About this blogger:
Richard J. Clark has served since 1989 as Music Director and Organist at Saint Cecilia Church in Boston, Massachusetts. He is also Chapel Organist (Saint Mary’s Chapel) at Boston College. For the Archdiocese of Boston, he directed the Office of Divine Worship Saint Cecilia Schola. His compositions have been performed on four continents.
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“Except the psalms or canonical Scriptures of the new and old Testaments, nothing composed poetically shall be sung in church, as the holy canons command.”
— Council of Braga, 563AD

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The Power of Wordless Presence
published 2 September 2016 by Richard J. Clark

ECENT GOSPEL passages have contained an interesting exhortation—one somewhat outwardly uncharacteristic of Jesus himself. Jesus tells a parable of the difficulty of passing through the narrow gate. When those knocking on the door, asking to be let in, not once, but twice, the master of house says, “I do not know where you are from…”

A few days later, the Gospel contains Jesus’ parable about the ten wise virgins. Again, they knock on the door asking to be let in. The bridegroom replies in nearly the same fashion, “…I do not know you…”

While each parable has a larger lesson—one of humility and the other of readiness—there is an beckoning to “know” the Lord.

Knowing another human being requires an investment of time and an investment of oneself. I suppose “knowing” God is quite similar. The masters in these stories are unlike Jesus in that we are told over and over in scripture that the Lord knows our every need and has known us before we were born. Psalm 139: “Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.”

This is the value of simply being in the presence of God or of one of his children. Our our pastoral roles, this is much harder work than dealing with the music alone!

Many of us are gearing up our choir programs at this time. There has likely been an enormous amount of planning that has taken place during the summer. We are getting into “recruitment mode.” There is no end to preparations and implementation.

Yet if we do not invest of ourselves time to “know” the Lord, our work may be for our own glorification rather than for God’s. (I write this as a reminder to myself.)

Each year, I am astounded to learn something new about a choir member or parishioner. These are people that I thought I knew well. It often involves a unique cross that individual is carrying. It changes my perspective, and hopefully more towards mindfulness of greater mercy. This only came about while being “present” to know the person.

Likewise, spending time with music—even over a period of years—allows that music to take hold in our hearts, and not just in our minds and voices. Such presence, such being, lends to service of others. This is the value of rehearsal.

Finally, my happiest times with my children are probably times in which I am simply present for them. I try to do this because my parents—and my father—took time to be simply present with me, especially at stages of difficulty.

No words were shared. Just presence. I remember these times, and I hope my children remember them too. Do this with others in our pastoral work, and the impact may be beyond something we will ever know.

If we know God, he knows us. Remember this, even if swamped with work and obligations. Remember the power of accompanying others in their struggles. Remember the power of wordless presence.