Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Our song of praise wells up from our heart as a response to God's saving act: we believe in God, in His Son, and we sing.

Monday in 4th Week of Lent

April 4 2011

The Spirit of the Liturgy

“In the Lord, I have trusted: I will exult and I will rejoice in Thy mercy: because Thou hast regarded my lowliness.” The words of today’s Introit make more real the meaning of Lent, that despite our lowliness, regardless of our sinfulness, God is merciful. Not only will He forgive, but he will also throw us who repent an eternal banquet, which we anticipate right here, right now. He is creating a new heavens and a new earth where there will not even be a remembrance of the original revolution that laid waste the world because it laid waste our relationship with the Father. Both we and our children were dying, but the Lord Jesus says to us, “Go, your son will live,” and we believe. And that is why we, the holy ones of God, sing praise to His name, and sing thanks.

The Church is not in any way skimpy in singing praise. You may not know that what I sang a moment ago is music written for this one day in Lent. In fact, there are special chants for the Introit, Offertory, Gradual and Communion for each day in Lent. Remember the ornate decorations of the Baroque churches of Europe? The vast treasury of these chants is another way in which the Bride, in love with Her Redeemer and Divine Spouse, just overdoes her celebration of the sacred communion between God and man.

As the Holy Father turns to the place of music in liturgy, he reminds us that the verb “to sing” with its related terms, is one of the most “commonly used words in the Bible. It occurs 309 times in the OT and thirty-six in the New. When man comes into contact with God, mere speech is not enough. Areas of his existence are awakened that spontaneously turn into song. Indeed, man’s own being is insufficient for what he has to express, and so he invites the whole of creation to become a song with him.” (136)

Psalm 150 is the last and most exuberant hymn in the book of psalms. It calls on everything that has breath–strings, pipes, horns, trumpets, even percussive sounds–to give praise to the Lord. I think it is very biblical that the instrument most prized by the Church, and extolled by Vatican II, is the pipeorgan. There, one trained and well-rehearsed organist can invoke strings and pipes, trumpets and horns and reeds and even a tinkling bell to give God praise.

The Bible’s first mention of singing praise is after the deliverance from Egypt & the crossing of the Red Sea. “In a desperate situation, [Israel] has had an overwhelming experience of God’s saving power . . .[and] now feels as if it has been, so to speak, taken out of the water: it is free, newly endowed with the gift of itself from God’s own hands.” They had two responses. First, they believed in the Lord and his servant Moses, and, second, they sang the song of Moses and Miriam–Let us sing to the Lord, He is gloriously triumphant; horse and chariot he has cast into the sea. This song becomes the song of our Easter Vigil each year. Moreover, in the cosmic liturgy, the Book of Revelation tells us that after the defeat of the beast, its image and the number of its name, God conquers evil and the victors sing once more the song of Moses, “the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.”

Thus the event of our salvation, like that of Israel, causes two responses–we believe in God, and in His revelation, Jesus, and we sing praise and thanks in words and music given to us by God through the Church. We will be considering this wonderful gift as we celebrate these final weeks of Lent.

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