Have you ever wondered why, when dying on that cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Well, it seems to make some sense, doesn’t it? I mean, the Savior of the world has just been nailed to an instrument of torture and left there to die in humiliation. Does it get any lonelier than that?
Might I now propose to you what it means to me?
As I’ve heard before from someone who knows much more about Jesus’ culture than I, those are the opening words to Psalm 22, and any Jew worth their salt would have known that those words coming from Jesus were a prayer that ends in ultimate trust and faith in God. Psalm 22 begins in desperation and ends by exclaiming, “The generations to come will be told of the Lord, that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn the deliverance you have brought” (Ps. 22:32).
Not only is this Psalm one of tremendous trust in God’s deliverance in the face of insurmountable hatred and torture, but by its very nature, it was meant to be sung! The Psalms were meant to be sung. Imagine this with me if you will: One of Jesus’ last actions (other than giving His Mother to his beloved disciple, and so to us, the Church) was to sing a song of defiance to His humiliation and of trust in a God who seems to have abandoned Him. I’m not saying that this is exactly how it was at the crucifixion, but it does lift my heart to think of that song of defiance in the face of death from our Lord and Savior at what the world thought was His weakest moment.
So I want to say that the power of music can be seen in two very special ways. First, the power is not only in the words, but in the moments that we sing and the meaning we give to them. Christ strengthened the plea of desperation and the power of faith from Psalm 22. Secondly, music is incarnational. Just like Jesus is God who has taken on flesh, our songs, whether beautiful as the Resurrection or ugly as the cross (God still loves you for it!), our prayer takes on flesh: we use our lungs and the breath which flows out of them; we change our posture when we need to hit higher or lower notes; our words take on a deeper meaning by the melodies we create with our mouths.
Well, this last week has been a good reminder to me of what music means to my life, and especially to my prayer life. Here’s a list of some of the ways God has reached out to me with music this last week:
- Friday- Morning Mass was in Spanish, so was the music!
- Saturday- I lead a small choir with five other guys for Mass here at the Seminary, playing guitar and singing for the first time in a year.
- Sunday- went to Mass at St. Paschal Baylon in Thousand Oaks and was treated to their children’s choir with about 40 elementary schoolers having a great time.
- Monday- Holy Hour concluded in our Blessed Sacrament Chapel and five or six of us sang the beautiful chant, Tantum Ergo.
- Tuesday- I got to sing with our Schola Chant choir for Mass.
- Wednesday- Another chance to lead a choir and play guitar.
So it has become clearer to me just how much of a singing Church we are. And we don’t just sing because it sounds pretty, or because it’s entertaining. We sing because can, we sing because we’re praising God with our souls and with our bodies, and we sing because Jesus sang, maybe even on the cross.
So as our music director, Dr. Paul Ford told us as we readied to sing our way into Communion: “Sing like you’re longing for the Savior!”