Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Lent day 18

The sound of the human voice in all its textures -  speaking, shouting, moaning, screaming, chanting, singing, crying, whispering - so many words to speak of its variations, but which image can simply represent the range of sounds that human beings can utter? 
Here class and teacher sing together, all mouths are open, not yawning or smiling, but singing with enthusiasm in a concert. It's not difficult to imagine young voices filling the air with joyful sound. This is an image of joy. There's no way to detect joy in this next image of the mathematical form representing the digitally recorded sound of children singing.
How many times the scriptures refer to songs and singing! The Book of Psalms provides an entire library of songs for all sorts of occasions in the life of worship, and there's the love lyrics of the Song of Songs. Some stories give the lyrics of songs from unique occasions - such a victory in battle. The Song of Miriam is a hymn of praise to God.

“I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my defense he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him." (Exodus 15:1-2)

Thought to be the oldest song of all recorded in the bible, the Song of Deborah, dating from as early as 1,200BCE, celebrates an Israelite victory. God is not really praised, but cited as an ally of his people in battle, by reproducing favourable weather conditions

“When you, Lord, went out from Seir, when you marched from the land of Edom,
the earth shook, the heavens poured, the clouds poured down water.
The mountains quaked before the Lord, the One of Sinai, before the Lord, the God of Israel"(Judges 5)

At the end of his life Moses gives thanks to God at great length as he remembers all that God has done to rescue his people from slavery and bring them to a place of freedom. The song concludes with a detailed blessing on each of the twelve tribes, exalting the qualities of each. The pattern of thankful remembrance leading to prayer of for God's blessing on others is the hallmark of prayer in common, for both Jews and then Christians ever since.

"And Moses spoke in the ears of all the congregation of Israel the words of this song, until they were ended." (Deuteronomy 31:30)

And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are your ways, you King of saints. (Revelation 15:3)

Songs of praise to God. have been sung down the ages not only in triumph but also in defiance of oppression. The song of the three Jews in the fiery furnace has found its place in both Jewish and also Christian liturgy, where it is known as the Benedicite.

They walked in the midst of the fire, praising God, and blessing the Lord. Then Azarias stood, and prayed on this manner; and opening his mouth in the midst of the fire said, Blessed are you, O Lord, you God of our fathers, and worthy to be praised; and your name is glorified for evermore." (Daniel 3:23 ff - Az 1)

O all you works of the Lord, bless the Lord: praise and exalt him above all forever. (Az 35)

Psalm 96 exhorts worshippers to sing a new song to the Lord, as an act of witness to the world of God's deeds.

"Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples." (Ps 96:1-3)

This is echoed by Isaiah emphasising that the merciful and compassionate God remains on the side of his chosen people, and will uphold his anointed Suffering Servant 

"Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them." (Isaiah 42:10) 

Of the four evangelists, Luke is the one who puts songs of joy praise into the mouths of Mary (Lk 1:46-55) and Zechariah (Lk 1:68-79), which have become a permanent feature of the daily common prayer of Christians around the world. Paul, in different writings quotes from contemporary hymnody. The Revelation to John embeds in the narrative hymns of praise celebrating God's majesty and the victory of Christ over evil sin and death. Much of his text has worship in heaven as its setting and is thought by some to reflect early Christian Easter liturgy. As St Augustine said, to be much quoted more recently by Pope John Paul II

"We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song."

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