On the Spirit

When I was at the University, I sung in several choirs over the course of my time.  They weren’t part of my major, but I’d always loved to sing, and I’d likewise loved the sound of a big, four-plus part choir.  I would sometimes sing tenor, sometimes bass, depending on what was needed.  I was (am) not a particularly talented singer, but I practiced plenty, I listened well, and I have sufficiently good pitch.  One of the great parts of singing in a choir is that you don’t need anyone with much talent or power.  If you get 80-plus voices working together, you can fill an auditorium with harmonious song.  Thinking back on it in context of this blog, that was a powerful lesson on the value of community, and one I hadn’t even bothered to reflect on until now.

The reason I bring up that memory is several-fold.

During a walk today, I reflected back on a recent moment of learning regarding the Holy Spirit.  In my entire life, no one bothered to explain who or what the Spirit was with clarity, and I was astonished to hear someone put it so simply: the Holy Spirit is what fills us up with inspiration, and compels us to feel a sense of closeness to God.  It is the impetus, the driving force in our relationship with God.  Until I heard it put so plainly and eloquently, I’d never really had an understanding of what it meant–or perhaps I simply hadn’t sought an answer.  After all, growing up praying in a Lutheran church, I think I was repeating lines verboten than actually internalizing the prayers as lessons.

I can say definitively that I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit on multiple occasions, one of which I’d like to talk about here in this space.  One semester, during the second half of my sophomore year, one of the songs chosen for us was a rendition of Psalm 96.  It reads (in English, by the NIV):

Sing to the Lord a new song;
  sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
  proclaim his salvation day after day.

and this version, in French, by Jan Sweelinck:

Chantez à Dieu, chanson nouvelle,
Chantez, ô terre universelle,
Chantez, et son Nom bénissez.
Et de jour en jour annoncez
Sa délivrance solennelle.

The song is appropriately uptempo, quick and light, with staccato beats and staggered melody lines.  It’s a beautiful melody, with rich harmonies, and it’s wondrous to hear. You can hear it below.

As someone that has taken this song on, I can tell you that it is trickier than it sounds, and also that this group is quite good, even if they do have a little trouble with their sibilants. That is neither here nor there.

The point, to me, is that during practice I could tell it was a wonderful song, and a poetic translation of the verse.  I can also tell you that during practice, even on full run-throughs, I did not feel compelled.

However, in front of an auditorium which sat slightly over 500, I can tell you that I got that chill during the resolved crescendo: “et son Nom bénissez.”  Despite the nerves, I was floored. That shiver ran through my body, and I was filled with . . . something. At the time, I simply chalked it up to performance adrenaline. Looking back upon it, knowing what I know now, I know what it was.

On rare occasions, I can still capture that feeling while listening to a sacred hymn.  Now that I know what I’m looking for, I’ll be more grateful for those moments.

Verse of the day:

Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in my heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Prayer of the day:

Father above us, Father among us, Father in our hearts, today is a day of praise.  I ask that today you help bring peace and comfort to my burdened heart as it aches.

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