The Spirit of Things


I am a church musician and consequently take an interest in comparing various renderings of sacred music to develop my style. The most superior Gregorian chant I have ever heard is that recorded in the film “Into Great Silence,” performed by the Carthusian Fathers of the Grand Chartreux.

A member of the International Fellowship of St. Bruno mailing list commented on a recording of Carthusian chant, “Professionals could never sound this good.”

The professional singer, as I am all too aware, focuses variously on enunciation, pitch, tone, dynamics, tempo, blend, &c. By focusing almost obsessively on all the specifics (read the Musica Sacra journal if you doubt this), he hopes to craft a performance of integrity and beauty.

The Carthusians, on the other hand, who surpass any professional singer by far, do not heed any of this. Their only thought is to the music and the prayer. In fact, their own performance of it is probably the furthest thing from their minds. And by this simple act of sincere prayer, their performance flummoxes all imitators.

On these forums, a lot of people nitpick about extremely specific acts and circumstances. I wonder if this is not the wrong approach.

One poster in a thread about dating commented that she did not deliberately instruct her children to bring dates home and introduce them to her, but that the children did this of their own accord. All of them.

Perhaps the answer is not in finding the right set of extremely complex rules to obey in all possible circumstances and contingencies, memorising it, and then meticulously and scrupulously obeying it. Perhaps, for instance, there is no one “proper” length of courtship, or manner of dating, or manner of childrearing, or educational paradigm.

Perhaps, instead, it’s a question of going about all things with the proper spirit. Doing all things for love of Christ, using the law as a schoolmaster but love as your motivation.

Then, when the right spirit is in place, the right actions, right for each person, in each circumstance, will follow effortlessly, and the wrong ones will be avoided.


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