A couple weeks ago, the New York Times reported that Representative Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman currently rehabilitating from a bullet wound to the brain is being aided by the use of song. Giffords is apparently lip-syncing songs to help regain full function of her speech. It reminds me of the time my Aunt Mary went into a nursing home. Her mind was failing but once a week when the music therapists came to sing songs with the residents, Aunt Mary appeared to be sharp as a tack. She sang those familiar melodies planted deep in her bones by heart and with heart. Ah! I mused, the power of ritual song!
Ritual singing is what we do each time we gather for liturgy. St. Augustine explained that singing is for lovers. It’s what people in love do! Who among us in the throes of falling in love hasn’t wandered about singing or whistling a tune??? God is in love with us! We are in love with God! Words are not enough to express our feelings! We must sing!!!!
But singing takes guts—ask any cantor! Singing involves risk and vulnerability. Yet, this is exactly what is asked of each of us when we celebrate liturgy—to be open, vulnerable and willing to go beyond our comfort zones.
When I often ask people to join the choir, I usually get the same stock answer, “I can’t sing.” Everyone can sing, at different levels perhaps, but EVERYONE CAN SING! As J-Glen Murray said during a recent day of reflection at STA, “Whatever kind of voice God has given you, you need to give it back to him.” So, next time you’re at Mass, lift up your voice in song, loudly, lavishly. It will lift your spirits and might even save your life.
O Lord, give us the joy and the courage to sing!