For two weeks, monks and nuns who have made temporary vows gathered at St. Benedict's Monastery in Snowmass, CO, to learn about Christology in the Early Fathers with Fr. Simeon Leiva and about Cistercian Chant from Fr. Emmanuel Morinelli, both monks of St. Joseph''s Abbey, Spencer, MA.
They share 5 common points for Christ and Chant:
- Therapy (“self-knowledge”): Both the person of Christ and music are sources of healing, especially when pursued with daily perseverance in a monastic setting. Sacred music can help the soul come into harmony with the praise of God inherent in creation, and to discover Christ as the personal Healer of all human ills.
- Transformation (conversatio morum): Both liturgy (to which music is essential) and lectio (of which Christ is the underlying subject) are transformative monastic occupations. Over time they profoundly change the person devoted to them.
- Unity: Music in general fosters communion with harmonies that are beyond the individual person. Monastic chant in particular encourages una voce execution; it excludes singularity of self-expression. Similarly, the goal of asceticism in the following of Christ is unification, of the faculties of the person and of that person with God in Christ, resulting in unification with all one’s brothers and sisters.
- “Only the lover sings”: St. Augustine affirms that the love born of deep faith urges a person to sing that love, that, in a sense, all singing springs from love of something that urges celebration and proclamation to the world beyond the individual. Our conformity with Christ is what plants such love in our hearts, and therefore communicates the need to sing. Like love and faith, music bursts the bonds of individual isolation and becomes proclamation in harmony and beauty of form. The patristic style “sings” because the Fathers did theology on their knees.
- Role of Beauty: Sensitivity to the beautiful anywhere (nature, art, people, study) awakens and develops the deepest instincts for God. Both sacred music and sacred theology are at the threshold of mysticism. They are “baptized” arts, one using the senses and the other reason as vehicles for the experience of God. God is the great reconciler, the universal harmonizer of divisions and conflicts—in the individual, the Church, the cosmos. For some Fathers, Christ was the true Orpheus, playing the lyre of his love and truth to all creation. This results in the universal gathering around him, as center, of all creatures, in joy, peace, unity and rapt contemplation.