As a musician, specifically a church musician, part of my privilege in the liturgy (and it is a privilege), is I assist in lifting the people’s hearts and mind to God, through my voice, my instrument or whatever. St Augustine is quoted as having said “Those who Sing Pray Twice”. Surely St Francis, was regarded as God’s Minstrel. We all know about St Cecilia.
Holy Mother Church, has over the centuries, had many outlets for musical expression. Most are familiar with Gregorian Chant, but there are countless others, including Ambrosian chant ( a personal favorite of mine), Polyphony, as well as many modern, beautiful, worship-filled songs that help us focus, and help us find “The Source”.
Music in general, has a way of connecting the divine to the earthly. In a sense, its very nature forces us to go in ward..and to see the God, who lives in all our hearts, and who speaks to us from its very depths.
I’ve always been fascinated, and intrigued with how other faiths and cultures (especially those who share our Monotheistic attitude naturally), try to start that inward Journey. The Best place to start I think for any Christian to learn about themselves better, is to look to the beautiful expression of Faith from our Jewish Brethren. While we have differing views on the Messiah, and who he IS (as opposed to will be, which is the Jewish attitude, naturally), we both share the same view of God as Father (more important now than in the past). As such, we have a common ground to begin with.
I don’t know if it’s because of the Jewish Friends I have, The few rabbis I’m privileged to be friends with.. or perhaps some repressed inclinations I have by virtue of on my mother’s side some mid Europe Ancestry (Grandmother was Prussian and Polish), but I have always been aware of Sephardic, Chassidic and Yiddish music.. and it speaks to me.
A Few years back I stumbled upon Shlomo Carlebach , who was an innovator in itinerant jewish contemporary music. In other words he uses music to teach Torah in a way that normally a rabbi might simply have a sermon or talk to his congregation. That segwaid into Schlomo Katz , who I also discovered is my age (which to me is wierd…. I always think of Rabbi as old wise sage like men.. I digress though.. this is a Young Sage like man)-
Text of Vehakohanim Prayer
The particular piece, is from a live Concert he did from Melbourne, called Vehakohanim, which is a prayer that is recited on Yom Kippur, the holiest of days for the Jewish people, where the High Priest, The “Kohan Gadol”, would enter the Holy of Holies, the one day a year he would do this, and pray on behalf of the people. He would dare to utter the name of the most High.. Something that any other day of the year, one would NOT DARE say. Instead you hear names such as El Shaddai, Elohim,Yahweh El , Adonai El ohenu. Even the son of God, from the Cross, who is equal to the Father, didnt dare say his name, instead Crying out “Eli Eli! ” – That name of God.. is written into the very fabric of creation. So , for it to be said, creation itself, would have to be wed in a way, even temporarily and imperfect, as was made on Yom Kippur –
That Atonement is made perfect in the Cross – That name, the Word of God.. Exists in Yeshua… Jesus.. the Christ.. That name above all names, Emmanuel, God With Us, Jesus, God Saves. This is why we Catholics, will bow at the mention of his Holy name. Again, I digress. The lesson here.. the lesson is more important
One Thing our Jewish Brethren never lost, even in their more contemporary expressions, is a humble comprehension of the Awesomeness of God. The VERY FACT a Jew, wont spelled the word “God”.. but will spell it as such “G-D”, or wont even say it at all. Thats huge to me. It shows a true understanding of being the created.. and not being on the same terms as the creator. We Christians take our Father God too much for granted. I can think of the movie “Dogma” with the buddy Christ… Where its true God is our Father.. and our friend.. he is still God first. Likewise we can say this about the whole trinity, the God Headed united in love… Which is our Understanding of the wholeness of God.
IN the Lyrics, Rabbi tells us ” On the Holiest day of the Year, The holiest man in the world, Goes into the Holiest Place, and says the holiest name ” (paraphrased) – Just. Wow. What an understanding of who we are in relation to God…. The great privilege of what we are doing when we approach the throne. If Only a lot of Catholic Treated the Eucharist in the same way, or even the Protestants, treating the Word with that level of reverence… as opposed to the bibliography of reference
The biggest thing that sticks out to me though is where he brings us out of antiquity and back into the now where he says
” “The Closest we probably get to hearing what God’s blessed name is, when our Children look into our eyes… And they Say Mommy, Pappa, Abba.. Tati, its probably the closes well ever get.. So We need to hang onto those moments,… But not for long… because we need to hear that name so badly “”
First off..as a father, I get this.. and it really put into perspective.. what fatherhood is… Its a VERY SMALL piece in the Creator-ship that God has.
God made us, to be with him. To Love him, and to know him. The challenge though is in this life, we are intellectually incapable of knowing him, because by nature he is a Perfect love that we, in our fallen nature, can’t even begin to fathom. We Christians take the Cross for granted. We think.. because we believe.. that it’s a done deal. It’s not. We can still screw up, and we have to remember never to give up trying to understand God. Yes, God is a mystery, but that should be something awed and marveled at, and not simply a get out of jail free card.
Jews know this, its in Kabbalah. The Soul is designed to Go back to the Source. But its impure by sin. The Cross bathes us, and makes Christ a perfect Oblation, one that once and for all, allows us to Go home. This world isn’t our home.. Our Home is past here.. Over the sea.. Grey Havens.. all that good stuff.
So what I think.. is that we need to not stop at the “I’m Saved Because I believe”. We need to go deeper. One very wise Baptist man told me once “Its all about relationship”. That word to be is pretty infinite. It doesn’t have a beginning or end, but rather, its continuous, and it’s always rooted in the catch 22.. that in this life.. well never fully understand things, but.. one day we will. One day we will stand in his Glory..and Gaze on him.. and we wont want to gaze on anything else. We’ll fully comprehend the Love transcending.
The Jews have a Word.. and alot of Evangelicals know the word.. but they don’t know the word.. “Shekinah” , which literally means a Dwelling on of the Presence of God.. or in other words.. God amongst the people – This was said to rest above the Holy of Holies in the Cloud..and then on the “Mercy Seat” of the tabernacle, and I, as a Christian, fully believe that was made perfectly Manifest in Jesus Christ, who dwelt amongst us.
Shekinah – We Christians need to meditate on that.. and know it again. Maybe then we will act better. Maybe we Catholics in particular.. would have fear and trembling at the Eucharist.. instead of walking up like cattle to a trof. I wish we understood.. the awesome presence we stand in.. and the Glory manifest that’s there everytime we receive. We have the Eucharist…we have something tangible, and yet our Jewish brothers have nothing tangible, but still believe. That’s a bit of awesome right there. Period. End Stop.
We need to learn from our Jewish forefathers in faith. Start doing it. They are still around. Jesus himself.. was a Jew.. He had a very jewish way about him.He probably went to Schuul.. He Danced a Horah or Two. He Certainly had Chutzpah, and I think if we recover at least some of that understanding, we’ll know Him in a more comprehensive sense. Then we will begin to better understand the Name above all names.. and realize the Shekinah Glory.