Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

It’s music to my ears! A welcoming response to something we have heard about: MUSIC. The very word denotes something pleasant, even delightful. Or, is that always the case?

After all, there is good music, tastefully, even artistically, done (or produced), and then there’s bad music: raucous, intrusive, belligerent, maddening. Some would call it noise.

We live in a musical era, but is it of the caliber of the classical musical produced in the 16th-19th centuries, or is it the music of “the common (wo)man”? With our mobile electronic conveyors of all sorts of sound, we can, if we so wish (and it seems many of us do so wish), be awash in music of our choice on a 24/7 basis.

Some have envisioned heaven as nothing but a vast music hall where those of us who have “made it” there are incessantly immersed in celestial sound waves: an angelic experience. Do not artists often depict angels strumming on harps 24/7 (except that time is no longer a factor in heavenly bliss). Indeed, when we reflect on the history of the so-called classical period, we note how beauty (along with the good, the true and oneness) takes its place in the ranks of what was perennially cherished. Today, however, beauty receives less attention from us, among the elements contributing to what ancient peoples considered the building block of culture and civilization. But is it true that beauty is a “light weight” when it comes to the elements comprising a pleasant and desirable way of life?

How does beauty rank among the elements making for a desirable way of life? And, within beauty, what most significantly contributes to it: the arts, architecture, poetry, drama, dance, music? It seems music has sometimes been downplayed for its contribution to a life worth living.

Music admits of various kinds: it can be divided according to the era in which it was produced, or to the geographical place where it originated, or to the kinds of instruments available for producing sounds, such as strings, horns, percussions. Then, there is the organ.

Music is distinct from the other arts because of its appeal to the ear, rather than to the eye or the sensitivity of the body to its rhythm. Am I a person of the eye, or of the ear? If I had to choose between losing eyesight or hearing, which would I prefer? Which brings me more fulfillment, satisfaction, contentment: what I see or what I hear?   The voice of a friend, or the sight of a loved one?

When I need inspiration, energy, contentment, satisfaction, peace, excitement: what best meets my need: music or the other arts (mostly visual)? Is the human voice more significant to me than the sight of another person? If I were to encounter Christ, would I prefer to see or to hear Him? Do we not call Him the Word of God? On the other hand, did He not come down into our midst and mingle with us, to be seen? We have access to His word in the bible. Yet we also see His presence to us in the sacramental liturgy in which we share, or in the statuary and the paintings that artists of old have produced?

Music: is it the melody, the lyrics, or the rhythm, that captivates me? Is dance more reflective of melody or of rhythm?

We are a culture of music. Music is important to us. We can judge a person by the music he or she prefers. There Is music favored by the young, and that preferred by the old. Music is valued primarily for its melody, or its lyrics, or its rhythm. Loud music is often preferred over quiet/soft music (elevator music). There is music that relaxes and music that rouses and excites. There is fast and slow music, music by strings or by horn, music for dancing or music for reflecting.

Music is an important part of life. It’s obviously a God-instilled component of human experience. The prayer-life of the church centers around the psalms, the main composer of which was King David, himself a musician.   It is likely the psalms were set to music. Can we make our way to God without music?



One thought on “Music

  1. I remember a retreatant at HNPRC stating that his mother “always told him that singing in church was like praying to God twice”! Another very thought provoking article Fr Sebastian – Thank You.

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