A Special Announcement from Dr. Christopher Gravis

Sabbatical (from the Hebrew: שַׁבָּת Šabat (i.e., Sabbath); in Latin sabbaticus; Greek: sabbatikos σαββατικός) is a rest or break from work; “an extended period of time intentionally spent on something that’s not your routine job.”[1]

Dear friends,

It’s hard to believe that this September marks the start of my seventh year with you at St. John’s Cathedral.  Serving our community is one of the great blessings of my life and work.  As we finish these last weeks of Summer I will be taking a time of spiritual renewal, and fulfilling a “bucket-list”dream of mine to walk 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain.  

The Camino is an ancient spiritual pilgrimage leading to the shrine of the apostle James in the Cathedral de Compostela in Galicia, where it is believed that relics of the apostle are buried.  Millions of faithful Christians have walked this same path over the past 900 years.  Our new transitional deacon, the Rev. Mel Soriano, has competed 6 such pilgrimages!

I will spend part of this time researching the Codex Calixstinus, a twelfth-century manuscript designed to guide pilgrims on the Camino.  The manuscript includes a number of monophonic and possibly polyphonic choral works, specifically ascribed to the churches and chapels along the way.  I plan to sing these chants in those spaces as a form of spiritual practice.  

Music from theCodex Calixstinus

 According to Leviticus 25, sabbatical has its roots in the biblical practice of shmita, during which time Jews in the land of Israel would take a year-long break from working the fields every seventh year.  Affording such time for rest and renewal is an increasingly rare benefit for employees in our modern American life.  Many people who toil hardest in our society are never given this opportunity, and I am mindful of this privilege.  I give enormous thanks to the vestry of St. John’s Cathedral, and to our Interim Dean, the Rev. Anne Sawyer, for their support of my sabbatical time.  

You will see expert leadership from a variety of musicians at St. John’s while I am away.  I am grateful to them, especially Dr. Zachery Neufeld, for their dedication to our cathedral church community.  I ask for your prayers for safe travel on my journey, and I look forward to returning on Sunday, October 15, with the Choir of St. John’s Cathedral.

Until then, ¡buen Camino!


Christopher G. Gravis, D.M.A.

Canon for Music & Cathedral Arts

[1]                Schabram, Kira; Bloom, Matt; Didonna, Dj (4 November 2022). "Recover, Explore, Practice: The Transformative Potential of Sabbaticals". Academy of Management Discoveries: amd.2021