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Gregorian chants: an entry point into eternity

I have had friends, who are not religious and do not ever intend to become religious, who say that entering a church always does something to them. That, despite their indifference or even antipathy toward organized traditional religion, they find something beautiful and soothing about the ceremony, quiet and solemnity of church.

When I had completely ‘divorced’ the idea of God and religion, it was the same thing that always made me feel rueful. Like being reminded of the enduring, irrefutable beauty of a former lover who had proved untrue and left me scorned. And such beauty it truly is, in all senses — the slow-moving incense, a ringing depth of bells, the glisten of a chalice against candlelight, the spell of centuries-old harmony, alternatingly sweet, soaring, sorrowful.

We respond to that because what we feel with our bodies and senses is an invitation, not an argument.

If we are all floating about, feeling fragmented, alone and afraid — and I suspect we mostly are, as I always feel I am — the balm may be something that can make us feel grounded, anchored, oriented. The awareness of that is pre-cognitive and post-verbal.

If you have even a single mystical bone in your body, the invitation is always there — not to a set of beliefs, not to an institution, but to an expanded awareness, the subtle registering of something of rare solidity and transcendent orderliness, something that sucks you out of the prison of solipcism and out into an infinitely vast space, into a sense of time without beginning or end.

You may have felt something like that during yoga, meditation, absorption in great art or nature. Entry points are many, because the Eternal hides them everywhere.

Gregorian chants are one of my favorite such entry points, and Veni Creator Spiritus is one of my favorite gregorian chants. If you are allergic to the idea of anything religion-related, you might instead connect to the pure and searching hearts of of all the women and men across generations who sang the same hymn.


In English:

Come Creator Spirit, visit the souls of Thy people,
Fill with grace from on high the hearts which Thou hast created.

Thou Who art called the Comforter, gift of the most high God,
Living fountain, fire, love and unction of souls.

Sevenfold in Thy gifts, finger of the Father’s right hand,
Thou promised truly by the Father, giving speech to tongues.

Inflame our senses with Thy light, pour Thy love into our hearts,
Strengthen our weak bodies with lasting power.

Drive far away the enemy, grant peace at all times:
So under Thy guidance may we avoid all evil.

Grant us by Thee to know the Father and to know the Son,
And Thee, Spirit of both, may we always believe.

To God the Father be glory, to the Son Who rose from the dead
And to the Comforter, for all ages. Amen.


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