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A Sacred Season

Music and song are one of the greatest gifts that human beings possess. Music has a unique power to engage us in every level of our being:  emotionally, mentally, and not just our ears as our bodies respond to rhythm in dance.

Chant for the Purification of Mary from a medieval manuscript in the Church of St. Cyprian, Isaba, Spain.

Music is part of the created order, and therefore it too has been affected by the Fall. The gift and power of music can be twisted to accomplish all sorts of diabolical purposes. In as much it can unite people in joy and fellowship, it can also communicate hatred, violence, and anarchy. St. Augustine says that we pray twice when we sing. That is true, but music has doubly the power to bring about evil.

                We are in a season where the power of music is more evident than normal. Haven’t all of us turned to music to put us in the mood for Christmas? Now, I am not interested in decrying the decadence of Santa Baby or how bells of the carol have been usurped by commerce to trigger mass consumption. I am never surprised that what is particularly human so utterly falls in sin. I think we all understand this. Yet we all understand that though fallible, music still has the potential grace to save the sin sick soul!

                Here, in the midst of this jumble of grace and sin, we can find a thread to lead us to the miracle of the Incarnation. In as much as music is a thing of creation and will always remain so, the prophet and the saint have always shown us that music can be a home for God. Witness the sacredness of the Psalms of David, the backbone of our liturgical prayer. Read the poetry of the Tantum Ergo, written by St. Thomas Aquinas at the special request of a pope to clothe our praise of God in the newly instituted celebration of Corpus Christ.

                We know that the presence of God can overwhelm us as we sing or hear that one special song. Our faith tells us that it can be a sacred sign of the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. This is the great mystery of Christmas. How can what is created contain the presence of God himself? In and of itself, human flesh and bone cannot do this. But the Holy Spirit of God, in power and strength, caused the Blessed Virgin to conceive and bear a son. With God all things are possible. And we can sing the same song of praise that Mary sang in her Magnificat: “God has filled the hungry with good things.” The Joy of our Christmas song is a proclamation of this truth.

The Annunciation window in Visitation Catholic Church in Vienna, Missouri