Most of our liturgy is sung. Sometimes the singing is a simple chant: much of the Office is the chanting of psalms, accompanied by organ or harp. Breathing together and the monotonous repetition of simple sounds help move us beyond ourselves to a deeper place of relationship with God and union with one another.
Over the course of every two weeks we chant the entire Psalter (150 psalms). It is always easier to recall a tune than spoken words. Chanting helps each sister build a repertory of sacred texts she can hold in her heart and recall at need.
All over the world and as far back in time as we know, human beings have sung whenever they came together to pray. Song expresses what go beyond words. Speech is the stuff of everyday life; song puts us in touch with the sacred.
However, the vocation to our life is not a vocation to singing. Our culture favors passive listening over active singing, so while some sisters have a good musical background, others have no prior experience of singing. In planning our liturgy we try to do what is best for all and enlivens everyone's prayer.
Jesus to me is
honey in the mouth,
music in the ear,
a song in the heart.
- St Bernard of Clairvaux, 12th-century Cistercian