Music as a Pathway to God

by Kathleen Glavich, SND on March 11, 2020

in Blogs

Saturday evening I had the joy of attending a concert by the Cleveland Orchestra in Severance Hall. The main number was Mendelssohn’s Symphony #2, which is also known as “Hymn of Praise.” It is a series of Scripture passages, mostly from Psalms, set to music and sung by a mighty chorus, two sopranos, and a tenor. The result was a majestic and stirring hymn of glory. The last time I was at Severance Hall, I also was pleasantly surprised to hear another religious performance: a concerto that was a meditation on the rosary’s Mysteries of Light!

Down through the centuries, religion has inspired all styles of music from Gregorian chant and Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” to “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” Right now in our chapel people are rehearsing Handel’s gorgeous oratorio “Messiah” for Easter for free-will offerings. They also sing it in Advent as a fundraiser for the Geauga food pantries. Interestingly, Handel used the profits from his concerts to benefit the needy and open orphanages and hospitals.

To me, members of an orchestra playing together as one and choir members singing together are metaphors for heaven. For good reason angels are depicted playing harps, trumpets, and drums. Everyone in the afterlife will be in harmony. We will live in beauty and peace. In John’s vision of heaven every creature sings the following “with full voice”:

Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might

and honor and glory and blessing!

To the one seated on the throne and to the lamb

be blessing and honor and glory and might

forever and ever!”

(Revelation 5:12–13)

Music has a powerful effect on us. It prompts us to tap our feet and clap our hands; it can energize us or bring calm to our hearts. Music also leads us to thoughts of God, who created it. Christian songs lift our hearts, and spirituals gave us encouragement and courage. Hymns add significantly to our Eucharist celebrations and prayer services. They are a form of prayer. In fact, St. Augustine claimed, “Singing well is praying twice.”

The 150 psalms originally were prayer-songs. Jesus and the apostles sang them. At the conclusion of the Last Supper, “When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Mark 14:26). I wonder what Jesus’ voice sounded like. No doubt, our Blessed Mother sang Jewish lullabies to the infant Jesus and sang while she spun wool and ground grain.

So listen to, or better still sing Christian songs as you dust, do laundry, or drive in your car. It would be a lovely form of prayer to dance to such songs too! That way your whole body would be involved in praising God.

What is your favorite religious song?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan Pierson March 11, 2020 at 2:44 pm

Kathleen,

I am participating in a weekly session of music therapy to improve balance. This is a service of the Franciscan Life Process Center here in the Grand Rapids area.

Dan Pierson

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Kathleen Glavich, SND March 16, 2020 at 10:01 am

Ironically, Dan, last week going to my seat at a concert by the Cleveland Orchestra, I lost my balance on the stairs and landed between two rows of seats! Luckily I wasn’t hurt at all but scared some people who were concerned about me.

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Sue March 13, 2020 at 10:17 pm

Hi Sister
Ohhh, i have so many, it’s hard to choose.
I ran across one recently on YouTube that I keep singing to myself. It’s a song called Holy Mother by Eric Clapton and Pavarotti.
It’s the one that’s 5:52 minutes long.
I like all the old time Catholic hymns we sang back in the day.
Thanks for your blog.
Sue

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Kathleen Glavich, SND March 16, 2020 at 10:02 am

I’ll have to look that song up, Sue. Thanks for the tip.

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