Monday, July 18, 2005

moments of insight

So here are some things I learned this week, rather randomly:

Even though I was the chaplain for the RSCM course, I came away feeling like I had been on retreat. We lived by such a Benedictine schedule--hard work, play, rest (well, less of that for the staff), reading, praying, singing, communion. We even talked a little bit about that on Tuesday when we celebrated Benedict (I bumped him over a day). Music is so important in my faith formation that I came away more spiritually refreshed than I was before I got there, more so than when David and I went to the monastery (well, I also got to exercise my extrovert, too), more so than at Cursillo (not that I don't think Cursillo is worthwhile). Being the priest means you give up being in the choir, and it was nice to be around the choir for a whole week.

Practice makes things better. Sometimes, being an ENFP, I like to try new things instead of repeating an old thing. But you miss out on things if you don't rehearse them and re-hear them. Even though I wasn't singing it, by the end of the week, the Stanford canticles and other anthems had become old friends, and hearing them in the formal Evensongs on Friday and Sunday was quite moving.

Listening to a boy treble sing a solo for the Magnificat is a bittersweet experience. On the one hand, if they're any good (which our boys were), you get this lovely pure sound soaring to the heights of the church. On the other hand, you also know that what you're hearing is totally ephemeral, that just as the processes are in motion for this boy to grow in understanding, those same processes are driving him towards physical maturity and a new voice.

I've had it easy as far as singing over the past few years. I have a decent voice and a pretty good ear, good enough to do the liturgical singing without being stretched too much. I could probably sing Rite II Evensong out of the Hymnal with eyes closed. The solemn tone for Eucharist is pretty well implanted, and I've got more than a passing familiarity with the Litany sung at ordinations and installations. It's been awhile since I've had to study music carefully to look for my entrances--and being the officiant and not a second alto rumbling around on some Brahms, those were very naked entrances. I hadn't been that nervous in a long time before singing and it was good for me.

Reading, marking and inwardly digesting the lectionary readings from I Samuel in preparation for preaching with the boys opened that story up for me in a whole new way. Last week we were reading about Saul's relationship with David after the defeat of Goliath. And I became aware in a whole new way about the deterioration of Saul, the gradual disintegration of his relationship with his people (David is doing the real work of kingship), with those who are loyal to him (David) and then, finally to his own children (Michal and Jonathan). I could really feel it this time. And it resonates with some experiences I've had, of darkness taking over a person's life, so that they do lose those relationships in roughly that order. The more I read Scripture, the more I think it has to tell us, if we would just get out of the way and let it speak to us with imagination and breath, not rigid rules.


At 10:17 PM, Blogger bls said...

Evensong every day! That's like a dream come true.

Sounds like a wonderful week, Emily. Music really is praying twice....

At 11:22 AM, Blogger Emily said...

At the end of the final Evensong, the Director told us we had truly been to a transcendent place that night; I truly felt we had been in the presence of the holy. It felt like we had stepped into some other place.


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