After a spirited discussion at our pastors' text study this morning on the merits of Eric Whitacre and Morten Lauridsen (modern American composers of powerfully moving choral music and if you haven't heard them, hie thee to a store and get some CDs), I find myself thinking once again about the power of music to move me to prayer and into God's presence.
I am not someone who finds silence terribly helpful in my private devotions. If I am reading the Bible and then trying to reflect on it a little, and pray, and listen for God, the silence often defeats me. If it's early in the morning, I drift back into sleep. If it's late evening, sometimes sleep also comes, but more frequently the thoughts of the day intrude like the thorns of Jesus' parable of the sower, tugging me away from my openness to the movement of the Spirit of God.
Silence in worship is different for me. Many experiences of worship today involve precious little silence. People constantly feel the need to interrupt silence with speech, or more music, or immediate movement to the next part of the liturgy. In those times of worship where silence happens, then, it is a great source of peace and joy for me. I am also part of a spiritual direction group which includes three other pastors and a director, and we have very long silent times as a part of our time together. Those times are fruitful and good and are silences in which I frequently feel God's breath moving, hear God's voice. If prayer is conversation with God, silence to listen to the voice of God in our hearts and lives is essential to prayer.
The challenge for me, clearly, is when I am alone. The conversation this morning reminded me of something I've been considering for the past few months, and that is the power of music in opening my spirit to God. When I listen to Lauridsen's "O Magnum Mysterium," for example, or Maurice Durufle's "Ubi caritas," I am transported from daily cares and woes into a different world and find myself open to deep reflection and to insight from God. I find a deep joy sometimes, sometimes sadness, sometimes exhilaration. I could make a blog which only reflected on the latest piece of music to move my soul, and not run out of ideas for the rest of my life.
I am beginning to wonder what would happen if I brought music into my daily devotions intentionally. As important as silence is to our lives in a world of cacophony and noise, music, at least the music that moves me, is the opposite of cacophony and noise. Perhaps I need to listen to and understand my own life-long experience with music and recognize that if taking time with God on a daily basis is important, and if I'd really rather not sleep through it, it is possible that God's gift of music can replace the silent meditation. J. S. Bach instead of the ticking of the clock? It might be worth trying.
I'll let you know how it works out. In the meantime, please get the final album made by the Dale Warland Singers, Lux Aurumque. There was a wonderful story Lucy Pevensie read in the magician's book in C. S. Lewis' Voyage of the Dawn Treader which was subtitled "for the refreshment of the spirit," and which, upon reading, filled Lucy with joy and wonder and refreshment, filled her very soul. This Warland CD is just such a gift for me. I think I want to find out if there is a place for it and all the others in my prayer life as well.