“My heart is steadfast O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! Awake my soul! Psalm 108
The endearing power of music, especially sacred music is never more revealing than when we place ourselves outside of a human state and into a divine one. Some months ago I was speaking with a priest friend of mine (we’ll call him Fr. W) who shared with me a powerful encounter with sacred music and the presence of our Lord.
One particular morning, while substituting for a fellow priest Fr. W went to visit the residence of the local assisted living complex part of the ministerial outreach of the parish. While there, he inquired about a particular resident that caught his attention. He described this elderly lady as someone who appeared peaceful but yet lost to the world. One of the attendants mentioned to him that the resident he inquired about used to be a professional opera singer with the San Francisco Opera. Apparently, this elderly lady would rarely talk with anyone. She would just sit by herself staring. What happened next brought Fr. W to tears as he would later tell me.
One of the classical music radio stations began playing an instrumental version of Ave Maria. The moment the first verse began this elderly lady stood up from her chair and began to sing the Ave Maria in a voice Fr. W describes as one of the most beautiful voices he has ever heard. She sang with such joy and peace that everyone stood in silence. Fr. W described her as being outside of the contemporary world and instead was being embraced by the loving arms of our Father in Heaven. As the song ended, she quietly sat back down and continued with her silence.
Fr. W would never forget what he saw that day, telling me it was an encounter with the Divine majesty of our Father in Heaven. Sacred music is indeed a gift that leads the mind to the love of Christ and His Church. The beauty of sacred music is its ability to speak to God without speech. Pope Benedict XVI reminds is of this very fact when man comes into contact with God, mere speech is not enough (The Spirit of the Liturgy, pg. 136).