Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
– Psalm 100
Right now might feel like anything other than a joyful time. Not only are we in the midst of a pandemic with many folks, even if not known to us, sick, suffering and dying. But we are also heading ever closer to Holy Week and the suffering and crucifixion of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. Yet we have not entered Holy week yet and there is a joyful somberness, at least as I understand it, to Great Lent in general. A time of anticipating the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the breaking down of the gates of Hades and conquering of death.
All last week was very gray and rainy here. Whereas before I could distract myself with joys of planting radishes and lettuce into our garden, last week left little space for noticing the wonders of spring. And, amidst the doldrums, while we were rooting out new corners of the house to play with in new ways, I kept noticing my children humming or singing some Orthodox tunes we have been listening to over the last few weeks.
Thank you to Elissa Bjeletich and Kristina Wegner for creating the Virtual Sunday School that I hope many of you have already seen through Ancient Faith. If not definitely check it out. It has some visuals to keep kids eyes focused, but it is not animated and allows our mind to focus on the words being said. One of their suggested activities from the Sunday of the Cross was to listen to a song written by an Orthodox singer-songwriter Gigi Shahid called “God is the Boss”.
It turns out Gigi has a CD or perhaps two or three and has made five wonderful YouTube clips singing her songs with arm gestures. This is so irresistible for children. My 3 year old yesterday was making a fort in the basement singing the words “Jesus was crucified at Golgotha” and my (nearly) two year was climbing on our play structure singing (only partly intelligibly) “Stop. Don’t do it. What would Jesus do?” As I finish up this blog now, in a stollen moment, I hear my oldest in the bathtub with the other two next door singing “Three for the trinity, two for the natures of Christ!” It’s always surprising to me how much my children, and children in general, are captivated by music and song.
Yesterday, after liturgy, my eldest asked if we could listen to Easter music. And he didn’t mean hymns. He meant the equivalent of Christmas music. My husband remarked later how lovely it is that he assumes there is a plethora of music celebrating Pascha just as there is for Nativity. We did a very brief Google search and came up with an album by the Go Fish Guys (not Orthodox) called I Believe (an Easter Curriculum) which we could stream through Google play music. Very poppy but catchy. Of course, we have amazing hymns for Pascha, which my kids love to sing, but there is a difference between the catchy phrases of casual songs and the deep and awesome beauty of our Church’s hymns.
Young children are so curious and fascinated with memorizing, although we adults generally shy away from it. It’s incredible to me how many of our church’s hymns and how many of our home prayers my kids know by heart. And putting music to that just makes the memorization so much faster and even more fun.
So consider making a joyful noise to the Lord (whether or not you consider that you can hold a tune – your kids don’t care). Consider putting your prayer into song. And definitely have your kids check out God is the Boss and Gigi’s other wonderful YouTube clips as well as the rest of her music. Please tell me what other songs and music you and your family love. And, in the midst of these moments of great despair, let’s try to remember to glorify God for all things.
With love in Christ,