Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Why chant?

Fr. Cassian Folsom, Prior of the Monastery of St. Benedict in Norcia, on why this particular form of music is ideal for the spiritual life:

Why do we sing? St. Augustine says: Cantare amantis est: a good paraphrase might be: "only the lover sings." Our singing is the expression of our love-longing for God. Now the texts we sing are primarily Scriptural, and the melodies are very ancient, some of them technically demanding. The result is that there is plenty of material both for the intellect and the heart. We pray with our lips, with our bodies, with our emotions and with our minds...

The music is sacred music, which means it doesn't resemble secular musical forms. So worshipers encounter a kind of music -- with its specific melodies, rhythms and tonalities -- that removes them from the ordinary and places them in the realm of the holy. Our monastery has chosen the classical repertoire of Gregorian chant because of its extraordinary beauty and its capacity to draw the listener into prayer.

And on religious life:

What do you think it is about your monastery that attracts Young Monks?

I think it's always been the case that young people tend to be idealistic, enthusiastic, generous, critical of the status-quo, and eager to change the world. Our way of life offers a concrete proposal: "Do you want to give your life to God in a radical way? Here's a great way to do it." Ours is a young community (the average age is 33) and like attracts like.

For those that do not understand the life of a Monk can you give some
insight into your world?

The Gospel of John interprets the actions of Jesus by referring to a saying of Jeremiah the prophet: "Zeal for thy house consumes me!" (Jn 2:17). That's what motivates the monk: zeal for God, desire for God, love-longing you might say. All the tools of monastic prayer and asceticism flow from this passion for God. The monastic charism of hospitality inspires us to share this zeal with others. People flock to the monastery from far and wide. They're not looking for us monks, they're looking for God. So our task is to become transparent, so that our own weakness and sins don't get in the way of God's powerful action in the world.


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