Sunday, February 17, 2019

God invites us to sing. No conditions.

Dear Friends,

As a people in our day, Americans don’t sing much. We have our car radios, MP3s or our ear buds, and we listen to music a lot, but singing is another matter. 

Yet singing is a deeply human, time-honored way of expressing emotion, solidarity with others, hopefulness, delight. The Jewish people, for example, have a Sabbath of Singing, to remember and renew the power of the songs of Moses and Miriam as they crossed the Red Sea on their long journey to freedom. Muslims sing the Koran and other world-wide religions have their songs of praise and thanks, however they name the Holy One. They sing with the people next to them.

As the Third Reich was training and indoctrinating youth to be folded into a solid war machine, the boys were taught patriotic songs. They sang these songs marching, practicing, at meals. In a whole other context, Black Americans sang their songs of sorrow and yearning for freedom from their slave days onward. In the 1960’s, as the Civil Rights movement grew, Americans of all ethnic origins across the country learned and sang songs of freedom in solidarity with the Black Community.

Today, Americans seem to have devolved into a land of listeners. Listening is good, of course, but singing lifts the soul as listening can’t.

In most Protestant and Evangelical Churches, congregations sing heartily at worship. Choirs and cantors help swell the sound, but congregational singing draws people’s hearts and minds closer to God and to one another. Some Catholic parishes have sustained or developed rich congregational singing, but not all. Some historians say the lack of singing at Mass stems from the Irish who came to America. They remembered needing to pray silently in Ireland, lest enemy troops find them. The Irish who came here associated strong congregational singing with the Protestant Churches. That’s one theory. There are others, of course, but no theory is adequate for us not to sing. “Be filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking with one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Eph.5.18-19) “It is my joy, O God, to praise you with song. To sing as I ponder your goodness.” (Morning Prayer, Saturday, Week IV of the Divine Office)

Sing praise to God in the morning. Sing alone. Sing together. I’m sure you have your own personal evaluation of your ability to sing. “I’m pretty good,” you might say, or “I’ve got a beautiful voice,” or “I carry my notes in a bushel basket.”   God doesn’t say to us in the Scripture “Sing only if you have a good voice.” God invites us to sing. No conditions.

Singing at Mass is worship. We create a joyful song to the Lord together. With one voice. Singing at Mass is ministry to one another. We sing for healing the person in the next pew with cancer, depression. We sing in joy awaiting the birth of children in the womb. We sing because we are saved and loved by a God who sings back to us. “God will exult over you with loud singing.”(Zeph.3.17)

"Sing a New Church into Being”, we proclaim in one of our contemporary hymns. Sing, and if you dare, sway, clap your hands, lift your arms in prayer. Develop a singing life, on key or off.

-Sister Joan Sobala