Archive for teresa of avila

O Root of Jesse: The God Who Comes From Within

Posted in Advent, O Antiphons, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on December 19, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

community-helping-handsO Root of Jesse, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

There is a line that is often attributed to St. Augustine and that others, like St. Bonaventure, later appropriated and paraphrased. It reflects the intimacy and immanence of God: “God is closer to you than you are to yourself.” This year, while reflecting on today’s O Antiphon, O Root of Jesse, I thought of this line because of the way in which the coming of God as emmanuel is anticipated here as coming from within. It is not an utterly transcendent God that comes from outside, as if beaming down from outer space, but a God who comes from within the family of the People of Israel, from within the limitations of human form, from within the time and space of our existence in creation.

This is partly what is conveyed in the reference to the messiah’s coming from the lineage of King David’s father, Jesse. Jesus arrives as a member of that family tree (hence the importance of the ‘boring’ genealogies in Matthew and Luke) and it should indeed give us pause about how we view our families and the importance of that connection with our past, present, and future lineage. Like all of humanity, God enters our world as part of a particular line of human persons with their own diverse histories, blessings, and sinful pasts. God knows a thing or two about what it’s like to be part of a family.

Yet, it is not just those who follow in the line of David that can appreciate that Jesus was born in that line, for the broader human family is what we celebrate on Christmas. Because God enters the world as one like us, it was necessary for there to be a particular family line into which Christ would be born, but it is the fact that God becomes human and, therefore, part of the human family that is so much more significant than any particular clan to which the infant Jesus would be associated.

In light of this familial dimension to the Incarnation and the coming of Christ, I wonder how we might understand the last line of the antiphon: “let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.” Superficially, it almost appears as though we are praying that God doesn’t get stuck in traffic or become distracted by something else or disinterested for some reason. Yet, there is a profound implication that this line bears when we put the whole familial observation in perspective.

Christ continues to come into our world today in many and varied ways, albeit not in quite the same way as that day in Bethlehem. The way that Christ comes into our world to aid us, however, is through the other members of the body of Christ. As Teresa of Avila so brilliantly said:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

God is only ever prevented from coming to the aid of humankind by the inaction or disinterest of other human persons. This antiphon reminds us of our familial bond to God in Christ through the Incarnation, but it should also remind us of our role in salvation history to care for one another as Jesus cared for those he encountered during his earthly lifetime.

When we pray for the Root of Jesse to come, we are praying that the Spirit of God take root in our heart so that we can be instruments of God’s peace in this world, allowing God to indeed come to the aid of our brothers and sisters. But it only happens through us. It only happens from the God who comes from within: within human history and within our hearts.

Photo: Stock

‘Castle of the Soul’ is a Must-Listen Collection

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 3, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

I first heard about this collection of songs for contemplation and consolation (as the album subtitle reads) from one of the composers himself when we met by chance while we both were at an interview weekend for doctoral programs at a top research university earlier this year. Tony Alonso, an extraordinarily talented composer and musician (he provides the lead vocals in several of the tracks to this album), is also a great guy. It was nice to meet him in person and I can only say good things about him. Two weeks after we met, during which time he mentioned only in passing this project within the context of some of his more current work, I was giving a talk to a group of Episcopalian parishes on Staten Island, NY, and I heard performed the title track, “Castle of the Soul,” by the music ministry for the Lenten payer that started off the evening. It was beautiful, made so in large part because of the extremely talented musicians who led the community in song, but also because the composition is simply excellent. Members of that parish music ministry shared that they had been reflecting throughout Lent with this album and everyone had been very moved by the music.

I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to finally listen to the whole collection. Most of the pieces have been composed or are part of the collaborative effort of Alonso. Additionally, the work of Liam Lawton, who is listed as co-creater of the album, is also feature prominently throughout, as are two pieces by Chris de Silva, who is, like Alonso, another young and talented composer.

The title track and the closing piece are both inspired by the writings and spirituality of Teresa of Avila, but this is not an exclusively Carmelite-inspired collection. Quite the opposite. There are some original lyrics by Lawton and Shirley Erena Murray too, as well as classic prayers put to new settings such as de Silva’s “Laudamus Te” and Lawton’s “Veni, Sancte Spiritus.” The remaining pieces are an ostensibly random collection of inspired pieces ranging from Psalms 51 and 42, the Confessions of St. Augustine, and the writings of Mother Teresa. I say ostensibly random, because in the end the album flows well in a meditative whole.

I can echo the acclaim given by the musicians on Staten Island that this is an excellent CD for prayer, meditation and keeping sane while driving in busy urban traffic (Alonso has lived in LA for years and certainly can appreciate the comparable Washington DC Beltway traffic nightmare on the East Coast for which this collection has helped alleviate a burden of traffic-induced stress!). As a liturgical accompanist in a variety of settings, most regularly these last five years at Holy Name College’s daily celebration of the Divine Office and Eucharist, I’m always on the lookout for something new and, well, good. I have already ordered the octavo for the title piece, “Castle of the Soul,” and encourage other liturgical musicians to check out this and other selections from the album. While my impending move from Washington to Boston leaves the question of my regular activity as a pianist in liturgical settings open, I hope to draw from this set of pieces when I can in the future.

Castle of the Soul is available from GIA Publishers, Amazon.com and can be downloaded directly from iTunes. You can watch a performance of the whole collection of pieces from the 2012 LA Religious Education Congress below. Enjoy!

Photo: GIA Publishers
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