Tuesday, July 18, 2006

To Keep Us This Night Without Sin

St. Augustine once said, when we sing, we pray twice. This has long been my excuse for my sporadic church attendance. I prayed twice each week for fifteen years, with some extra mixed in around the holidays. But I do speak still with God, and it’s usually late at night, like now, when I’ve had a lot on my mind. I don’t always get answers, but my sense of calm is usually restored. It’s the same way with music. There are certain types of music that, when I listen to them, put the rest of the world out of my head. This is one of the many reasons why I am so thankful that I grew up singing in a choir.

When my life gets too crazy, I cue up a disc of acapella sacred choral pieces. I think about the building where the choir was singing them. I can hear their voices echo off the stone walls, walls that have been standing for hundreds upon hundreds of years.

I remember singing in some of those same buildings, ancient and filled with faith of millions of people. I recite the words as I have sung them.

As irony would have it, the most calming songs to me are some that I have never heard recorded. As a child growing up in a choir, every summer in the weeks before school started, we would all go to choir camp. While there, at the close of each day we would hold a Compline service.

The Order of Compline does not carry the pomp and circumstance as that of other services. It is meant as a quiet call of thanks for the work of the day. The music is simple, one line melodies with no harmonizing. The hymns and psalms that were offered every night in that old log hall I carry in my head and heart. And now my children carry them also.

Every night at their bedtimes, I sing to Sam, Aidan, & Noah. More often than not, I include the version of the Our Father from that Compline service. Amber wrote to some of us yesterday, saying that she put Ella & Tess to sleep by singing “Before the Ending of the Day”. The original words to this hymn, Te Lucis Ante Terminum, come from a text written in the 5th Century. There is such unbelievable power in those songs. To know that we possess the words and music to comfort our children at any given moment in time is truly a gift from God.

And Bunky.

Thanks for the inspiration, Amber.