I love music. You have all figured that out by now; it is evident even if you haven’t sat in my office while something beautiful was playing from my computer, even if you haven’t heard what I listen to while driving in my car. If you have seen me at your parties, you have noticed that I can easily be distracted by whatever is playing over the speakers, often knowing the words (well, often for songs of certain eras, at least. But admit it: they’re your eras too!) And obviously, beautiful music is a hallmark of our liturgy.
As I began writing this, I clicked on iTunes and summoned up Brahms’ Third Symphony -- sublime. When I drove over to the hospital this morning, I had the radio tuned to WMZQ – which many of you know to be country. I had been listening to my playlist that I entitled “Nostalgia” when I compiled it from all the songs I loved back in the ‘70’s – Jim Croce, Don McLean, Styx, Kansas, Three Dog Night. What fun! That is just what I listened to today, and I didn’t have much time for music today.
Because I love music, I am eager to share music that I enjoy with other people. If you like Brahms’ 3rd, you should try his first Serenade. Have you heard Brad Paisley’s “Camouflage” yet? It’s hysterically funny. And admit it, you too know the most of the words to “American Pie.”
The Church has brought to birth some of the most marvelous music ever created. When I am explaining the Mass to the new Catholics in RCIA each spring, I spend a whole evening using musical settings of it throughout the ages – Palestrina, Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Fauré, Pärt, and Rütti. Sacred music has the power to evoke all of the aspects of God and His Heaven: peace, and power; infinity, and simplicity.
This weekend is our last before we begin Lent, so we make our Masses redolent with music of joy and triumph, raising Alleluias in every hymn while yet we can. We will fast from even that Easter word for the season of conversion that begins this Wednesday.
Then we will put aside many pleasant things, many good things that are not as good as God. Things we yearn for, but not so much as life eternal. We will take on works that we otherwise find easy to avoid, actions medicinal both in effect and in the bitter tang that can turn us away: giving alms from our need, rather than our surplus; repenting of our sins, confessing them in detail and seeking penance to heal the wounds they cause.
Among the things to be put aside, I suggest you include some or all of your music: in your car, in your office, in your home, and even in your ear(bud)s. Music is a sweet and marvelous balm that can buoy our mood and raise our resolve – a good thing. But like many good things, our Lent will be more full of God if we make room for Him by putting it aside, along with the distraction it provides, and our dependence upon it.
Seek instead another favorite music of mine, an element of every type of music, indispensable but often overlooked. It depicts God in His aspect of perfection and eternity, intimacy and attention. You will find it conducive to prayer, to fasting, and to almsgiving; you will find in it awareness of God’s awareness of you. You will find yourself craving it more, the more you have.
I love music, indeed. But this divine music that I commend to you is silence.