Attached below is a reflection on mindfulness and liturgy by Fr. Albert Scharbach of Mount Calvary Church in Baltimore, Maryland. Among the paradoxes of liturgy is that it is meant to be “understanded of the people,” as the English reformers put it, and yet it celebrates mysteries that cannot be fully articulated or understood. Turning our minds to the words and actions does not mean pinning meanings down but being thrown off balance by what they reveal, if only partially.
Music expresses a similar paradox. If we listen closely to a piece of music, we seem, often, to have a new understanding, whether because of the music itself or because of the way the music expresses a text. But if we analyze the music, it is not always clear why we respond as we do. Compositional choices are made with great care, and performers bring the best of their training and technique to a performance. But even then, something beyond all of this careful, human control is communicated. As someone said about the late Dr. Joseph Flummerfelt (under whom I had the privilege of singing when I was a student at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey), at the height of his brilliance as a conductor, after years of study and experience, he conducted Brahms’s _Ein Deutsches Requiem_ one evening, then, afterwards, said to a friend, “I *think* that’s the way it goes?” As this friend of his reports—and the friend is an experienced conductor too—Dr. Flummerfelt said this with a sense of helplessness and humble uncertainty.
Mindfulness about communicating the incommunicable is a good reminder on this feast of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music. I’m sure the Church honors patron saints of other art forms. But I confess I don’t know who those saints might be. If the Church accords a preeminence to music, it says a great deal that among the treasures of the Anglican patrimony is its musical heritage. Those of us who have been formed in this patrimony have an august responsibility to give this mystery its due. “Blessed Cecilia / Appear in visions to all musicians / Appear and inspire”.
Dear Parishioners and Friends,
Mindfulness in the mundane can bring a monastic-style spirituality into daily life and work.
Last week, we considered the monastic origin of Christian mindfulness and how this is reflected in the Anglican patrimony of our parish. The poetic rhythm of liturgical language helps to keep our minds focused on the present act of worship.
Brother John-Bede Pauley points out how this can be carried over into the liturgy of life.
Monastic poetry is not only about reading and writing but also about discovering the beauty of God’s presence in the ordinary, which means perceiving liturgy, theological reflection, and quotidian tasks as forming aspects of the same integrated whole. Even utensils—garden tools, for example, or stirring spoons—are to be treated, according to the RB (Rule of St. Benedict), as though they are “sacred vessels of the altar.” Conversely, the ordinariness of the garden shed, the kitchen, and other places of everyday life has its resonance in the oratory. All is both reverent and familiar, awe-filled and quotidian. Patristic/monastic spirituality favors the stillness of the domestic and the “homely” rather than the “disputations” of scholastics or the exaggeration and drama that characterized much spirituality and art in the late Renaissance and the Baroque.
This perspective on mindfulness in the mundane is the fruit of a particularly Benedictine spirituality that continued in England longer than the continent, and continued to form English Catholic spirituality. It is brought forward in the poetry of our Ordinariate worship today.
In our worship at Mount Calvary, we say that “we lift up Christ in the beauty of holiness.” But the beauty of holiness means infinitely more when it extends outside our church doors and into daily life.
May Christ be lifted up in every aspect of our lives today.
Fr. Al Scharbach