Tuesday, October 26, 2010

On the Profundity of Music

Music in our day and age is largely seen as mere entertainment.  And there is nothing wrong with the joy of music for music's sake - whatever the style.  But the quote attributed to St. Augustine "Qui cantat bis orat" ("He who sings prays twice") calls to mind how profound music really is in its deepest spiritual sense.

From the time of the Reformation, Lutherans have recognized the power and profundity of music and have tapped in to the power of music to teach, to proclaim, to confess, and to comfort - as have all Christians from the ministry of our Lord and His apostles, and even farther back in time to King David and the composition of the Psalms.

Today, Lutherans honor three saints, Philipp Nicolai, Johann Heermann, and Paul Gerhardt, all three of which were not only hymnwriters but pastors serving in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

Here is today's writing from the Treasury of Daily Prayer:

"Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608) was a pastor in Germany during the Great Plague, which took the lives of thirteen hundred of his parishioners during a six-month period.  In addition to his heroic pastoral ministry during that time of stress and sorrow, he wrote the texts for 'Wake, Awake, For Night Is Flying" and "O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright," known respectively as the king and queen of the Lutheran chorales.  
Johann Heermann (1583-1647), also a German pastor, suffered from poor health as well as from the ravages of the Thirty Years' War (1618-48).  His hymn texts are noted for their tenderness and depth of feeling .
Paul Gerhardt (1607-76) was another Lutheran pastor who endured the horrors of the Thirty Years' War.  By 1668, he had lost his pastoral position in Berlin (for refusing to compromise his Lutheran convictions) and endured the death of four of his five children and his wife.  He nevertheless managed to write 133 hymns, all of which reflect his firm faith.  Along with Martin Luther, he is regarded as one of Lutheranism's finest hymnwriters."


The Rev. BT Ball said...

Nice picture of the organ at my vicarage parish - First Lutheran of Boston, Massachusetts. That organ is a gem.

Paul said...

How can we call ourselves Lutherans and not sing the hymns of these faithful witnesses?

Bethany said...

Hey - that's the organ from my old church in Boston! I guess Pastor Ball was a vicar there before my time. They just finished adding a couple extra pipes too and are dedicating it with a Bach concert for Reformation Sunday.

Bethany Kilcrease

The Rev. BT Ball said...

I was vicar 1997-1998; Pr. Reuning's last vicar and Pr. Dutzmann's first, as my vicarage was at the end of Pr R.'s service and the beginning of Pr D.'s. Lots of joyful memories of FLC, as it was where I met my wife Serena who was in graduate school at Tufts University at the time of my vicarage. I married up.

Glad to hear about the addition to the organ, FLC is blessed to have that instrument, perhaps the finest organ in the LCMS.

Past Elder said...

Is First Lutheran the one in the Back Bay? Pastor Esget told me once but I forget now.

In my post-RC pre-Lutheran days, I used to walk past that one in the Back Bay and think "Those would be my guys, if I had guys".

LCMS was at the time the only church body for which I had any respect still left. Pretty much still is.

Who says music in our day and age is largely seen as mere entertainment? Pig's bum, if I my go all Aussie on you!

Our pop and rock stars are accorded a status of damn near priest, prophet and revelator.

Qui cantat cantat.