My life flows on in endless song; above earth’s lamentation,
I hear the sweet, though far off hymn that hails a new creation.
No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that Rock I’m clinging.
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?
— Robert Lowry, Bright Jewels for the Sunday School, 1869
I want to sing!
Having grown up in a singing culture, I am accustomed to singing. When I feel a psalm deep down within me wanting to sprout wings and fly, I am accustomed to let it loose. A sort of endless song.
We have songs of joy, praise, triumph, confidence, assurance, hope, grief, lament, comfort, and gratitude. Songs that affirm, announce, declare, unite, instruct, comment, confess, or question.
They’re not all religious. We have songs lofty and low. That celebrate, among other things, spirit and sport, summer and seasides, nation and nature, food and fun. My musical spouse and I make up songs (often rehashing a certain Natalie Sleeth tune).
We have many different playlists! And I let them loose when I’m driving in the car, or around the house, chopping carrots, pushing the mower, or taking a shower. My longsuffering spouse occasionally asks me if I can please not sing.
I want to sing together!
But just as birds of a feather flock together, my songs seek companionship. I miss singing in church. I miss singing in the community. I miss singing at the ballpark. And that’s what songs do . . . they unite! Or forge, or motivate, or create a common ground.
Yet, because of Covid-19, the together part isn’t happening for the time being. At least with any convenience. With internet and software, we are working our way around it to some degree, but it isn’t quite the same.
So we have to hang our harps in a strange new landscape. And wait. But I have faith that the waiting is not in vain. That the empty spaces are something into which God can walk. That the mystery of the future will tune our hearts to a different hymn.
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Let me be with you
in the silence
that is to come,
to sing with all the saints
an endless hymn
of love for you.
— Richard Beale, Silence and the Gift, 1994
♦ ♦ ♦
I want to sing Hallelujah!
As I wait for the return of the song (and it will return),
I’ll listen to the music implicit in the world around me —
that “far off hymn” — the singing of birds,
the rhythm of the skies,
the sounds of water
and of children’s laughter,
and I’ll continue to join my songs with those of others in new ways.
And in new directions:
singing into the future the song of the past
and into the past, the song of the future.
God is in the song AND the breath.
And the lyric of all songs will comprise
one grateful and singular Hallelujah!
Even now . . . in this time of silent churches and concert and symphony halls and stadiums.
As Leonard Cohen sang: “. . . even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord of Song with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!”
How can I keep from singing? I can’t. Because I cannot let go of this faith that has hold of me. Through thick and thin, song is the gift of that faith. Hallelujah.
♦ ♦ ♦
The 15th century illustrated manuscript leaflet is from a book of chants featuring musical notation on red staves. It is provided courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum’s Open Content Program and features an image of a man singing, framed within the initial A of the word “Alleluia.”