Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Default Setting

We find the first mention of singing in the Bible after the crossing of the Red Sea. Israel has now been definitively delivered from slavery. In a desperate situation, it has had an overwhelming experience of God’s saving power. Just as Moses as a baby was taken from the Nile and only then really received the gift of life, so Israel now feels as if it has been, so to speak, taken out of the water: it is free, newly endowed with the gift of itself from God’s own hand… “Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord” (Ex 14:31).

Year by year, at the Easter Vigil, Christians join in the singing of this song. They sing it in a new way as their song, because they know that they have “been taken out of the water” by God’s power, set free by God for authentic life.

Spirit of the Liturgy, 136-7

Reflection – I realize that the blog has had a rather sombre tone in recent days, what with the 40th Anniversary of the Roe v. Wade abortion decision in the US, and the related March for Life down there. We have to turn our eyes to these darker subjects from time to time, and this past week was one of those times.

However, enough of that (for now). It is so crucial in our personal lives and in our apostolic and social lives, to return always and emphatically to the deepest truth of God and humanity, of the world and its destiny. And this truth is the saving love of God, poured forth in time and history in Jesus Christ, a force and an action of grace and mercy continually drawing all humanity, anyone who will, into the life of freedom and joy.

This is the deepest and final truth about things. There are Egyptians enslaving us, yes. There are enemies pursuing us, yes. There are deserts to cross, yes. Our own rebellious stiff-necked selves to contend with, emphatically yes. We are not in the Promised Land of heaven yet, and all this stuff is with us until we are, yes, yes, yes.

But the deepest truth is salvation. The deepest truth is love and mercy. And we have to live in that deepest truth, and act out of it, both for our own peace and joy in this life, and if we ever hope to convince even one other human being of it.

As Ratzinger says here, the normal response to this truth, to knowing that our lives have been saved miraculously, to the experience of deliverance, is to burst into song. This is the primary, almost reflexive, human response to a happy turn of events.

Now I’m kind of a musical guy—nothing professional, but I enjoy making music and singing and am at least not offensively off-key most of the time. I realize that for some, the notion of breaking into song is not a pleasant one, and is definitely not their idea of a happy response to good news. Fair enough… as long as joy is communicated somehow.

We have to live in the joy of salvation and mercy, and we have to convey this joy to others. If not by bursting into song (which admittedly may annoy those others more than anything), then somehow. If we believe that what God in his Word says He has done is really and truly done, then joy must be our natural state of being, the ‘default setting’ in our internal software, the center of gravity towards which we incline.

Some people, true, are prone to a more melancholy temperament, tend towards a certain gravitas, a certain serious view of life. This is not wrong, of course. But joy has to break through even for the most melancholy babies among us. Christ is risen. Death is conquered. The hope of heaven is real. We are not headed towards disaster and the grave.
And so joy and song and laughter, or at least a quiet strong certainty of the goodness of God and of life, must be our normal Christian attitude. This is most especially so if our lives are filled with challenges, sorrows, strivings, difficulties. We have to turn to God above all in those times and place all our hope and trust in Him. And ask Him to confirm us in the joy and peace of knowing His love and the assurance of knowing that He is bigger than all the darkness, all the pain, and all the evil the world can throw at us. Which He is.

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