry in Cambridge, England. Dr. Berry taught us much about chant, and welcomed us as part of her family which included her dogs, Kai and Tien.
Never one to miss an opportunity to teach chant through daily life, Dr. Berry would chant an ancient Gregorian grace before meals. On the surface, that did not seem a particular surprise. However, what made that chant memorable were the dogs, Kai and Tien. It made no difference where the dogs were or even what time it was. All Dr. Berry had to do was begin this simple and child-like little chant, “Benedicite,” and the dogs “came-a-running!” Their faces expressed a level of joy that made us all howl in laughter – just like Kai and Tien. Dinner time was a time to rejoice and they knew it!
I will never forget the beaming look in Dr. Berry’s eyes as she gave each dog their treat after they dutifully sat through the remainder of the chant. This was one of Dr. Berry’s favorite ways to show that all creatures – even the dogs – had a joyful response to the loving voice of their Master!