Wednesday, August 21, 2013



Photo: R. Massaro(c)2013SpiritSinging
Sorrowful Mother Shrine Bellevue, Ohio

Do these words look familiar?  I've read the Psalms many, many times, but for some reason, never took note of Psalm 150's introductory phrase: "Final Doxology with Full Orchestra." (NAB)  "Orchestra" seems like such a modern day term, doesn't it?  After researching the word, I find that it has a Greek derivation. It is from the term, orcheisthai, meaning "to dance."

The footnote for the Psalm states: "As a grand finale, the psalmist calls upon all the musical instruments of the temple service to join in the praise of the Lord; thus, the psalm serves as the closing doxology (hymn of praise to God), not only to the Fifth Book of the Psalms, but to the whole Psalter."

There is much spiritual symbolism in the orchestra. To being with, the musicians must follow the musical score, just as we in the Catholic Church must follow the teaching of the Magesterium.  We know that problems arise when individuals want to interpret Scripture for themselves and follow their own teaching. Think of the problems this would present if a musician strayed from the piece at hand and began playing his own composition. Probably pretty painful to the ear, drawing attention to the offender, and disturbing the peace of everyone!

Next, imagine in your mind, the conductor, standing on his platform, with baton in hand, or just using his hands in grand gestures to mark time and instruct each section of the orchestra. He's got a pretty tough job if no one pays attention to him. Perhaps he needs to slow the tempo or inspire them to play with more emotion. We can liken the conductor to the spiritual director who helps us keep the harmony in our spiritual life. He's the one who keeps reminding us about the piece we are to play (God's will) instead of straying from the score at hand to "play our own song."

If you've ever sung in a choir or played in a band, you know that one of the keys to harmony and unity in a musical setting is to listen to each other. The choir's goal is to sing as one voice. It's very noticeable when there are one or two people who want to sing louder than everyone in order to be noticed. So, I believe it takes great humility to sing in a choir or play in an orchestra.  You have to be docile to the leadership of the conductor. You have to do what everyone else is doing; playing the score, playing as one, not standing out from the crowd (unless it's the time and place for your solo). 

The example above is the same principle for us during Mass. Consider the new responses and gestures of the revised Roman Missal that were recently put into place.  Did you hear grumbling from people?  "I'm not going to say that, I'm going to say what I've always said." And other similar responses. It takes humility to do what everyone else is doing at Mass. It seems most people don't understand that unity in our responses and gestures at Mass create "one voice" and "one body", reflecting the unity in the people of God that is pleasing to the Lord.

So, the next time you go to a concert or view one online, look at the spiritual symbolism displayed. Or as one priest I know would say, "Look at the world through contemplative eyes."  See the conductor as the Holy Spirit leading and sanctifying the people of God. We must be docile to his direction. We must pay attention to him and listen to his promptings. He provides the grace so that we can practice virtue and lead holy and peaceful lives. Lives in which we are at peace with God and our neighbor. This creates a holy hymn of praise to God: with full orchestra!  

Peace be with you!
Rosemarie, ocds

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