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Psalm 22: My God, My God, Why Have You Abandoned Me? - Guest Post by David Orzechowski

Sing A Psalm Commentary

Psalm 22

“My God, My God, Why Have You Abandoned Me?”

“Being Made New As We Experience the Paschal Mystery Anew”

Psalm 22, a psalm of personal lament, is the proper psalm for the Catholic liturgy of Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. It is also the ‘common psalm’ for use during Holy Week.

In this reflection, I should like to talk a bit about the concept of ‘lament’ in the psalms and in worship. From there, I will speak about how, through holy remembering, (anamnesis) the celebration of the liturgy makes present the Paschal Mystery, and how, in particular, the liturgies of Holy Week help us experience this anew as ‘all things are made new.’ Lastly, since this is a resource directed primarily toward church musicians and artists, I will share some thoughts on the experiences of abandonment and loneliness creatives often must endure. This time of year can be very taxing for people who work in church ministry. We need to remember to care for our physical and emotional well-being. As well, this is a perfect time to remind us to support and care for each other.

Lament Is Not a Dirty Word

We tend to think of ‘lament’ in unfavorable terms. In fact, many of our tendencies in modern worship have downplayed or even ‘disallowed’ lament. We feel we’ve somehow failed if people don’t always come away from our worship feeling warm and fuzzy. We tend to think that, if we’re people of the Resurrection, we shouldn’t ever give expression to sadness or lamentation in our worship. We shouldn’t be so negative. We should be more filled with hope. We fear that lamenting will somehow make us sound ungrateful to God. We’re afraid to tell God how undone or even angry we are about a situation. This downplaying of being allowed to lament before God is a disservice to ourselves and to our common worship. As people of faith, we need to embrace and not be afraid of experiencing and properly expressing the entire gamut of human emotion. The psalmist certainly held nothing back! Neither should we. Lamentation is not the same as ‘despair,’ which is the state of having given up all hope. On the contrary, lamentation is an act of faith in God. All our feelings are laid before God openly and honestly. Underlying lamentation is the belief that God is indeed in charge and can effect the change for which we long or put an end to the strife and suffering we’re encountering. Lamentation gives healthy expression to grief. It is not grief expressed without faith or hope for a future. Psalms of lament always crescendo toward praising God, affirming our faith and hope in Him and even recommitting ourselves to being agents of making God’s wondrous deeds and trustworthiness made known. The final verse of Psalm 22 that is used liturgically for Palm Sunday shows this:

(Psalm 22:23-24)

I will proclaim your name to my brethren;

in the midst of the assembly I will praise you:

“You who fear the Lord, praise him;

all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him;

revere him, all you descendants of Israel!”

In our task of being agents of God’s word and of His compassion and mercy, we pray psalms of lament on behalf of the entire human family. We must remember that we live not only for ourselves. The Church’s liturgy also ‘lives’ not only for itself. Rather, the prayer of the Church is a lightning rod collecting the many needs of God’s people and charged with making intercession on their behalf. That is why, for example, the Church prays psalms of lament when they appear in the daily office, even if nothing on the local scene is necessarily calling forth such emotion in any apparent way. We ourselves may be feeling entirely joyful within our given situation that day. Yet, we know there are brothers and sisters in far too many other places experiencing situations that cry out in lamentation. As lightning rods and conduits of God’s grace and mercy, we unite ourselves to them in solidarity and earnest prayer. Thus, the prayer of the Church is a 24/7 living entity, always being animated, sustained and renewed by the Paschal Mystery.

An Excellent Way to Use Psalm 22

As an aside, I wish to make a practical recommendation regarding the use of this psalm during Holy Week. The Missal recommends that Psalm 22 be used as the psalm during the distribution of Communion on Good Friday. I would encourage anyone who has not used it this way to seriously consider doing so, employing the very same setting as was used earlier in the week for Palm Sunday. This helps create a sense that the events of Holy Week have indeed come full circle. With very little effort, you as Music Director can help tie together the events of this entire week. If your setting of this psalm is well chosen, poignant, arresting, one that can bear the weight of the text properly, the reappearance of this psalm at Communion on Good Friday can be an extremely powerful moment liturgically and emotionally. As the last musical utterance of the assembly until the Easter Vigil, this psalm can communicate psychologically that we have arrived at the moment of Christ’s total abandonment, self-sacrifice and surrender to the Father’s will. From here, ‘the only way is up.’ Using this perfectly timed musical opportunity, you help your community stand on the threshold between Good Friday and Easter in a dramatic way.

