Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Harmony of Unity

I love playing the guitar; that is, I love playing over and over again the half dozen chords I know really well, mixing them up in their respective keys, and throwing in a little picking and hammering here and there for style. Yup, pretty basic.

But there is harmony, and yes, "I've got rhythm." As basic as my guitar playing is, it is at the very least "melodious." Now enter our little niece Michaela. When she picks up that guitar and starts strumming it, as strong as her desire to make music is, harmony just ain't gonna happen. We all know this, as we watch and smile and encourage this beautiful little 2 year old to "play the guitar." Who cares about harmony? It's cute!

Now the funny thing is, Michaela seems to believe she's making music. She can't tell when something is off, out of tune, dischordant. All she knows is, sounds are coming out and people are smiling. Yeeeeaaaah! But suppose an adult were to take that guitar and begin to haphazardly smack a hand across the strings. Unless that person were Chevy Chase, this would not be funny or cute. It would be downright painful.

Music takes some muscle, harmony is hard work, and for symphonies to sweeten the air, I think sweat has to first grace the brow. It takes discipline and study to enter into the movement of the Music that made the world.

Maybe making music was easier before the Fall of humanity, when the mind and the heart, the will and the intellect, were one. Today, there is a great discord in the air. No one needs to tell us or teach us this truth. We can all hear it for ourselves. The sour note of sin continues to draw our melodies away from that Original Music.

So the work is laid out for us. That's the path of virtue; it's the effort of the player to match those original melodies. So we live and move and we sweat out our music, always with our eyes on the wood of the Conductor's baton. Always open to the influx of His Music, drinking it in before His feet, getting His music in us. Letting Him sing it to us over and over again like a lullaby in the sweet song of the sacraments. And should our playing of the Song go awry, or a fellow player beside us turn his notes towards the Distractor, we must look back to our Leader, the One Who wrote the piece we've been invited to play an integral part in.

The band we play in is certainly a "motley crew" (pun intended). Often a violin can falter, the fife should play lowly, and they should beat that drum slowly, but it limps along. What do we do? Transfer to another band? Go solo? No! Play on! Play through! Obey the Conductor, and respect the leaders of this band of musicians. That's the advice of one of our earliest players. He was there when the band first got together. St. Ignatius of Antioch, 2nd century bishop and martyr:

"It is fitting, therefore, that you should be in agreement with the mind of the bishop as in fact you are. Your excellent presbyters, who are a credit to God, are as suited to the bishop as strings to a harp. So in your harmony of mind and heart the song you sing is Jesus Christ. Every one of you should form a choir, so that, in harmony of sound through harmony of hearts, and in unity taking the note from God, you may sing with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father. If you do this, he will listen to you and see from your good works that you are members of his Son. It is then an advantage to you to live in perfect unity, so that at all times you may share in God."
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