AM CURRENTLY AT AN UNDISCLOSED location near the Wye River. Despite distance and days removed from professional responsibilities, not a single day has passed without work-related emails regarding the dozen liturgies taking place in my absence and another dozen soon to follow. However, I cannot complain as steady work is a first class problem for a musician. Furthermore, I’m grateful for the thoughtful and wonderful musicians with whom I place my trust during this time.
Realities of the modern work environment emphasize the need for prayer even more. Time and space in part offer what regular interior prayer is designed to do: provide room for contemplation in which questions may arise. If one does not pray regularly we then have to tackle “deferred maintenance” of the soul. Agitation may be a sign that certain issues have not been dealt with. Regular prayer – an interior life – is the maintenance that keeps us on course. But very often, we are too busy, even “doing the Lord’s work” to pray and contemplate.
LTIMATELY, HOW WE VIEW OUR WORK comes down to our calling. Are we called to a more prestigious job? No. Are we called to be successful? Yes and no. In what sense? Are we called to use our gifts in the service of God? Yes. How? That is up to God and the only way to do it is to listen and to trust God. Will questions be answered and conclusions reached? Probably not, except the conclusion to listen and follow where God leads us. This clarity is offered only in silence.
With this I offer two important meditations for any church musician, whether acting as composer, director, or publisher. The first is well known from Matthew 13:52:
“Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom treasures both new and the old.”
We are certainly in a position of responsibility for what we expose and teach others. Are we bringing forth treasures? Are we cultivating these treasures or do we leave them in the back of the storeroom? We bring these treasures forward with love, joy and excitement.
The second is more daunting and deeply humbling. From Pope Saint John Paul II’s Chirograph for the Centenary of Tra le sollecitudini of Pope Saint Pius X, he wrote,
“Only an artist who is profoundly steeped in the sensus Ecclesiae can attempt to perceive and express in melody the truth of the Mystery that is celebrated in the Liturgy.” (§12 Chirograph for the Centenary of Tra le sollecitudini)
Our work and responsibilities are part of our very being, united with the Church – one with all of its faithful believers. By way of explanation, Saint John Paul II continued:
“How many sacred works have been composed through the centuries by people deeply imbued with the sense of mystery! The faith of countless believers has been nourished by melodies flowing from the hearts of other believers, either introduced into the Liturgy or used as an aid to dignified worship. In song, faith is experienced as vibrant joy, love and confident expectation of the saving intervention of God” (ibid)
Only in our interior prayer—in the silence—will we find what path God desires us to follow. Then we may emerge from the storeroom with treasures for our fellow believers.