Psalm: Latin psalmus, from Greek psalmos, literally = "twanging of a harp," from psallein "to pluck, play a stringed musical instrument."
Fleeing madly into the desert on foot with the Egyptian army pressing hard upon their heels--spike-laden chariots drawn by powerful beasts, hot breathed, closing in fast-- the Israelites were forced to a screeching halt. What lay before them--a massive expanse of water--too deep to cross on foot, too broad to safely swim. What to do? Turn back and be slaughtered? Or if spared, return to slavery? Go forward and drown? There was no visible means of escape, all hope lost, nothing but despair.
“But God”...my two favorite words.
But God... moved with compassion, extended His mighty hand, parted the Red Sea and saved His chosen people.
Their response...to SING! Yes SING! The first song ever recorded in the Bible...The Song of Moses, (Ex. 15:1) the Song of Deliverance also mentioned in the last book of the Bible in Revelation 15:3. That first song was beautifully foreshadowing the True Song, the New Song of Deliverance--Jesus, the Lamb who was slain so that all men everywhere may be set free.
As Christians we sing praises to God for Who He is, for what He has done and in hope of all that He will do in our lives. Just as the children of Israel “...believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses” (Ex 14:31) and had the faith to go forward and were “taken out of the water” by God’s power, we too as well. In the waters of baptism we “cross our Red Sea”, from death into life, (so beautifully displayed at the Easter Vigil) and are enabled by God to live a free and authentic life, one marked by His Spirit of love, joy and peace.
St. Augustine says, “Catare amantis est”= “singing is a lover’s thing”. As Pope Benedict XVI states, “It is the utter depths of love that produces the singing...The Holy Spirit is love, and it is he who produces the singing. He is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit who draws us into love for Christ and so leads to the Father.”
“Singing” and the word “Song” are mentioned 309 times in the Old Testament and 36 in the New. We are a people who SING! Again and again throughout scripture when the people were in need of deliverance -- they SANG! The choir went BEFORE the armies of God, not vice versa (2 Chron. 20:21). And Christ even sang at the last supper, Jesus Himself drew strength from singing before His darkest hour: “Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Matthew 26:30.
Never underestimate the power of praise!
Historically, liturgically we sing the Psalms. Most of the Psalms were written by David and all were inspired by the Holy Spirit, so when we sing the Psalms, we are singing the Divine Love Songs which so often speak of Christ. In the Church, *Gregorian Chant became the vehicle in which those 150 sacred Psalms were entoned and though no longer obligatory, are still officially considered the music most suitable for worship. Why? Because it is the sacred singing of Scripture, words written inspired by God, sung back to Him from the Spirit within the singer.
Need strength? Sing! Psalm 28:7
“The LORD is my strength and my shield, in whom my heart trusts. I am helped, so my heart rejoices; with my song I praise him.”
Facing an army? Sing! Psalm 27:1-3
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The LORD is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid? When evildoers come at me to devour my flesh,These my enemies and foes themselves stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart does not fear; Though war be waged against me, even then do I trust.”
Have a praise? Sing! Psalm 145:1-3
“I will extol you, my God and king; I will bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you; I will praise your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD and worthy of much praise, whose grandeur is beyond understanding.”
Need encouragement? Sing! Psalm 34:5-9
“I sought the LORD, and he answered me, delivered me from all my fears. Look to him and be radiant, and your faces may not blush for shame. This poor one cried out and the LORD heard, and from all his distress he saved him. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he saves them.Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the stalwart one who takes refuge in him.”
Sing! And lift your hearts up to the Lord... and see what God does next.
I praise You because You are worthy of praise, not because I always feel like praising You! Please help me! I want to sing to you in my heart but often my heart is heavy, filled with worry or fear. Please take the song that I lift up to You from the Psalms and make them my own. Please give me the strength, courage or encouragement I need to live a life filled with Your Spirit--come fill me now by singing to You in faith. Please make me bold and strong to face the enemies of this life. I offer myself to You, please give me the grace to trust and to SING!
I ask this in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
*Want to learn more and to experience the beauty and power of CHANTING THE PSALMS? I’m so excited to invite you to join us at St. Ann Catholic Church, Sunday October 28 for an English Language Gregorian Chant Workshop (3:30- 5:45 pm) followed by an English Language CHANT Mass at 6:00pm. Leading Chant expert and author, Adam Bartlett President and Co-Founder of Source and Summit Institute, and President and Editor of Illuminare Publications will be our teacher and guide. Free will donation for workshop, all welcome.
We hope to see you there!