“I feel that our souls are moved to the ardor of piety by the sacred words more piously and powerfully when these words are sung than when they are not sung, and that all the affections of our soul in their variety have modes of their own in song and chant by which they are stirred up by an indescribable and secret sympathy.”
—Saint Augustine, Confessions, Book X, chap. 33, MPL, XXXII, 799ff.
“In the beginning was the Word…and the Word became flesh.” John 1:1.
Words, words, words. Just think for a minute about the overwhelming waves of words that our culture washes over us. Through the nearly infinite spawn of digital devices, automatically generating and sending words constantly to all corners of the globe, it seems that the goal of our society is to create more words, as if the ever-increasing amount will bring us happiness.
It is true, however that we are hard wired to receive meaning from communicating through language. The words that we devise to speak to each other and to sing to each other have inherent meaning for our human nature.
We are reminded by the Word of God that in the beginning, before all else, was the Word, the Logos. This is quite profound. The one who created all, created the very idea and possibility of communication. But we can also note that the Word of God is quite different. It can come in a still small voice, or as in the psalms, a thunder that cracks trees…however, this word is definite, it does not change, and it never loses it’s meaning, in other words it is Divine. This word is definitive and certain. When the Father spoke to the Son confirming his divine status during the mystical event of the Transfiguration, is was a declaration that was eternally true.
As well, I am reminded of the age-old practice of meditating in prayer upon a single word or phrase—Lectio Divina. The practice involves meditation on a holy word or phrase in the presence of the Lord, and sitting in an attitude of receptiveness to the divine and spiritual nurture from the Holy Spirit that flow from that word.
So, as Augustine says, how wonderful and significant is our task, that of joining words—the Logos—to music. Music also speaks to us as a divine word. I am convinced that there is a divine quality in music that emanates from this original Logos, coming directly from God, as a unique gift. In some mystical way which I don’t understand, the singing of this Logos creates a higher level of meaning and somehow connects to our understanding in a more profound way. Let us understand the profundity of the ministry that we cultivate—even as we praise the Logos in “indescribable and secret sympathy” amongst oceans of meaningless words.