Wednesday, March 25


As I prepare for my sermon this coming Lord's Day, I have been thinking a good deal about the character and nature of singing. I ran across this old journal entry on what singing indicates in the heart and character of a man:

Iam lucis orto sidere
Deum precemur supplices,
ut in diurnis artibus
nos servet a nocentibus.

The harmonic drone of the chant for this Medieval Latin hymn is unvarying--like Medieval manners, customs, and generations. It has an ironic quality in it which savors at once both the pathetic and the steadfast. Its few notes recall those ancient themes which conceal something of the dreadful fallen estate of man but are yet buoyed by his supreme dignity and by the majestic purpose of the human will yielded to divine providence. Its Latin phrases ring out in the still morning air--and across the centuries--connecting us to the truth of the faith once and for all delivered to the saints, to the hope of the Kingdom that transcends all other kingdoms, and to the strength of a united Christendom against which even the gates of Hell may never withstand:

Deo Patri sit gloria,
eiusque soli Filio,
cum Spiritu Paraclito,
et nuc et in perpetuum.

Singing such hymns lifts the heart, shortens the way, and advertises a man's reputation. It is an admirable thing. A man who so sings--loudly, clearly, and well--proves, more often than not, to be of good character. He is master of himself. He is strict and well managed. He is prompt, alert, swift, and to the point. He is unafraid and jolly. He is disciplined and congenial with a clear conscience before both God and men. There is method in him. All these things may be in a man who does not sing, of course. But singing makes them apparent.


Anonymous said...

If the correlation only holds "more often than not," then it is not proven. It seems to me more likely that we construct a positive view of a man, oftentimes falsely, when he is able to sing well. Or perhaps we notice the virtue of his voice more readily when we already admire him. At any rate, I do not mean to detract from your true observation that singing is indeed a glorious blessing. However, I believe talent in singing indicates very little about one's character. Surely there are disorderly and malicious men who sing well.

gileskirk said...

Cratus: I agree. I specifically did not mention "talent" in singing. Indeed, I mentioned almost anything and everything about robust singing except talent.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I assumed too hastily that the word "well" implied some degree of talent, but that is not my primary concern. If a bad man may sing well, it leads one to question whether singing does imply anything about character, even in most cases. Certainly, one would like a beautiful voice to be associated with beautiful morals, but a voice does seem an odd basis for perceiving another's goodness.

gileskirk said...

Cratus: Again, "voice" is not at issue here--I never mention quality or timbre. Instead, in this post I am thinking about that host of character traits that often manifest themselves in robust, jolly, methodical hymn-singing. Anything may be counterfeited, of course. But it is rare when this kind of hymn-singing marks a man's daily discourse in the world.

Anonymous said...

Ah. Thank you for explaining. I suppose I fixed my mind upon "a man who so sings...well" without understanding what you intended. Since there is no inclusion of aural beauty beyond "robust, jolly, methodical hymn-singing," I do think it is a good observation to make. Singing is often unduly neglected as a part of daily spiritual practice.

Unknown said...

Cratus - one of my favorite hymns sums up the idea so very well. How Can I Keep From Singing? by Robert W. Lowry

My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth’s lamentation
I hear the sweet though far off hymn
That hails a new creation:
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul—
How can I keep from singing?

What though my joys and comforts die?
The Lord my Savior liveth;
What though the darkness gather round!
Songs in the night He giveth:
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging;
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?

I lift mine eyes; the cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smoothes
Since first I learned to love it:
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
A fountain ever springing:
All things are mine since I am His—
How can I keep from singing?

gileskirk said...

Cy: Perfect illustration. Thanks.