Thus sings my soul: Holy Listening

St. Benedict says to listen with the ear of your heart.


Think about your favorite song, anthem or sung liturgy. Is it the melody or the words that shimmer for you? Do you like to participate or listen? Do you have a favorite musical time of year?

The choice of hymns as well as the selection of anthems for the Christ Episcopal Choir (with whom I gratefully sing) changes to fit with the seasons of the church year. Knowing the context and story behind a song makes it all the more meaningful. The combination of sound and poetry of the Psalms express the gamut of human emotion. Hymn tunes can console and challenge.

For example, the sounds of Advent accompany the anticipation of the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The fulfillment of the Incarnation of Emmanuel, God with us, resounds with Glorias.  The Lenten anthems and hymns prepare us for the Passion and Death of Christ followed by the ultimate celebration of the Christian life—the Resurrection. Trumpets and timpani resound. The contrast of sounds echoes our despair and joy at the telling of the centerpiece of our belief.

Music offers gentle comfort through times of grief.

A favorite author, Christine V. Paintner in her book Lectio Divina, Transforming Words and Images into Heart-Centered Prayer writes about how God speaks to us in a slow and careful reading of a sacred text. While many may be familiar with the idea of lectio divina, there is something called audio divina through which God speaks to us in what we hear.

Take some time to allow the beauty of the music to flow over you. Paintner suggests to consider holy listening through answering the following questions:

As you listen to a hymn or anthem, what shimmers?

What do you want to savor?

What summons you to act?

How can you be stilled by the melody and message?

Listen with the ear of your heart.