Experiencing the Paschal Mystery Anew

Let us back up a bit to what I said earlier: we are not without faith or hope for a future. The Church’s liturgy and our worship also remind us that we have a future. In fact, as the Body of Christ we are a people who have a past, present and future, which come together as one whenever we gather to celebrate the liturgy.

We must remember that the Church’s liturgy is never merely play-acting or commemorating an historical event. For example, we don’t begin Holy Week each year ‘pretending’ that Jesus has not already died and risen from the dead. Rather, during the Paschal Triduum, ‘all things are made new’ and are experienced anew as if for the first time. This blurring of what happened in the past and what is happening right now is due to holy remembering, which only makes sense to people of faith. The Greek word for this is ‘anamnesis’… ‘holy remembering’… which makes these events that occurred once in history present again in the realm of faith. Our earthly marking of time suddenly becomes irrelevant. Past, present and future become one. As we enter the Paschal Triduum, the church bells are rung during the “Gloria,” announcing praise to God and our entrance into a very sacred time. Then they are silenced until the “Gloria” is sung once again at the Easter Vigil. This is certainly done to cast a certain somberness over the time between Holy Thursday and the Easter Vigil. However, I like to think this is also one more way of communicating that time itself has suddenly stood still. The bells no longer mark the hours or announce the praying of the Angelus. There are no ‘new’ services to which to call the faithful to worship, for once the Triduum begins, it is considered to be as one great service, extended over three days, Holy Thursday evening through Easter Sunday evening.

With each passing year, we as individuals and as a community delve a little deeper into the Paschal Mystery and into living the sort of lives that show we embrace it. So, while the same readings, stories and actions occur in the liturgies of Holy Week each year, it is we who change. Perhaps it is more accurate to say we are changed by our ongoing relationship with God, with each other and in our faithful celebration of the Church’s liturgy throughout the rest of the year. When we celebrated these same liturgies a year ago, we were different from whom we are today. We are different today from whom we will be next year at this time. The words, songs and experiences speak to us anew each time, sometimes in imperceptible ways and sometimes in profoundly obvious, new ways. This is how the church’s liturgy is indeed ‘living.’ It is never static! During the course of the Triduum, ‘all things are made new,’ – experienced anew - the Eucharist itself, the holy oils, the paschal candle, the baptismal font, and us as God’s holy people, especially in the renewal of our baptismal promises! Everything is refreshed, renewed, made new.

Experiencing Loneliness as Artists and the Self-Abandonment to Which We Are Called

Writing this series of reflections on the Psalms has provided me with an opportunity to reflect and look deeply inward. It has also afforded me the opportunity to communicate and rub elbows with other like-minded creatives/artists. It’s led me to talking about life and matters of the heart with family, coworkers and friends, new and old. These conversations have confirmed something I knew all along: artists/creatives experience life in a very unique way. Often, we deal with feelings of loneliness, and for some at least, fear and abandonment. I’m not saying that we’re somehow ‘special’ or that we suffer any more than many other people on this planet! However, I am saying that I think our perspective and how we process our experience of life as creatives is unique. Also unique are the gifts we then offer to others as the fruit of our contemplation and ‘processing.’ You see, we process on behalf of all. We too live not only for ourselves; God uses us as beautiful instruments on behalf of all his people. Along with the entire Church, we are conduits of God’s grace in a very important way, that of giving expression in sight and sound to the entire human experience, including lamenting! Artists and creatives share in their unique way the Church’s universal task of being lightning rods within the human family. The fact that we use our gifts to give expression not only to our own feelings but to those of the entire human family adds to the weight of what we carry around with us at any given time on any given day. However, this is what we are called to do. We embrace it with much love in our hearts…but also at a price, often to ourselves or our relationships. I don’t know about you fellow musicians out there, but I’m a person who, at the drop of a hat, can suddenly become so ‘taken’ with a single chord progression or passage of music, that I listen to it, contemplate it, process the meaning of it over…and over… and over, sometimes for days. Then, in another moment, another situation, on another day, it’s gone…dealt with…or life presents something else with which I become completely ‘taken.’ One friend describes this as ‘going down the rabbit hole.’ What we experience in being led to deep, secluded places is what then allows us to come back out of that rabbit hole and say to the rest of humanity, “Look what I’ve seen! Look what I’ve experienced. Now, I offer it to you in song, in writing, in painting so that you too may have a chance to experience it as wondrously and full of awesome mystery as I have.”

