Spiritual Gifts: An Autumn Reflection

Spiritual Gifts: An Autumn Reflection

It was approximately 10:40 in the morning when I pulled out in a steady, driving rain to make my way over to Billerica, Massachusetts, to help sing for the Sunday liturgy at St. Thecla's Retreat House. I was grateful for the downpour, as it would ease the effects of the drought we’d been experiencing, but as I turned onto Route 128 a white haze enveloped me, muting the colors of the fall foliage along my route.

“Hmm,” I thought, “I can still see the bright yellows and some of the reds, even in this fog. I’ll enjoy what I can of it.” I switched on the classical radio station and settled into my 45-minute journey. As I turned off the highway down the country road closer to my destination, the radio host announced Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

Listen to Appalachian Spring.

I don't know if you are familiar with this piece, but it is positively exquisite. Written for a ballet, it tells the story of a young pioneer couple in early America. The string instruments quiver as the clarinet gently breaks through in a haunting solo, which is then augmented by the rest of the chamber orchestra. Listening, I actually felt the sacredness of life and struggle that all young couples feel, and I thought of other sacred moments in our lives: peaceful workdays, joy at victory, sorrow at failure, gathering a group to conquer a tough project, righting a wrong, suffering in silence, speaking up for justice... I'm sure you can think of more. Not the showy moments of life, but moments that are perhaps quiet, perhaps taxing, but definitely ones that are blessed.

And I felt that I was in one of those quiet, blessed moments as I drove, wondering at the spectacle of Fall colors that now glistened on this backwoods way, and hearing the music tell its' story. Grateful, I relished the peace of it all. I was carrying some worries in my heart, and this was giving me a respite from some of my latest heartfelt concerns: political turmoil in the US, devastation from hurricane Matthew and Nicole, financial challenges, and personal frustration with my own ineptness!   

As if to respond to this weight of worry, Copland's piece segued into Simple Gifts, the Shaker tune that serves as the melody for Sydney Carter's Lord of the Dance. The chorus of this song I knew well, and in it I heard Jesus reassuring me, "Dance, then, wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the Dance, said he."

Listen to Simple Gifts.

"Okay, Lord," I said and smiled. "I get it. I can let you take over now. I need to trust you, that's all there is to it." And Paul's words to the Ephesians came to mind: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing..."

The Lord is absolutely amazing. Despite me, he manages to break through and gift me with his loving presence in so many ways.  

My question to you is: how has the Lord been breaking into your life these days? What have you learned from it?

My recommendation for further reflection: Facing the Apostle, Paul's Image in Art by Sr. Armanda Santos, FSP, which combines artistic reflection, prayerful meditation and spiritual insight to help you draw closer to God. Offered at 70% off the regular retail of $16.95, you can get it now for just $4.77.


Divine Trinity,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
living and breathing in me,
teach me to pray,
and lead me to the mysticism of everyday life.
As God's child,
I call out in hope and praise:
"Abba, Father!" (Rom 8:15)

(From Facing the Apostle, Paul's Image in Art by Sr. Armanda Santos, FSP)






  • I love Nana Mouskouri's version of Simple Gifts. I didn't know where it came from, not being American! I will try to find Appalachian Spring and listen to it. I agree...music does draw us into worship and secular songs can be equally evocative. For instance, Josh Groban's You Raise Me Up.
    10/29/2016 10:56:21 AM Reply
    • @Deirdre Lewis: I love "You Raise Me Up," we've used it in concerts at times and it is so meaningful! God bless you Deirdre, Sr. Martha
      10/31/2016 8:41:39 AM Reply
  • 'Tis the gift to be simple 'Tis the gift to be free 'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be And when we find ourselves in the place just right It will be in the valley of love and delight Sister thank you for your reflection and reminding me how music draws us in, to worship, and to Him, especially the song Lord of the Dance (refrain above) It is a gift to be free! Amen.
    10/28/2016 10:05:12 PM Reply
    • @Dawn : Thanks, Dawn! May your week be blessed as you find many ways to "let God in" however he may help you see him in your life!
      10/31/2016 8:43:23 AM Reply
  • I'm not sure how God has been trying to break through, but I do love Appalachian Spring, and I love Simple Gifts. There is a great version of Simple Gifts with Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss. If you haven't heard it, here it is on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baNueuDCue0 Thank you Sister.
    10/28/2016 10:03:28 PM Reply

Post a Comment