Historically, when my soul was asleep morally, it was music that called me back. Although I joined the church choir in order to meet girls, it was through the music that the Lord showed me a deeper desire in my heart for goodness, beauty, and truth—indeed my desire for God Himself. The music awoke my sleeping soul to God.
More recently, and in a particular way, music often awakens my soul to the deeper meaning of Sacred Scripture. I have often heard or read a certain Scripture passage that had only a marginal impact on me. But then the choir takes it up in song and it is pressed into my heart like never before, such that I can never forget it. Through the music, my heart and soul are awakened to a deeper meaning of a text.
With humility I have also learned that though I may preach boldly, it is often the choir’s sung response that makes the thought catch fire. I have learned to link what I preach to what is sung and work carefully with the choir and musicians. For while the spoken word may inform and even energize, the sung word strikes even deeper, engraving the word not only in the mind, but touching the deepest parts of the heart.
There is an old saying,
Bach gave us God’s Word, Mozart gave us God’s laughter, Beethoven gave us God’s fire. God gave us music that we might pray without words. — quote from outside a German opera house
Scripture says that the Lord puts music in our hearts and that many, by it, will be summoned to faith. The Lord set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD (Psalm 40:3-4).
Yes, music can often reach where mere words cannot.
In the remarkable video below, there is a older man, Henry, who, likely due to a seizure or other age-related factors, had largely turned inward. In fact his very posture illustrates well St. Augustine’s remarkable diagnosis of our problem: curvatus in se (turned in on himself).
Henry’s daughter remembers a lively vivacious man who quite literally danced through life and had such a joie de vivre. But in the last ten years he had shut down and turned inward.
Then came the miracle, a miracle in something ordinary yet mystical: music. Wait until you see how it awakens Henry! Quite an astonishing difference. Yes, suddenly there came the discovery by the staff of the nursing home and Henry’s daughter that there was still someone “alive” inside Henry’s aging body. Alive indeed, the human soul still deeply touched by the good, the true, and the beautiful.
Henry says that when he hears music, “I feel loved … the Lord came to me and made me a holy man … so he gave me these sounds.”
It’s the old Henry, the real Henry, alive and joyful. Where mere word’s fail, music speaks. Where therapy struggles, music soars.
I am mindful of an older woman I used to visit, Ms. Lorena; she died some years back at age 104. And when I’d visit, there wasn’t much she or I could say. But suddenly, gently, I’d start singing one of those old hymns, “Hmm … by and by … yes, we’ll understand it better by and by.” And Ms. Lorena would light up and join in. She’d sit up straight and be young again.
An old spiritual says, Over my head, I hear music in the air, there must be a God somewhere. Yes, Mr. Henry knows. Yes, Ms. Lorena knows. There IS a God somewhere! And when words alone fail, He still calls through music.
Enjoy this powerful video.