Acts 16: 11-21 and John 15: 21-27
When we listen to the Gospel of Luke and the Acts, and to the Gospel of John as well, we get the impression that the Holy Spirit was more active in the early Church than today. Paul was forbidden by the Spirit–probably warned by a prophetic utterance–not to preach in Asia, and not to go to Bithynia. Then in vision, he was begged to come to Macedonia and help the people there. The Spirit opened Lydia’s heart to hear the Word, and by the power of the Spirit Paul cast out the soothsaying spirit from the slave girl, who was liberated from her bondage. John tells us that the Spirit of Truth will counsel and console His disciples so they may bear witness to the Truth. But that Spirit was not active just in the sweet, sweet bye and bye, but is also powerful in the nitty gritty now and now. The Spirit is alive in the Church, yes, even in the institutional Church, and is present in power. Just look at the effect Pope Benedict a few years ago had in the Holy Land, and Francis in Iraq, by exercising the charisms of leadership and prophecy.
In his great letter on the Liturgy, Benedict turns to liturgical song, and quotes Augustine: the new man sings a new song. Singing is an expression of joy and . . .an expression of love. Benedict points to the two thousand year history of Christian music and song, a rich patrimony of faith and love. He insists that the heritage must not be lost, and that when liturgy is concerned, one song is definitely not as good as another. He tells us to avoid generic improvisation and the introduction of musical genres which fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy. He insists that song should be well integrated into the overall celebration, and that everything, texts, music, execution–ought to correspond to the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, the structure of the rite and the liturgical seasons. And he reiterates the Council’s command and the Synod’s request that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy.
Paul’s evangelistic efforts in Asia Minor, Greece and elsewhere don’t have an order of worship for the various churches, but we know that song, especially Christ-centered song, had a big place in it. To the church at Colossae, he wrote this: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly, in all wisdom: teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing in grace in your hearts to God.” So music in their assemblies had both a liturgical and an instructional purpose.
The Holy Spirit should be our constant counselor and guide. We are under tremendous pressure in the Christian churches and schools these days. Jesus uses the term “persecution.” Today the secular world, in love with the idea of reshaping human beings into some multisexual, multicultural, “woke” new species, is trying to “cancel” all religious belief that looks to the One God and the One Savior, Jesus Christ. They are encouraged in this effort by politicians who know that if people stop adhering to God’s law, they’ll be easier to manage according to their own aspirations and goals. There is a tacit understanding among liberal elites that if they accept and promote every perverse, sinful lifestyle, they will continue to get votes and taxes from the practitioners. That is one important political reason the Church needs to stay together, to speak with one voice, to proclaim only the Gospel of Christ and the reality of sin and its forgiveness.
There is a huge longing among our fellow citizens, now that the viral plague seems to be coming under some control, for more than pleasure, honor, power and fame. Those are good in themselves but cannot satisfy the longing for more. Even discovering that serving others who cannot help themselves is not enough. A personal relationship with the transcendent God is what everyone really wants, and nothing can take its place. We need to strengthen our commitment by the grace of God, and learn everything we can about our faith, so that when we encounter someone hungry for the real article, we can effectively share the Way, the Truth, the Life, our Blessed Lord.