Life can be very lonely for an artist/creative. So often, I’ve wanted to say to people, ”Oh! You mean, that’s all that passage of music does for you? You’re really able to move on to the next thing so easily, so quickly? What’s ‘wrong’ with me that I can’t or don’t even wish to do that?” It’s also lonely when, every once in a while, we’re reminded by something that happens or a comment someone makes (usually a criticism) that what we offer is seen as being merely a commodity. It stings when we’re forced to admit that everyone seems to adore artists when a little background music or an emotional ‘fix’ is needed. Yet, when the event, the worship service, the party, the tragedy is over, suddenly the world no longer seems to have any patience for our emoting and perceived ‘neediness.’ “Why do you artists have to go around thinking and feeling so much?” “Why does everything always have to be so ‘deep’ for you creatives?” “Can’t you just get out of your head for once and just be?” Seriously? From where do people think all the depth and beauty we share comes? It isn’t formed in a vacuum!

It comes from being that ‘lightning rod’ for the human experience. It comes from knowingly saying ‘yes’ to being that for others. It comes from people who are willing to sacrifice and give of themselves by carrying the burden of interpreting the entire human experience in addition to what they carry as part of their own attempts to live a ‘normal,’ everyday life.

As musicians/artists, we also tend to isolate ourselves. This, because many of us identify as introverts, even though one would never guess this to be the case watching us at work during worship! We must also admit our sin: many of us can be very territorial and judgmental, becoming very easily threatened by someone whose interpretation or style doesn’t agree with our own or what we were taught by our teachers. Then there are also the ‘style wars’ within church music ministry: contemporary vs. traditional. Do we ever see each other first as fellow pilgrims and seekers in need of each other’s support, rather than as the labels we love to create?... that ‘contemporary’ musician vs. ‘traditional’ organist vs. that singer from the ‘other’ music group in the parish?

Loneliness for us as artists and creatives is not limited only to our personal relationships, self-perceptions, self-sabotage or failures with our colleagues. It’s found in church life and ministry in general as well. Worship and music directors, liturgical artists, etc. are often very alone as the only professionals in their ‘department’ or position on church staffs. The loneliness is especially compounded when there’s a change of pastor and the new leader doesn’t share the same philosophy or vision of worship. As well, we often bear the burden of being fellow pilgrims, seekers and parishioners while also having to maintain the perspective and objectivity required of a staff person. Here too, in community, artists find themselves serving as lightning rods. A pastor I knew once said that, of all the various facets of life in a parish, the lightning rod for the faith community is usually located within its worship. Think about that for a minute. While every facet of community life is important and exists for the benefit of all, building up the Body of Christ, it is the worship that directly affects everyone. Not everyone may directly experience or participate in every ministry of the community. However, all who come through the doors of our churches personally experience and are affected by the worship! So then, is it any wonder that if there are unresolved issues within the community, they usually somehow manifest themselves within the common worship? Finally, the artists in a community are often overworked, underpaid, misunderstood, underappreciated, until the music is suddenly gone and everyone wonders what happened.

Fellow Artists Who are Lamenting

What about artists who are truly lamenting right now, who are lonely and hurting at this time? We all probably have friends or colleagues in music, liturgy, worship and the arts who are dealing with some pretty serious issues. It might be due to illness, broken relationships, burnout, a sense of having lost direction, purpose or value as a person. Perhaps they are someone with whom we have lost contact in recent years. Do we need to change that?

