Monday, June 15, 2009

Singing To The Lord

Mass itself is perfect worship without music, because we receive the Lord in His word, and then we receive his Body in the Eucharist. I fully appreciate daily Masses without music, because I realize that music is not the substance of worship, and therefore not really a necessity. Music is, however, a wonderful enrichment to worship. As the USCCB document titled Sing To The Lord: Music In Divine Worship states, "singing together in church expresses so well the sacramental presence of God to his people." Even though we don't attend Mass to be entertained, Mass is far more meaningful and enjoyable with well-chosen music woven through it. As Father Ed always says, "Music is at the service of Liturgy."

This is why I take planning music seriously. I spend some time in prayer before selecting music for any Mass or prayer service I might be planning. I take into consideration the Church calendar, the time of year, the purpose of the paritcular Liturgy (I will plan a Sunday Mass differently than I plan a retreat prayer service) and the day's Scripture readings. I rarely rely on any publisher's canned Liturgy planning guides to help me, and I NEVER just pick songs based solely on their aesthetic merit. I am also quite careful to obey as best I can Church teaching on music in Liturgy. After all, if you are living and moving in the Holy Spirit, you will have no problem falling in line with Church teaching, because the Church, founded by Jesus Christ, is also living and moving in the Holy Spirit.


With each Mass, prayer service or function I plan, I grow more and more certain that the Holy Spirit guides me completely in the process. As I planned the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, for example, I kept getting this "vibe" to include a song about social justice. At first, "Go Make A Difference" popped into my head. Then as I leafed through our parish hymnal, it seemed to open by itself to a song titled "Go, Be Justice". If I had a hymnal in front of me, I'd type up a couple of lyrics for you; instead I can only tell you it's message: as we leave Mass, we take Christ's Body into the world, and it's our responsibility to represent Him here, even to the point of challenging the powers that be when they defy the laws of God.

I was not confident in the selection, as Sunday was really supposed to be a celebration of the Sacrament. A hymn like "O Sacrament Most Holy" seemed much more appropriate, so I decided right before Mass started that was the way I would go. Then I heard Father's homily. "The Catholic Church's Tradition of social justice," he said, "is a natural response to Christ's Body and Blood living within each of us." If that isn't a big DUH, GINA, I don't know what is. Now it's very clear to me that Father wove the readings from Exodus (24:3-8) and Hebrews (9:11-15) with the Psalm of the day (116), and reminded us exactly why Christ gave us His Most Holy Body and Blood at the Last Supper (Mark 14:12-16, 24-26).

In August for a few weeks, the Bread of Life discourse from the Gospel of John will be proclaimed:

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world." Jn 6:51

...for the life of the world.

Christ didn't give Himself to His Church so that we could go home and lay on the sofa watching TV. He gave us his Body to give us the strength to do His will. So, since it was quite perfectly at the service of Mass, we were sent forth in peace to love and serve the Lord singing "Go, Be Justice". Who am I to defy the Holy Spirit?

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