Academic journal article Sacred Music

Chanting as a Form of Life

Academic journal article Sacred Music

Chanting as a Form of Life

Article excerpt



The monk seeks God by listening. He "inclines the ear of his heart" (1) to the Word of his Master. It is only by listening to the Word of God and keeping it in one's heart as Mary did (cf. Luke 2:51) that one can find God in prayer. The Word of God is a gift that causes the receiver to give himself in return; hearing (audire) becomes obedience (ob-audire).

This Marian relation to the Word of God is shared by the anonymous composer and the singer of Gregorian chant. In humility and obedience the word is received into the heart; there it is kept, meditated, and ruminated upon, and then in sung prayer it is given back to the Lord as an offering of thanksgiving. That is the true nature of adoration and liturgy; nothing constructed of our own, but giving back and offering up the gift we have received.


To give back what one has received is to make an oblation of one's whole life. The monk gives himself body and soul, and his prayer and song can only be understood in this unity.

In his soul he receives the word, in his body he receives breath; the two are inseparable. The rhythm of the word is formed by breath, and so the foundation of singing is laid. Breath is the bodily foundation of rhythm, rhythm gives structure to time, time is the gift of God.

The Word of God, spoken into time, submits himself to the rhythm of our lives. …

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