Paul writes to the congregation in Rome …“I am longing to come to you so that I might bring you some spiritual gift that will prove to be of an enduring strength, …or let me restate that … that we may be strengthened together through our mutual faith, yours and mine.” – Romans 1:11,12
The traditional seating of the monks when they are in chapel is to say that they are “in choir”. They sit in two groups facing each other, seated each in their place in one of the to “choir lofts”. (Though the choir lofts are not at all “lofted”.) Beyond the altar rail sit the other members of the congregation, guests, visitors, members of the local congregation. When the Sisters of Sacred Heart worship with us .. they always sit as a group near the doors of the chapel. (And when the Brothers of Greyfriars‘ visit the chapel of Sacred Heart, we, in like manner, sit as a group near the doors of their chapel…. I believe it is a tradition born out of mutual respect for being guests in each others’ house of worship.
On special days, we worship together: monks, nuns, and the other members of our congregations. I especially love those services for the way in which the music and the liturgy is shared. Sometimes the Abbot or Prioress will lead with an opening sentence … then one side of the choir will respond, singing or speaking to those on the other side of the Choir; who, in turn, respond to the first side; then we all turn and all the Brothers in the Choir will then speak or sing to the congregation; who then in return, speak or sing back to us in response … and then … the visiting Brothers or Sisters will then add a distant response to us all … as if the world outside was adding its own to our worship. I am not sure of the technical word for this antiphonal style of worship … but it is beautiful, it is beautiful in how it weaves the many diverse souls into one holy cloth. I find it to be an incarnation of the “Mutual Harmony” that we cherish as a vital dimension of Christian living.
As a Methodist, I was nurtured in what is called four-part harmony in our warm-hearted, full-bodied hymn singing. Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass, we came together with different voices and wove them together in songs of faith. The singing of the Harmony was, I do deeply and sincerely believe, a strong theological statement. That four-part harmony was remembering that we, in Christ, are not merely about everybody else singing our own melodies, but rather we are about singing them in mutual harmonies, each yielding to the others in the creation of a certain quality of song that can be only created by our blending together our different voices.
I fear that in modern America, we are abandoning this holy virtue of creating the mutual harmony. Instead of seeking to create harmonies with our voices, we would rather just sing our melodies louder and louder, coercing uniformity rather than cultivating spiritual unity. Somewhere along the line we abandoned the understanding of the Christian community as one of Mutual Harmony and traded it for a lesser understanding of the Christian Community as one of Common Melody.
Saint Paul, in our Scripture today, appears to correct himself … He writes … .“I am longing to come to you so that I might bring you some spiritual gift that will prove to be of an enduring strength, …or let me restate that … that we may be strengthened together through our mutual faith, yours and mine.” – Romans 1:11,12 He remembers that the Spirit enables us to live lives that become more than merely ourselves and more than mere copies of one another, we become something of a far greater nature, through our mutual faith, yours and mine … by God’s weaving us together in the holy wonder of mutual harmony. We are more than one voice; we are more than one melody; we are humble voices creating holy harmony.
Brother Anthony of the Cross
(on behalf of the harmony known as Greyfriars’ Abbey)
— For the latest installment of the ongoing story, The Mystic Realms of Shadow Fox, just click … https://greyfriarsabbey.wordpress.com/the-mystic-reams-of-shadow-fox/ … The installments are separated by ********* with the latest being at the end (obviously).