Here’s the link to the Cistercian Abbey that Melanie and I went to for Mass on Sunday morning. As I said, the chant was incredible. The beauty of Gregorian chant is that the people singing don’t have to be particularly skilled for it to work well.
There was no other music other than the chants and none was needed. For liturgical music, the prayers of the Mass should be sung well first and then you can think about other hymns, like offertories and processionals and the like. Otherwise you’re spending all your time on the frosting and ignoring the cake.
The abbey itself has a beautiful simplicity. It was made simply from undressed local stone. Unlike modernist box buildings, this wasn’t stark. Instead it conveyed the holy simplicity of monastic life. Look at the pictures at the link above and see if you agree.
We met some of the monks after Mass, and they were all warm and inviting. One of the priests said that they were expecting several more novices this year—I think mostly University of Dallas students—and that if the trend continued they would need to expand the monastery. That’s a good sign.
The homily was very good. I didn’t catch the priest’s name, but he had a definite Hungarian accent (the monastery was founded by Hungarian monks in 1958). He talked at length (maybe a half hour) on how Christians should approach the new year. He said most people say Happy New Year, but because out of obligation, not out of any real hope that the world will be any different this year than it was last year. But, he said, Christians have a different perspective because we always have hope. He talked about resolutions we can make to conversion and to giving up on those things which hold us back from God. There was a lot more, but I couldn’t remember it all.
One last reflection: I’m sure it’s occurred to others before, but I realized that because Christmas is an octave, or a feast day that’s celebrated for eight days, the year begins and ends with Christmas. That’s an interesting theological revelation that can provide lots of fruitful spiritual reflection.