Thursday, May 10, 2007

Choir as an image of monastic life, part 1

[Chapter talk of May 10, 2007; Prior's note: Mr. Kevin Allen is our choral instructor, who spends an hour with us once every two weeks.]

I appreciate everyone’s hard work at choir practices on Wednesdays. I’ve been reflecting on the exercises and comments given to us by Kevin yesterday, in light of our lives together in community. It is significant that he kept saying the word ‘listen’ over and over again at the end of rehearsal. I wonder how many of us were aware that this is exactly the word that should characterize our Benedictine spirituality. The importance of this was what he used as a contrast to listening and what inhibited our listening, namely: an over-reliance on the literal interpretation of the words and notes on the page, and lack of good physical technique.

In the first case, I in no way am saying that rules and law are unimportant in our life. These guide us in the true path of charity and virtue. However, there is always a danger in monastic life and in the Church generally to make use of the law as a measuring stick to make sure that I am ‘doing things right’, and therefore in God's favor (more accurately, I am in my own favor in such a case). This goes further and extends to measuring whether my brothers are doing things correctly. You will notice that in the past two rehearsals, Kevin has avoided saying anything about what the correct tempo is, other than some vague ideas about the length and direction of phrasing. Rather, what he has insisted on is that we follow the brother next to us and the brother across the room and watch the cantor. Thus it is not so much a matter of being correct as it is being with my brothers. In other words, it is not a matter of the letter of the law but of the Holy Spirit of love and brotherhood. So it should be in all our observances, and I again urge mutual obedience in the life, not in such a way as to overturn the law, but so as to give the law its inner life and joy.

I will say a word about technique tomorrow.

No comments:


This blog is published with ecclesiastical approval.

If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
Locations of visitors to this page