When I started these reflections, I told myself that I would always try to write from personal experience. I vowed that I would always trust the Holy Spirit to lead me in the direction I should go. This reflection has been no different in that regard. A person very dear to me, a phenomenal artist who I look up to very much, has been experiencing loss and abandonment in this most recent season of life. So much of life no longer seems to make sense for this person. Sometimes, what they are experiencing seems like some cruel joke on the part of God. As a friend, I also feel a sense of abandonment. I hurt alongside them when they hurt. While I try to offer support and encouragement, there are many times I simply don’t know what to say. I feel helpless in my desire to truly make a difference for them. I can sometimes feel rather ineffective as a friend or impotent as a witness to the Gospel of life. I find myself sometimes becoming angry at God or filled with cynicism: “God, if you truly cared, you wouldn’t let this person suffer.” Luckily, these episodes of lamentation have never lasted to the point of despair. I manage to maintain hope that God has a wonderful plan for this person and a vision for them that is much wider than anything either of us can imagine. However, I must be honest and acknowledge that I struggle and doubt with and for them.

Right now, my friend is physically unable to sing! This affects their ability to ‘sing’ emotionally and spiritually too. Even when I’ve been ill, I don’t think my voice has ever been completely silenced. I’ve found myself trying to imagine being in my friend’s shoes, wondering how awful it must be to be a singer who can no longer sing. What does someone feel who is worried whether they will ever be able to sing again? What does their inability to sing do to their overall sense of wellbeing or purpose? Surely, they must ask, “Why have I seemingly been silenced when all I wish to do is God’s work, to “proclaim God’s praise to my brethren and friends…amidst the assembly,” just like the psalmist? Do they feel duped, as did Jeremiah? “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped!” How do they eventually surrender to God’s will and plan for them when so much of what they have known as an artist is seemingly being taken away from them?

Therefore, I ask all of us to consider: Is there a fellow musician/creative in your life who is hurting or who needs a friend? Is there a colleague who feels they are without a future?... who needs prayer, encouragement or support? Is there a friend who has recently lost their voice, whether literally or because the budget at church no longer could sustain their position? Let us bravely ask ourselves: “What is the level of ‘lamentation’… ‘abandonment’…amongst our friends and colleagues these days?” Are we truly doing all we can to ‘be there’ for each other and to help each other be made new?

Let us take heart and find hope in the promise of renewal given us in Revelation 21: 1-7:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.”

-David Orzechowski

David Orzechowski is Director of Liturgy and Music at the Church of Saint Joseph in St. Joseph, Minnesota.

Psalm 51: Be Merciful, O Lord - Guest Post by David Orzechowski

Sing A Psalm Commentary
Psalm 51
“Be Merciful, O Lord, for We Have Sinned”

“Cleansed...Sincere...Serene”

Psalm Background and Context

“A psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him after his affair with Bathsheba.” This descriptive title appears with Psalm 51, which is prayed by David himself upon admitting his sin of having slept with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. A confrontation with Nathan the prophet brings David to the point of finally admitting his guilt.

Psalm 51, known also as “The Miserere”, is one of a group of psalms referred to as “The Seven Penitential Psalms”. The others in this group are Psalm 6, Psalm 32, Psalm 38, Psalm 102, and Psalm 130. All are fairly familiar and commonly encountered in liturgical/prayer settings. In the Catholic liturgy, Psalms 51 and 130 are of particular familiarity and enjoy wide use as the two official “common psalms” of the Lenten season. Musical settings of both readily appear in many psalters and hymnals, as well as choral literature.

For Catholics, Psalm 51 occurs a number of times in both the Sunday and weekday Lectionaries. It is used in the Liturgy of the Hours, particularly Morning Prayer, on many Fridays throughout the year, for which it sets the tone as a day of penitence in preparation for the Church’s weekly celebration of Sunday, the Lord’s Day. It is the psalm for Mass heard every Ash Wednesday at the solemn beginning of Lent.

