Sunday, December 09, 2012

Advent II, Part 1

Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song,
   his praise in the assembly of the faithful.-Psalm 149:1
Let me sing for my beloved   my love-song concerning his vineyard:My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill -Isaiah 5:1
Without music, life would be a mistake.- Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight Of The Idols
More than language, more than reason, more than our ability to use our hands and minds to create tools to make our lives better, the greatest single thing we human beings can do is create beauty.  If there is, as we profess, still some spark of the Creator within our sinful, broken lives, it is just this.  Whether a painting - perhaps the chiaroscuro of Rembrandt, or the abstract expressionism of Pollock - or the architecture of joy one sees whether looking at the magnificent mosques of Muslim Spain, the grand Buddhist temples of ancient Khmer in Cambodia or the cathedrals of France, or perhaps the simple beauty of homespun craftsmanship in mundane pieces of workaday art like Shaker chairs, we human beings have this gift not only to make something out of nothing, but to give what's made the ability to rip us out of time, to stand and experience something majestic, profound, and eternal.  In the arts, as perhaps in no other sphere of human activity, we have the opportunity to experience transcendence without needing to understand what is happening to us.

While I enjoy the physical and visual and plastic arts, it is hearing music that lifts me out of whatever moment I might occupy and drops me before the throne of God, giving me the experience of the Divine "Yes!" that can be otherwise obscured.  The Scriptures quoted above, part of the readings for this second Sunday in Advent, celebrate the power and possibility of song.  We are called to sing songs.  Psalm 149 celebrates a "new song" that is sung not just by we human beings, but all creation in praise of God.  Isaiah 5 sings of song of a parable of a landowner who creates a magnificent vineyard that is overrun by wild grapes.  Despite the landowners tender love and care, at the end the only thing the landowner can do is tear it all down, destroy the weeds that choke the life out of any chance for good wine.  Will the landowner build anew?  The parable, alas, leaves us hanging, although we do know that the prophet Isaiah is the great prophet of the LORD's promise to renew the people.   The song of the destruction of the vineyard is not the only song to be sung.

The Psalms are filled with admonitions to "Sing a new song".  The prophets are filled with the promise that the judgment for injustice and unrighteousness will not be a death sentence, but already pregnant with the promise for new life, a new hope, and, yes, new songs.  Morton Lauritsen's setting for O Magnum Mysterium, certainly among those musical moments that ring out with God's affirmation for all creation, includes the celebration of the presence of the animals at the moment of Christ's birth.  All creation takes part in praising God for the wondrous gift of God in Christ; for that, we are called to sing a new song.  All creation is called to sing praises to God because, in the birth of the Christ Child, we encounter the new thing that God always promises.

These new things call for new songs of Praise.

Virtual Tin Cup

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More