The Song of God

Man is a musical composition, a wonderfully written hymn to powerful creative activity.
– St. Gregory of Nyssa (PG 44, 441 B)

In St. Gregory’s thought,  man is not only a singer, but a song. We are not only song, but the song of God. Indeed within one theme of the fathers, all of creation is the song of God, spoken (or sung) into existence. “Let there be light,” is more than the voice of command: it is the uttering of a phrase that sets the universe as fugue. God sings. All of creation sings. The song of praise that arises from creation is offered to God, the Author of all things. It is also the sound of the creation itself, a revelation of the truth of its being. Music is not entertainment: rightly sung, it is the very heart of creation.

The angels within Isaiah’s vision (chapter 6) call to one another in the song, “Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, O Lord God of Hosts….” The song of one calls forth the song of the other. Worship is the offering of our whole being, calling forth the song of all creation in union with the song which God Himself sings.

To understand oneself as the song of God, a phrase within His hymn of creation, affirms both our uniqueness as well as our union with the whole. Our prayer, our worship, our lives, are an offering of the song that God Himself has breathed.

Our habits of thought provide ways in which we conceive ourselves. It strikes me as worth noting that our modern concept of human existence has minimized the role of music. Music is something that we do, an industry by which we make money. It is an instrument for the glorification of egos. Music is distorted.

At the same time our culture has made music into a vast financial industry, people have themselves become less musical. The ability to play an instrument (other than air-guitar) has declined deeply. Music programs within schools are considered too expensive to fund. The number of young persons with no formal training or experience in music continues to rise. People rarely sing together (a once universal custom prior to modernity) except in the most structured environments. “Folk” music (the peoples’ music) is rapidly disappearing (these things are perhaps more true of America than Europe).

I would never predict a disappearance of music – for human beings are a song and the song will not disappear. But to live in a manner that is alienated from ourselves as the song of God is to live with an existential emptiness. If man is a singer, then he must sing – and he must sing to God.

Comments

  1. Julia Cutler says

    my husband and I really enjoy reading your blog. we are currently exploring Orthodox Christianity and your blog has been a blessing to us! God Bless

  2. Drewster2000 says

    Good words, Father.

    I’m reminded of Aslan singing the world into being in “The Magician’s Nephew”. And I think a lot of this disappearance of musical ability among the people comes from the fact that a person is required to express themselves when they perform music. They must not only reveal something that is in their hearts; they also by default perform the act of creation.

    The evil one is hostile to the act of creation – an ability we have because we were made in His image – and showing what’s in your heart is a vulnerable thing to do. Music (and other acts of creation) is most present where people feel safe.

    Such a catch-22. If a person is willing to venture out and make music, it will make the world a lighter, warmer place that will encourage others to join in. But it takes courage since when you first stand and start to play or sing, you often do it alone. Blessed are those who have a group to create in.

  3. says

    I am reading Song of Solomon… “the song” that is of His pursuit of us and our “song’ response back to Him. Beautiful. This post is right in line with some of my conclusions in this past week.