Yellow is not pure;
It submits to the source.
Novena for the Order of Euphonius Monks
To Dennis, most reverend lord and father, Robert, God's and his humble servant: the spirit of grace and salvation.1
The mercy of God has shown His grace to us when He sent you to us to inspire us to greater devotion to God in our weekly gatherings. You lift the darkness, which clouds our understanding, by the light of your wisdom when you so eloquently discourse upon our many questions. How could we possibly properly interpret the words of those great saints, who confound our little intellects, without your guiding influence which always directs us on that narrow path to Christ. I, who am not worthy to be called your servant, humbly beg your indulgence on me once again and ask that you read this work which I have undertaken out of necessity due to the decline of faith in the practice of our order.
Satan in the form of Mammon has tempted the best of our brethren, and many of our brethren are often tempted by pride, thinking their gifts and talents result from their own efforts rather than God's grace and love. Let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear; for our God is a consuming fire.2 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, with which he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the spirit of grace.3
Our Order of Euphonius Monks was established to open our hearts to God's grace as He has presented it to us particularly through Sound, and Movement as a vibration that extends heavenly grace to the visible world. We worship God just as David and all the house of Israel when they played before the Lord on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on coronets, and on cymbals. And David danced before the Lord with all his might.4 However, since our order is relatively new, it has come under harsh criticism from many bishops in Rome. I pray that, in this work which I humbly present before God and your Reverence, God will help clear away any confusion about our intentions. I will anxiously await your kind permission allowing me to send you this work and will follow your orders as to correcting my mistakes and implementing the practice for our common goal for UNION WITH GOD, BY THE GRACE OF OUR LORD, JESUS CHRIST.
Lesson I - Learning to be Silent
My Brothers, I entitled this first lesson, "Learning to be Silent," in order to surprise you who presumably came into this order because of your particular affection for music. This is not a music appreciation society. We do not intend to glorify those achievements of men in the musical arts whose livelihoods are dependent on idolatry from the masses. Our purpose is to glory in God, alone, for He is the Composer par excellence whose music far excels that of mere mortal men. I only pray that God will give me speech that is eloquent enough to increase your understanding so that you may experience His Kingdom in Heaven while you still live. Lord, give me thy help so that I may, like Isaiah, say the Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary; he awakeneth morning by morning; he waketh mine ear like the learned.5
Of course, not all of God's music can be heard. I need not remind you of the musica mundana described by the Holy Fathers. God's music flows through all of creation, both silent and producing sound.6 Consider silence. It is so precious and fragile that we rarely are able to experience it. If there were no sounds to hear externally, we would still hear the sounds of our own bodies (musica humana), not to mention our thoughts.7 When we sit together in silent meditation and listen to the soft wind blowing through the sparse branches in the Winter's stillness, it would be so easy to break that silence, but our wills are united, focused on that higher and more subtle music; the music of our Lord.
Because everything is continually in motion, the experience of absolute quiet is impossible while the body remains alive.8 An approximation of it may be seen as an approximation of an experience of death. A quiet mind in a quiet environment seems closer to death than even sleep, which is often considered a "little death,"9 but is still busy with the images and activities of dreams. Silence indeed makes death our servant and even our friend.10 Once we have made ourselves empty, God may enter our souls quietly, in secret.11 For when death comes, Christ comes also, bringing us the everlasting life he has bought for us by his own death.12 The pure rays of His grace will shine more fully on our souls when we are not clouded by the garbage that floats within our minds.13
For those of you who thought you were entering a music academy, I will quote that great Saint John Cage of Greenwich Village, founder and Abbot of the Judson Church, who transforms the many cities he has visited by his mere presence in them, and has been a guiding influence on the Euphonius Monks:
"Ah! you like sounds after all when they are made up of vowels and consonants. You are slow-witted, for you have never brought your mind to the location of urgency. Do you need me or someone else to prop you up? Why don't you realize as I do that nothing is accomplished by writing, playing, or listening to music? Otherwise, deaf as a doornail, you will never be able to hear anything, even what's well within earshot."14 In the next lesson I will, by God's grace, attempt to describe how we may begin making sound which will train our minds and intellects to find the hierarchies of Heavens that are within each and every sound. I will now end with the divine sound of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Rule for the Day: We will continue in silence until the next day's lesson.
1 Taken from Heloise's letter to Peter the Venerable; The Letters of Abelard and Heloise; translated by Betty Radice; 1974.
2 Hebrews 12:28.
3 Hebrews 10:29.
4 Psalm 150.
5 Isaiah 50:4.
6 Boethius; The Principles of Music.
8 Cage, John; Silence; 1961.
9 Hillman, James; The Dream and the Underworld; 1979.
10 Merton, Thomas; "Silence"; A Thomas Merton Reader; 1974.
11 St. John of the Cross; Dark Night of the Soul.
12 Merton, Thomas; Ibid.
13 St. John of the Cross; Ibid.
14 Cage, John; Silence; 1961.