The Psalm Text

What does one say about such a beloved and oft-encountered psalm that either hasn’t already been said or that avoids over-analyzing it to the point of irrelevance or boredom? At some time or other, most anyone who regularly prays and lives with the psalms has probably read a lengthy, pious reflection or exegesis on it. These are easily found. That will not be the approach here. Instead, I wish to draw our attention to the straightforward sincerity and beauty of this text, and how God surprisingly seems to do so much of the work on our behalf when we seek forgiveness and the repairing of our damaged relationships.

Psalm 51 is the personal prayer of someone who is admitting their guilt and asking to be cleansed of their sin. One would think there is much work to be done by this person. True, the sinner does indeed bear the responsibility of owning up to their transgressions, expressing true contrition as well as a firm resolve to change their behavior. However, looking at the psalm, much of what enables this to happen is the fruit of what God does. God loves and identifies so strongly with every person He has created, that all sins against our neighbor are truly seen as sins against God himself. As the One in charge of all human relationships...the One who ordains them, calls them forth, and sets them in motion, it is God, then, whose actions figure prominently in our efforts to heal and rectify the sinful messes we create as human beings.

God Does Much of the Work

Of the four stanzas from Psalm 51 that are used here liturgically, and which appear in Jeremy’s arrangement, God seems to do so much of the work! Isn’t that so typical of our experiences with God? We go through so much of life thinking it’s all about us...or that we are the ones making it all happen. Yet it is God who, time after time, ends up doing most of the heavy lifting, either by simply extending the benefits of His Divine attributes of love, mercy, goodness, compassion and steadfastness...or by some sort of direct action. Though it is sometimes very difficult, in the end, the sinner pretty much merely needs to own up to his/her guilt and be sincere in their resolve to change. The key responsibilities for the sinner/penitent are true contrition and sincerity of heart.

God’s actions/attributes in each stanza of this setting:

Stanza 1 - God is invoked by the psalmist-penitent:

-to have mercy in His goodness,
-to show the greatness of His compassion by... -“wiping out” the offense, and -thoroughly washing guilt and cleansing sin

Stanza 2 – THE PSALMIST-PENITENT is briefly the center of attention:

-acknowledging their offense, their sin which is always before them

-They know their offenses and are well aware of them.

The focus on God returns very quickly, however:
The psalmist-penitent’s sins are cited as being against God alone. Really!? Yes! For that is how much God loves and identifies with each of us. Every sin against another person is indeed a sin against God himself!

-The penitent has done what is evil in God’s sight.
-God sees all and is aware of all, even before we ourselves acknowledge anything.

Stanza 3 - God is once again invoked by the psalmist-penitent:

-to create a clean heart in the psalmist-penitent
-to renew a steadfast spirit in them
-to refrain from casting them out from His presence -to avoid taking away His Holy Spirit

Stanza 4 - God is asked:
-to give back the joy of salvation
-to sustain a willing spirit within them -to open their lips

Only after God has done these many things can the mouth of the psalmist-penitent once again proclaim God’s praise with effectiveness and integrity.

The point here is: we often think of Psalm 51 as a psalm that’s all about us...the wrong we’ve done...and how we are now in dire straits, trying to own up to it, so that we can somehow fix the situation. What a surprise, then, to examine the psalm more closely and realize that it’s God who does so much of the work in bringing about healing and reconciliation. We simply need to be honest in naming and owning our sins, admitting our guilt, being truly sorry for what we’ve done, resolved to do better, and being properly disposed in our hearts to God’s loving forgiveness. We’ve seen this dynamic many times before in the Psalms and in other Scriptures: human beings transgress, God is grieved, and ends up bearing the brunt and burden of coming up with a plan for rescuing the situation and repairing the breach. God never ceases to reach out to us, to the point of offering His own Son as the ultimate sacrifice and atonement for all our sins and transgressions: “Love unto death.”

