The Healing Balm of Sacred Music
Fr. Scott Haynes
Church musicians enjoy a certain insight into theology through sacred music. Consider the Garden of Eden in musical terms. Before Adam and Eve fell from grace, there was perfect harmony in Eden. Their voices blended perfectly with the angels. All of nature resounded this hymn of praise. But the harmony of creation was shattered when Adam and Eve sang the first sour notes in human history. They committed the original sin.
Adam and Eve spoiled the harmony between God and man, and introduced a dissonance that could only be resolved by God. Yet, God converted man’s original sin into a “happy fault” (felix culpa), bringing forth a greater good for the human race through Christ’s salvation. Hence it is written: “Where sin abounded, grace did more abound” (Rom. 5:20).
Just as good conductor tries to pull his choir together when it is falling apart, so too did our Divine Conductor come to the rescue when we came apart at the seams. The Psalmist proclaims: “I was sliding down into the pit of death, and he pulled me out… He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God” (Ps. 40:2-3). When God redeemed us in the “bond of perfect unity” (Col. 3:14), He taught us a more excellent song in Christ our Savior.
Praising God through music is a potent tool for healing the rupture wrought by Adam’s sin. Through our musical offering to God, the Holy Spirit enters in to make of our music a healing balm for broken hearts. St. Hildgegard remarked: “Singing summons the Holy Spirit. Happy praises offered in simplicity and love lead the faithful to complete harmony, without discord. So sing!” (Scivias).