I go to Sunday Vespers, in Gregorian Chant. A few weeks ago I had only
a passing acquaintance with vespers and chant, but when I wanted to
learn more, the group I asked said the best way to learn was to chant
with them… so I did, and now I do every week.
In the right environment – in a church, in vestments, in prayer –
chant is incredibly moving. The voices – even my own – seem to come
out of the stones around us, move through us, and afterward I feel
spent, but cleansed.
A lot of Chant’s power comes from its ancientness. We who do it now
are only the latest in a long line that stretches back well over a
thousand years, and will continue long after we’re gone. And more than
that, Chant extends beyond the space of the one church I’m in: any
time, somewhere in the world, Chant is being performed. Our time
chanting is an immersion in something limitless, something timeless –
touching the infinite, the eternal.
I think about the power of timelessness, of taking part in
processes that extend far beyond our own brief lives. Some, like birth
and death, or eating, we do automatically, unconsciously, inevitably.
Others are there alongside us if we only stop to notice – a
thousand-year-old tree, a young mountain, or a landscape young and
high enough to still be emerging from the last ice age.
These enduring processes connect us, weave us into the fabric of time.
Each of us is only one short thread. I am NOT the beginning and end of
time, but I am part of the fabric. There has been and will be more –
much, much more.
To see something that will go on is reassuring, to know that it has
already gone on for millennia is even more reassuring. But what is most
reassuring – and not just reassuring, but uplifting, is to consciously
participate in something that has gone on, is going on, and
will go on – to receive it, carry it forward and pass it on.
There aren’t many opportunities to do that in life. I feel very lucky
to have stumbled into something so timeless, so beautiful, so easily.