A Cleansed and Sincere Heart - Serenity of Mind

In addition to being a prayer of penitence asking for a clean and sincere heart, Psalm 51 might also be seen as a prayer for a return to serenity; this, especially as experienced in once again being in right relationship and at peace with all: God, ourselves, and others. As a helpful tool for us this Lenten season, may I propose for consideration five unfortunate human tendencies or behaviors...each starting with the letter “C”, which, when dispelled from our lives, might help us achieve greater serenity. These do not cover every conceivable human transgression. However, anyone who manages to master these tendencies will surely find themselves in a greatly improved situation as to their outlook, spiritual health and personal relationships.

In pursuit of serenity, let us rid ourselves of:

-Criticism

-Condemnation

-Complaining

-Comparison:

“Comparison is the thief of joy” President Theodore Roosevelt
Why is comparison so damaging? Because it betrays a lack of trust that God knew what He was doing when He created us. We were created to be who we are, not to live the life of someone else or to possess everything the same as they. This goes for everything from our gifts and talents...to our personality...our bodies...our families, friends, spiritual and material blessings. Comparison is closely linked to envy and jealousy, which are the root of being covetous. “Thou shalt not covet...” (fill in the blank)

-Contention:
Synonyms:
discord, hostility, conflict, friction, acrimony, enmity, strife, dissension, disharmony, quarreling, feuding

Difficult, but NOT IMPOSSIBLE

Ridding our hearts of these five “Cs” is a tall order, especially when they are ingrained as habits. It is difficult, yes...BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE. What is needed is grace, which is a gift of our Baptism.

In ancient times, Lent was closely linked with the Catechumenate and the baptism/initiation of new members of the Church at Easter. Their process of initiation was the reason for the Church choosing to observe Lent in the first place. In the fourth century, Christianity became “legal”

under the Emperor Constantine. This meant that persons choosing to become Christian were no longer having to do so in secret...“underground” in catacombs. While being a Christian has never been “easy” or without its demands in any age, the fact that Christianity had now become legal lessened the likelihood of risking persecution or one’s very life for proclaiming belief in Christ. The practice of infant baptism also began to arise. Both these things affected the Catechumenate, which began to slowly disappear until it was no longer found at all by the sixth century. Along with this, the baptismal emphasis/focus of Lent changed too. Lent never completely lost these initiatory ties and overtones; however, it came to be seen more as a time for focusing on personal sin, penitence and piety. The reforms of The Second Vatican Council included a return to the ancient baptismal focus of Lent that once had been the hallmark and very reason for the season.

So, what does our Baptism have to offer us in seeking serenity, sincerity of heart or avoiding the “five Cs”? Well, we need to remember that, when we were baptized, God gave us...instilled within us...everything we need for complete holiness of life. This is something most of us rarely, if ever, call to mind. Perhaps we were never even taught this. Yes! Baptism makes an indelible mark on our souls. This means we will now always be a child of God. In her book, “Our Lady’s Feasts,” Sister Mary Jean Dorcy, O.P. says that Baptism “fixes our place in the universe”. She goes on to describe how God does not leave us to fend for ourselves on the path of holiness. Rather, God provides all that is needed, specifically grace:

(again, quoting Sister Mary Jean Dorcy, O.P.)
“For Baptism gives to us graces that can be called upon when we need them...so that our souls never need be dimmed by the mists of the world.”

The “mists of the world” are our sins...individually and as a human race. They are the result of living under the slavery of sin, including those sins committed via the five “Cs” mentioned above. Let us cleanse ourselves of all our sins...or more accurately, let us allow God and His Holy Spirit to cleanse us of them! It is when we’ve been restored as forgiven sons and daughters of God, people truly claiming and striving to live out our baptismal promises, (which Lent prepares us to renew at Easter)...that we are once again enabled to effectively exercise our proper place and status “in the universe”. Our mouths are opened to give witness to the Gospel and God’s wondrous works. We can once again proclaim God’s praise (from stanza 4 of the psalm) with sincerity of heart, integrity of spirit, and as people who know and experience serenity.

