How Can I Keep From Singing?

The week has been full of stories of grief and sadness. The conversations have teemed with struggle and bafflement. The news of the day from all around the world, and in my home town brings no joy. I read in a wise book that to live Wholeheartedly, there must be music. (Thank you, Brene Brown!) And I am reminded that there is a Taize service close by, a night of contemplative worship.

I enter the space, bathed only in half-light, with an icon from St. Catherine’s, Mt. Sinai of Christus Pancrator, surrounded with candles. It  is hard to tell, and  it does not matter, how many others are there in the palpable silence. The welcome is a respite from the frantic Friday night traffic speeding along the boulevard. It takes very little to bring my selves, all of them, back again and again into the quiet space, getting ready for the prayers and silence to follow. And then the notes begin from the balcony behind begin:

Stay with us O Lord Jesus Christ, Light in our darkness.

Yes, this is what I long for –Light stronger than darkness, Good stronger than evil, Hope rather than despair. Stay with me, O Holy One.

A sacred text is read. And then we sing, following the choir: The Lord is my Light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? Another song I have needed to hear, to sing, to breathe. There is a Holy One who can make a way where I do not see, sense or feel a Way. I can let go of all the anxious toil that comes with caring and presence, maybe even just with remembering to sing this chant.

A prayer, and we join together (and by now it is clear to me that this sacred space is full!):  Lord, may our prayer rise like incense in your sight, may this place be filled with the incense of Christ. More of my senses are involved. What is this lovely fragrance we are breathing and sharing in the candle-light? Is it the beauty of holiness? is it the sweetness of brothers and sisters gathered in unity?

Another chant: Jesus, your light is shining within us. Let not my doubts and darkness speak to me.  Well, this is the heart of the matter. As I sing it over and over in four part harmony with descants soaring into the ample space, I can feel the doubts and darkness flee; not the difficulties and tragedies, but my own bleakness which threatens in times of tiredness and let-down.

A reading from John, then one from Brother Roger of Taize, new to me, which are hope-filled. And then a bidding prayer to the three persons of the Trinity that in a general way covers all of my own personal griefs and burdens that accompanied me as I entered this space; we chant in reply, Kyrie, kyrie eleison. Then, one by one we file up the chancel to light our tapers from the candles already lit, to open our hearts and souls to the healing and restoration of the One who brought us there this evening. As we pray we hear these melodies lifted:

My soul is at rest in God alone, my salvation come from God.

Nada te turbe, nada te espante, Solo Dios basta.

Ubi caritas et amour, Deus ibi est.

The melodies and harmonies linger and resonate, the words settle into the crevices of my heart;  they are music to my soul: Nunc dimitis servum tuum Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace.

And in silence we rest, in silence we go out; in silence we give thanks. How can I keep from singing!?!

About Elizabeth Nordquist

Elizabeth Nordquist is a Presbyterian pastor, teacher, and spiritual director who pens beautiful reflections on women's issues, spirituality and Scripture. Each day she looks for ways in which the Spirit is moving in and around her.


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