Monday, September 29, 2008

Monastic Lexicon #5

Suscipe: sue'-she-pay

To a Benedictine Sister of Erie the Latin word suscipe, which translates to "receive," refers to the verse from Psalm 119, "Uphold me O God and I shall live, and do not fail me in my hope."

This beautiful mantra is sung at three pivotal moments in a sister's life: at her final monastic profession, at her jubilee celebrations, and as her casket is brought into chapel at her funeral liturgy.

It is often sung three times in row, in increasing keys, and, perhaps because of that beautiful musical setting, it never fails to deeply touch many of us. I don't think I've ever sung in without tearing up.

The section of Psalm 119 that contains this verse is also part of our Week III Friday Evening Praise, but it is intoned using one of the standard chant modes, not the melody used for the occasions above. Nevertheless, when it does pop up on those ordinary Fridays it is a reminder of those three special times when the community sings it with great, great joy.