gregorian chant and benedictine monks

Our class visited the Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, which is more commonly called the Monastery of the Holy Spirit on December 9, 2009. This monastery was founded in 1944 by a group of Cistercian monks, often referred to as Trappists, sent to Georgia from the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. The grounds of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit include slightly over 2,000 acres of land in a rapidly growing suburban area southeast of Atlanta. The Trappist monks have traditionally had a special relationship to the land around them. Beauty and solitude are both necessary ingredients for our contemplative life.

The land is essential for providing a place of solitude and silence, which are hallmarks the Cistercian Order, and they warmly invite all people to enjoy. St. Benedict framed a Rule, or constitution, which was loosely modeled upon the earlier Rule of St. Basil for the Benedictine Order in 529AD. The Benedictine monks formed a sort of corporation, presided over by an abbot, who holds the office for life. Every candidate for admission to the order of the Benedictine monks takes the vow of obedience. Any man, rich or poor, noble or peasant, might enter the Benedictine monastery.

The postulancy usually lasted one month, the novitiate one year, at the end simple vows are taken. The solemn vows of the Medieval monks were taken four years later. But having once joined a monk remains a Benedictine monk for the rest of their life. The Benedictine monks live under strict discipline. The vows of the Benedictine Monks are: obedience, stability, conversion in the way of life. These vows are the basis of the rule of St. Benedict and the life of the Benedictine monks. By the tenth century, the Benedictine Rule prevailed everywhere in Western Europe including England. The Medieval monastery was established during the Middle Ages.

Different orders of monks were also established during the Middle Ages. The major orders of Medieval monks were the Benedictines, the Cistercians and the Carthusians. These monastic orders differed mainly in the details of their religious observation and how strictly they applied their rules. In the twelfth century, 418 monasteries were founded in England; in the next century, only about a third as many. In the fourteenth, only 23 monasteries were founded in England. (The Middle Ages Web Site, n. d. ) On the grounds of Monastery of the Holy Spirit there is the Honey Creek Woodlands (HCW) which is a conservation burial ground for all faiths.

It is a part of the Mount Arabia Heritage Area, which is an 8,000-acre greenway that stretches along the South River from Mount Arabia Nature Preserve and Panola Mountain State Park in the northwest to the monastery in the southeast and almost 1,000 acres of the monastery is under permanent protection. HCW is owned and operated by the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, and is assisted by Memorial Ecosystems, Inc, which are founders of the nation’s first conservation burial ground, the Ramsey Creek Preserve in South Carolina. The monks support themselves through small industries.

These are: stained glass studio which designs windows mainly for churches in the Southeast, a Bonsai Greenhouse, trade and retail sale of high grade Japanese Bonsai pottery and supplies, a Catholic bookstore and gift shop, and the production of specialty food items that include fruitcakes and fudge. Income is also received from the Retreat House which operates on the basis of donations. Gregorian chant is sung at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. Gregorian chant is a central tradition of Western plainchant and a form of monophonic liturgical music within Western Christianity that accompanied the celebration of Mass and other ritual services.

Gregorian chant is named for Pope Gregory I, Bishop of Rome (590 to 604 AD) who is traditionally credited for having ordered the simplification and cataloging of music assigned to specific celebrations in the church calendar. Gregorian chant also is the first music to be notated in a system ancestral to modern musical notation. Chants were learned by the viva voce method, that is, by following the given example orally, which took many years of experience in the Schola Cantorum.

Gregorian chant originated in monastic life, in which singing the Divine Service nine times a day at the proper hours was upheld according to the Rule of St. Benedict. Singing psalms made up a large part of the life in a monastic community, while a smaller group and soloists sang the chants. In its long history, Gregorian chant has been subjected to many gradual changes and some reforms. The word monk (monos) means single, and both celibacy and poverty went without saying. The Benedictine rule specified that monks should own nothing (if that is what poverty is) but this was not incorporated as a vow.

In the modern understanding of Benedictine monks, poverty and celibacy are included in the vow of obedience as Benedictine monks are obedient to the rules and regulations of the order and of particular congregations and monasteries. The vows of poverty and celibacy were a much later addition to the thinking and rule making of the church. These are required of the later religious institutions such as Franciscans, Dominicans and Jesuits. The Benedictine Rule was already in place for 500 years before these other orders were established. (Middle Ages Website, n. d. )

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