I love to visit churches where the services are punctuated by vibrant singing. I learned the beauty and joy of music most likely because my mother crooned us to sleep when we were babies and sang virtually every day for some reason, at home, at church, in parish shows (some of which she produced) and into her last days on earth. She had a lovely voice and used it to praise God in every situation. Irish to the core, my father loved to sing as well and my earliest memories of adult gatherings at our house included “sing-alongs” that were as important as food and friends.
Music reminds us that we are more than intellectual beings by causing our spirits to soar with joy or to experience deep feeling with the words we sing or the music itself. Consider the beauty of harp music, the call of a violin, the majesty and joy of trumpets and the reach into the heart of piano music…
I wonder why we don’t spend more time singing since it is known to be good for us as a psycho-physical exercise. Perhaps we might consider music as a good companion for this new year. Psalm 98 has been called “A New Song to the Holy One” and I can hear the St. Louis Jesuits leading us for years at Church calling us to “sing a new song unto the Lord! Let your song be sung from mountains high…” How can that be done without some energy and building enthusiasm? (Swaying is essential as well.) Do we think about what we’re singing? In your church or anywhere you praise God, might you use any of the following to describe the music? Does is have enthusiasm, vigor, buoyancy, exuberance, spirit, animation, zeal, ardor, gusto, or any notable feeling? Perhaps that sounds silly to you but what activity where we might add music is more appropriately passionate than our praise of God? As a last word I offer part of my favorite translation of Psalm 98, the psalm for today and an image that also gives us the reason for the song.
Raise high each voice till all can hear the joyous news you bear. Praise God till earth itself becomes a song, till seas and all the waters flow and waves begin to dance with land and all the peoples sing. Let every river lift its hands to clap in time, while hills and valleys join in song to offer hospitality to the Holy One, who comes to right our every wrong… (vs. 7-9)