Oftentimes, we fail to appreciate all that music can bring into the world and into our community. It is said that Saint Augustine once said, “He who sings, prays twice.” This may not be the direct quote, but it gives a sense about his thought. Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, author of the blog, “What Does The Prayer Really Say?” offered some of his own research on the subject a few years ago which he details in his blog on February 20, 2006.
Having written my thesis on Augustine I decided to dig into this. I happen to have my trusty CCL 39 nearby. Looking up that reference we find what Augustine really said:
Qui enim cantat laudem, non solum laudat, sed etiam hilariter laudat; qui cantat laudem, non solum cantat, sed et amat eum quem cantat. In laude confitentis est praedicatio, in cantico amantis affectio. . . For he who sings praise, does not only praise, but also praises joyfully; he who sings praise, not only sings, but also loves Him whom he is singing about/to/for. There is a praise-filled public proclamation (praedicatio) in the praise of someone who is confessing/acknowledging (God), in the song of the lover (there is) love.
This is a very interesting passage. Augustine is saying that when the praise is of God, then something happens to the song of the praiser/love that makes it more than just any kind of song. The object of the song/love in a way becomes the subject. Something happens so that the song itself becomes Love in its manifestation of love of the one who truly is Love itself.
When one really thinks about our celebration of the Mass, we see the role that music plays. We have the hymns and psalms that we sing. The various parts of the Mass are also meant to be sung. I have found it sad, that some of those who questioned our singing of the Latin parts, and even refused to sing them, often don’t even attempt to sing the English parts. Our singing at Mass should reflect our praise and love of God who is the creator of all. As we join in song our minds and hearts should be directed heavenward and fill us with a sense of the wonder of God.
As we gather at Mass, whether you have been blessed with a beautiful voice, or one that is not so beautiful, please make the attempt to make a joyful sound unto the Lord. We are called to raise our voices to the God above, and the key word here is “we”.