Teachers quickly discover there are a variety of learning styles in any classroom. Some students need to move; they experience learning through their bodies. Others need to dream and visualize the learning, writing it down or drawing a picture. And some need to sing it.
Music translates emotions, ideas and knowledge into sounds—and by their rhythm, intensity, or harmony those sounds can move the human soul to unexpected places of serenity, passion or commitment.
Though its attribution to St. Augustine is hard to prove, I believe the proverb, “The one who sings prays twice” is true. In fact, I’m sure of it—because I love to sing. At a reflective point in parish ministry I realized something was missing from my life and knew that it was music. I had played an instrument since childhood and added many others in university as I studied music education, but the demands of parish ministry had silenced my playing and my soul was missing it deeply. So I joined a choir—and when I moved to another diocese my first task was to find another choir! Since then I have stood in the back rows of the second sopranos delighting in the opportunity to make music—very often, music that was composed for the life of the Church.
So much of the rich repertoire of choral music was written to support worship, liturgy or biblical education. For some choristers the music is simply another form of poetry, one expressed in sound; but it is the heart of my faith. Singing allows the Holy Spirit to speak to my soul through the gifts of great composers.
At Christmas I delight in singing Handel’s Messiah. From the playfulness of “For Unto Us a Child is Born” to the sonorous contrasts of “Since by Man Came Death” to the complex praise of “Worthy Is the Lamb,” my heart and soul are fed. And who among us does not rise to their feet at the opening chords of the “Hallelujah” chorus? George Frederick Handel knew how to take the texts and give them life through sounds in ways that still move us centuries later.
Whether singing the melodies of Gregorian chant or 21st century classical tonalities of Morten Lauridsen or the rich tradition of hymnody we enjoy in Common Praise or Sing a New Creationevery Sunday I know that I need music to express my faith. Music has given me courage in tough times, sustained me in hope and always been a companion in rejoicing.
Not everyone is a musician at heart. But I do believe that everyone has a particular way in which faith reaches into their soul. For some it is dance and movement. For others it is in the written word of poetry or prose. For others it will be in art—stained glass, canvas and paint, sculpture or other medium.
Whatever your way is into faith, nurture it! We are the design of a creative God whose vivid imagination created infinite ways to express life. Feed your soul in the unique way that God has gifted to you. It took me some years for me to remember and know what I needed to fully nurture my faith. Listen to your heart and let it tell you how you best hear and respond to God. In this season of Epiphany let God be revealed to your heart again in whatever way speaks with joy and passion!