Advent At Ephesus
“St. Augustine delighted to repeat those beautiful words, cantare amantis est - to sing is the work of a lover. This is most true. Speech is sufficient for the expression of a man’s ordinary thoughts; but let a stronger or sweeter emotion take possession of his heart, and as if by instinct he will life up his voice; the monotone of habitual speech no longer satisfies him, and he will sing; with the Psalmist he will ask that his mouth may be filled with songs. Repleatur os meum laude, ut possim cantare. Song, then, especially sacred song, is above all a manifestation of love.” The Ideal of the Monastic Life, Dom Germain Morin, OSB
We never cease to marvel at the wonderful, unexpected blessings which Divine Providence prepares for our community. The story of this Advent recording is another striking example. Truly our Divine Spouse orders all things “mightily and sweetly,” as we chant just days before Christmas in one of the beautiful “O” Antiphons of the Church’s Advent liturgy.
To sing the praises of God - this is at the heart of the Benedictine vocation. For God is worthy of endless praises, and the sons and daughters of St. Benedict join with the Psalmist in declaring: Misericordias Domine in aeternum cantabo (Forever I will sing the mercies of the Lord). It is our work on behalf of the Church - the opus Dei, or work of God, as we find it described in the Rule of Benedict. In our community, the desire to voice love for God in song finds expression not only in chanting the Divine Office, the official prayer of the Church, but also inspires us to learn various other sacred hymns and even to compose original songs.
St. Benedict said that a monastery is never without guests, and fifteen centuries later his observation still holds true. Over the years we have had the joy of welcoming many visitors. We found that the divine praises we are privileged to sing every day brought them great peace and joy also. Encouraged to share the riches of the Church’s musical tradition with a larger audience, in 2008 we made a private recording entitled Echoes at Ephesus and made it available to friends and supporters of the community. The remarkably positive response to this first amateur attempt emboldened us to make two further recordings, Christmas at Ephesus(2009) and Marian Hymns at Ephesus(2011). We planned to make an Advent recording this year.
In the meantime, a recipient of our (self released) Marian cd shared it with Kevin and Monica Fitzgibbons, a Catholic couple deeply devoted to Our Lady, who have a recording company, De Montfort Music. Our cd joined the stacks of others in the “to listen” pile and went forgotten for a time. But when they prepared to travel for a family day trip, their 6-year old son, Michael, discovered the cd and asked if they could listen to it in the car. Immediately it became a family favorite. They contacted us about our music, and after some discernment, we decided to take the first steps, entrusting the outcome to the patronage of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Everything fell into place in a remarkable way and before long De Montfort Music contracted Decca Records (an international record label for classical music) to distribute our music. We were delighted to be able to complete the new recording before the season of Advent. Each year during this season, we strive to unite ourselves to Our Lady in her joyful longing, her quiet and prayerful expectation of the Child Jesus’ birth. We hope this Advent recording will help many souls to enter into the mysteries of this holy season with Our Lady’s heart.