During my middle school days I can remember showing up to our religious education nights, filing into the pews and opening up by singing some praise and worship. Now, it’s likely to conclude that a bunch of boys and girls in the beginning of their teen years may not think that singing is the coolest activity that they could participate in. Add, in what our mind, were cheesy motions and synchronized clapping, it could be an interesting evening.
I always thought that the phrase, “Singing is praying twice”, was a ploy by the grownups in the room to somehow guilt us into participating. But recently I discovered how that phrase is a generalization of St. Augustine of Hippo’s commentary of Psalm 73.
He says that “He who sings praise, not only sings, but also loves Him of whom he sings.” When you sing at Mass you’re glorifying Him not only through music but also also expressing your love for Him at the same time. Not only are you expressing your praise and love for him on the outside but also on the inside through your love for Him.
Pope Benedict XVI wrote a piece called The Spirit of Liturgy when he was the prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith expressing music’s role in liturgy. In it he notes that in the Bible, the verb “sing” and other derivatives such as “song” or “singing” is one of the most commonly found words in the Bible. It’s found a total of 345 times throughout the old and new testaments. When man comes into contact with God, mere speech is not enough.
I’ve sung in the church choir for as long as I can remember. I remember sitting in the wooden benches and trying my hardest to tap the tambourine on the right beat when I was in elementary school. As I’ve grown up I’ve kept singing in the church choir and I occasionally will cantor at Mass. It’s an opportunity for me to not only use my talents to help glorify God, but also to participate in the Mass by helping draw others to participate in the Church’s worship.
I’ve had this pamphlet of prayers for singers floating around in my choir binder for who knows how long, when I flipped to the back page. There was a small paragraph that explained the role of music perfectly.
A cry from deep within our being, music is a way for God to lead us to the realm of higher things. As Saint Augustine says, “Singing is for the one who loves.” Music is therefore a sign of God’s love for us and of our love for him.”
Music at Mass is not for entertainment and the musicians aren’t there to put on a concert or to hear themselves sing pretty harmonies. They are there to help glorify God through yet another means – singing.
Now, I’m aware that not everyone believes they are gifted with a musical ability. One of my roommates in college would joke that her voice was one that only a mother could love. But you know what you? God will always delight in hearing those that he created praise his name in song – regardless if you are a trained opera singer or find your audience singing in the shower.