I have built a life around music. Whether it be sitting at home listening to classical music, dancing and screaming the lyrics to Frozen with my ten month old daughter, or directing some of the choirs at St. Edward’s, music has infected every aspect of my life. While in church, it is often music that moves me to new heights of joy or allows my soul to rest and reflect on the glorious power of God. It is the music ministry community that I have the honor of being a part of, built around the power and love of God and music, that allows me to feel more connected with God than anything in my life. Each Monday and Wednesday night I come together and get to make music with different people from all stages of life, all of whom bring their own joys and burdens before God in the gift of music they offer up to Him. While our ability to come together physically to worship has been taken away, so has my ability to sync my heartbeat with thirty other people, become one voice, and offer up our gratitude for the gift of our lives and the music I hold so dear.
With that being said, it is easy to understand how I have run to music to try and find comfort these last few weeks. In my search for understanding and peace, a choral piece I sang in high school has been in my head and I can’t seem to shake it. The piece is called “The Awakening” by Joseph Martin.
The piece opens:
I dreamed a dream, a silent dream, of a land not far away, where no birds sang, no steeples rang, and tear drops fell like rain.
I can say with a fair bit of certainty that many of you reading this have never experienced anything like these past few weeks. Many of us have experience fear and uncertainty in our lives. However, this time everything seems to be uncertain. Everything seems to bring about some level of fear. Fear about the safety and health of family and loved ones. Fear about jobs. Fear about coming within twenty feet of another person. Fear about children keeping up with schoolwork. Fear, fear, fear, fear… Then on top of all of this, one place closes that many of us come to for comfort and support. Church. No steeples rang, and tear drops fell like rain…
A little bit further down in the piece:
No alleluia, not one hosanna, no song of love, no lullaby. And no choir sang to change the world. No pipers played; no dancers twirled. I dreamed a dream, a silent dream.
I sang these lines over and over in my head throughout Holy Week. How could we find the meaning in this Sacred week? How could my mind and soul fully come to know the depth of God’s love if I couldn’t see that cross raised above the heads of our RCIA members as the choir sang with all their hearts, “Behold, the Wood?” How could I find the joy in my heart sitting in an empty church on Easter Sunday without an overflowing congregation and a massive choir joyfully proclaiming “Alleluia!” for the first time in forty days? How…when so much is closed and the place I go for comfort and rest has closed their doors?
I know at this point many of you are reading this saying, “Andrew, how does this piece help you find peace? It’s really bring me down.” Thankfully, in the piece, just like in life, there is always hope. God is always there…
Awake! Awake! Awake! Awake! Soli Deo Gloria! Awake! Awake! Awake! Awake, my soul, and sing! The time for praise has come. The silence of the night has passed; A new day has begun.
As I listened to the piece, I could relate with the helpless sadness that the first half of the song portrayed. However, it was the second part of the song that touched my soul and raised my spirit. It was as if God was screaming, “WAKE UP!”
There is still joy all around us. Humanity has come together when it was at its most divided to help each other. If we look for it, we can find amazing stories of God’s love pouring out of family, friends, neighbors… I choose to be awake. To focus on the positives in this horrible situation.
Soli Deo Gloria! Glory to God Alone! We are not alone when we sit on our couches and watch Mass. We are not alone in feeling stress, doubt, and despair. We are not alone because God walks beside us. If there was ever a time that God was screaming, “You are not alone, I love you!” it is now. It is in this Easter season where God just reminded us how much he loves us by giving up his only begotten Son. Yes, the visual of the Cross above the heads of our deacons and RCIA members while the choir sings is one of the most powerful moments of our liturgical year. But it is not the music that gives the moment power or the even the symbolic carrying of the Cross. The power of the moment comes from God and that incredible act of God’s unimaginable love for us. The music and the pageantry of Holy Week are immensely powerful. But if God has shown us anything this year it is that Jesus still rises on the third day. Whether there are choirs chanting or churches filled to brim with people or not. JESUS ALWAYS RISES, JESUS IS ALWAYS THERE.
It is the Easter season and the time for praise has come. We can choose to praise God by proclaiming His love to the world; In acts that may seem small to some, but to someone in the world they can lift a burden off their shoulders and allow them to see God’s love flowing out of us.
I choose to praise God by being thankful for the gifts he has bestowed on my life. I choose to praise Him by cherishing every extra moment that I have with my family. I choose to praise Him in the music I sing alone in my car or while dancing with my daughter. I choose to praise Him by helping the needy in whatever ways I can. I choose to praise Him by remembering that he died for our sins so that we might live. How will you choose to praise God in this difficult time? He never said life would be easy, but He did say He would be with us.
Let music never die in me! Forever let my spirit sing! Wherever emptiness is found, let there be joy and glorious sound. Let music never die in me! Forever let my spirit sing!
Finally, it can be very easy to read the lyrics to this song and think that they apply very easily to my own life and love of music but not to other people. Every one of us has our own “music.” Every one of has that thing, that joy, that gift from God. In this time of uncertainty and stress, find that “music” in your lives and share it however possible. Do not be brought down for long and remember that God is always there. Fill the world with the glorious sound of God’s love when the world needs it most. Praise God in song and deed with whatever gifts God has bestowed upon you.
When you feel like you are stuck at the beginning of this song remember, there is always a second half if you only choose to find it.
Let all our voices join as one to praise the Giver of the song! Awake! Awake! Let music live!
I dreamed a dream, A silent dream,
Of a land not far away.
Where no birds sang, No steeples rang,
And teardrops fell like rain.
I dreamed a dream,
A silent dream Of a land so filled with pride
That ev'ry song, Both weak and strong,
Withered and died.
I dreamed a dream.
No alleluia, Not one hosanna,
No song of love, No lullaby.
And no choir sang to change the world.
No pipers played; no dancers twirled.
I dreamed a dream,
A silent dream.
Awake! Awake! Awake! Awake!
Soli Deo Gloria! Awake! Awake!
Awake! Awake, my soul, and sing!
The time for praise has come.
The silence of the night has passed;
A new day has begun.
Let music never die in me!
Forever let my spirit sing!
Wherever emptiness is found,
Let there be joy and glorious sound.
Let music never die in me!
Forever let my spirit sing!
Let all our voices join as one
To praise the Giver of the song!
Let music live!