Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sing, and Keep Going

Christians who find themselves in the new covenant now sing an altogether new song, which is truly and definitively new in view of the wholly new thing that has taken place in the Resurrection of Christ… The in-between state of Christian reality (no longer a shadow, but still not fully reality, only an ‘image’) applies here. The definitively new song has been intoned, but still all the sufferings of history must be endured, all pain gathered in and brought into the sacrifice of praise, in order to be transformed there into a song of praise.
Joseph Ratzinger, Spirit of the Liturgy, 138

Reflection – We did something new this year for our All Saints Day celebration on November 1, and I hope we keep doing it, as it really worked well. In the days before we all wrote down, on little file cards, our favorite quotes from the saints, with the quote on one side and the saint on the other. In the evening of the day we played a guessing game of ‘which saint said what’. It was fun and helped us to enter the world of the saints more fully.

One of the quotes I wrote down reminds me of this passage from Ratzinger. St. Augustine of Hippo, ‘Sing, and keep going.’ I think this pithily gives us our Christian way of life in the world. To sing and keep going—praise God, lift up our hearts and minds and voices to the Lord in thanksgiving and worship… but keep moving in this world, keep heading towards the new and everlasting Jerusalem, keep living our life in such a way that our feet tend towards the kingdom of love and goodness.

We all can tend to live in our world where the ‘sufferings of history’ are endured and the pains of life have a way of grabbing our full attention. There is something about ‘gathering it all in to the sacrifice of praise’, as Ratzinger so beautifully puts it here, that is absolutely crucial if we are to navigate our life correctly and get to our final and proper destination.

All, ultimately, is to be gathered upon into praise and into song. Even the most dreadful events, the deepest sufferings, the worst evils visited upon people—all of this is meant to be redeemed and transformed into a song of praise. This is very deep, this business of song and praise. Even if you happen to be tone deaf and have little to no musical appreciation, there is something about song and praise that is at the heart of reality, something that is not, in the end, optional at its core.

Heaven, C.S. Lewis writes in the Screwtape Letters, has only silence and music. Hell has neither, and is all noise. Our world is a battleground of silence and music against noise. To sing and keep going, to enter now in the midst of the noise of the world into the sacrifice of praise, the song of the Risen Christ, is to win a great battle that rages in our own hearts and lives, too.

That within us which is Noise, which is Hell (and we all have a little bit of Hell in us, alas), tells us to respond to the struggles and strains and evils of life by asserting our own prerogatives, by taking control of our own destiny, by extending our self as far as we can into this world. Only by the extension of the ego into the world can we push back the evils and ills that beset us. And so, as all our egos get busy clamoring for that push, for tat extension, Noise grows and grows and grows in the world.

That within us which is Heaven (and I believe every human being has at least a glimmer of that gold shining somewhere in them) bids us to be silent, and to praise God with a psalm. To sing, and keep going. Singing, in which that in us which must express itself is coordinated into a beautiful harmonious whole, a unity of love and purpose, and silence in which that which is interior in us is made receptive and attentive both to God and the needs of our brothers and sisters. And then, to keep going, to keep loving, to keep serving, to keep moving through the world that is into the world that is to be, the world Christ is fashioning in his resurrected body and to which the whole cosmos is turning and yearning. And that is the fundamental way of life of the Christian in the world.

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