The notes on a page are not the song, the printed rhythms and rests, not the music. No rules of theory or knowledge of music history can be mistaken for the moment a melody comes to life in the mouths of an assembly. Liturgists, too, recognize that rubrics and scripts do not equal embodied ritual.
In today’s passage from the letter to the Romans (which is part of a longer meditation beginning in the previous chapter), Saint Paul reflects on the difference between the “law of righteousness” and the “word of faith,” which is already in the mouth and heart of the disciple.We who prepare liturgy and facilitate sung prayer can be tempted to make the laws that govern our craft into idols. Click To Tweet
This word of faith is not a set of rules but an orientation of life—a movement toward that which has been poured into one’s heart by the Spirit. This orientation becomes the lens through which one sees, interprets, and engages the world. For Paul, faith was not about following fixed laws but conforming ourselves to the living Christ who is the end—that is, the goal of all the law.
We who prepare liturgy and facilitate sung prayer can be tempted to make the laws that govern our craft into idols. Musical integrity and liturgical principle certainly should be dear to us. However, closer still, in our mouth and in our heart, must be Christ who fulfills and surpasses every law.
This post was first published in “GIA Quarterly: A Liturgical Music Journal.”
Image credit: Photo by Prostock-Studio from Getty Images.
Read more reflections on the Sunday readings here:
- Opening our lives to the stranger
- The meaning of prayer
- Hospitality of home and heart
- Can we be neighbors?
- Leading music and prayer