Yesterday a gal from northern England returned home after spending 10 days with us. It was also her first trip to the USA. It's wise to pay attention to first time visitors...their observations are always enlightening.
There are two specific comments that I gathered from her: First, she loved the snow...especially a soft, wet snowstorm we had that left every branch of every tree with 3-4" of the white stuff and truly made our grounds and our whole city appear to be a proverbial "winter wonderland." She had seen snow before, but never in this quantity! At this time in our winter (we've had 80+") it was good for us to see it through the eyes of someone for whom it was beautiful and unique.
Second, and most important, she loved our prayer...both the daily singing of the Opus Dei and Sunday liturgies. She raved and raved at first, and then, as the days went on, got quiet and reflective about it, giving us deep compliments and encouragement to continue this "gift," as she called it. Unlike the snowfall, this is not something we ever take for granted or forget its importance and effect on our lives. We know how significant it is for our spiritual journey and to our monastic life.
Here's a nice reflection on chanting by Thomas Moore:
Sometimes in their chanting monks will land upon a note and sing it in florid fashion, one syllable of text for fifty notes of chant. Melisma, they call it. Living a melismatic life in imitation of plainchant, we may stop on an experience, a place, a person, or a memory and rhapsodize in imagination. Some like to meditate or contemplate melismatically, while others prefer to draw, build, paint, or dance whatever their eye has fallen upon. Living one point after another is one form of experience, and it can be emphatically productive. But stopping for melisma gives the soul its reason for being.
Photo by Vena Eastwood, OSB oblate