The Video and Musical Setting

Jeremy’s video of Psalm 51 is beautifully simple. The use of voice and piano only is extremely appropriate not only to the mood of the Psalm but to the Lenten season or any other penitential service/liturgical setting in which it might be used. The subtle sign of ashes on Jeremy’s forehead evokes feelings and emotions that surely are shared by the viewer as they recall countless Ash Wednesdays in their own lives, a day that has a feel and tenor all its own, unique in the liturgical year. Everyone...the entire Church family...is marked with ashes on this day. All are reminded of their humanity and mortality. There is the realization that we are beginning an important journey together as Lent begins. There is a sense of “here comes everybody”, an apt description for the pilgrim People of God.

The movement from a “C” chord to that of “G-minor7” in the first two lines of each stanza provides a “swell” of beauty and emotion which, although unexpected, feels elegant and lovely, becoming a soothing wave of tenderness with each subsequent stanza. One can almost feel viscerally the penitent’s heart beating all the harder at those moments, desiring “so much” to be cleansed of their sin. Perhaps these are moments when God’s tender love and mercy are reaching out, gently washing over us. The effect, especially the way that Jeremy “leans into” these notes, is akin to gentle waves washing ashore or like ointment being applied to a hurting soul. Jeremy renders this setting with beautiful focus, prayerfulness, captivating sincerity, and the humility that is so characteristic of all his work.

Questions for Reflection

  1. In what way(s) do I experience God taking the brunt of the workload when it comes to reconciliation?

    Do I take personal responsibility for my sins and seek to do “my part” in seeking reconciliation with God and others?

  2. Do I truly see how sinning against another person is also sinning against God?

    What does this tell me about the inherent dignity of every person or their identity as a child of God?

  3. Which of “The Five C’s” do I struggle with the most in my life?
    Is there one in particular I should focus on during this Lenten season?

  4. Is the idea that I have been given “all that I need” in Baptism to live a life of holiness a new concept for me?

    Am I even able to believe this about myself?

    If so, am I able to recognize or name specific ways this grace is apparent in my life? If not, what might be preventing me from believing/recognizing this?

    David Orzechowski

W-O-R-S-H-I-P, Part 4: Sensitive

     The Sensitive Worshiper is keenly attuned to the moving and leading of the Holy Spirit—on Sundays, as well as every other day of the week. Following the Spirit in worship isn’t just a Sunday morning phenomenon; it is a daily discipline. The fruit of truly Spirit-filled weekend worship services can be traced back to the (unglamorous and tedious) ‘seed planting’ that takes place on Tuesday mornings or Thursday evenings or some other day and time that often feels ‘less spiritual’. Vigilance is key. A sensitive minister must keep a sharp eye out for any influences that threaten to dull his awareness of, and responsiveness to, the Spirit’s activity in his life.

     Another aspect of sensitivity in worship concerns musical styles/genres. A sensitive minister is acutely aware of the current context in which he serves, but he is not a slave to it. He serves the worshiping community by appreciating where they are and also challenging them to consider where they’ve been and where they’re going. He is a pacifist when it comes to ‘worship style wars’. Songs and styles are at the mercy of the essential: not what is popular but what is proper. ‘The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve’ (Matthew 20:28)—and so it is with liturgical music. Music serves the liturgy and so serves the people of God in assisting them in prayer. If a certain song fails to assist in this singular mission, that song’s place in a congregational setting should be questioned and evaluated promptly.

     The Sensitive Worshiper is vigilant and vulnerable, watchful and welcoming, mindful and malleable.

W-O-R-S-H-I-P, Part 3: Reverent

I believe reverence is absolutely essential to right worship; it is the key that unlocks the door to an encounter with the holiness, truth, beauty, love, and purpose of God.

Hidden In Plain Sight

They were always there...

Divinely inspired

Undeniably beautiful

Heartbreaking

Hope-inspiring

Gut-wrenching

Unflinching in the face of every human experience

Ancient Hebrew poetry and prayers authored by 5 individuals & 2 families just waiting to be discovered, cherished, arranged, and sung by this modern American man.  Buried beneath a pile of three millennia of other hymns and songs that have been chanted/sung by God's people through the ages, the Psalms lay dormant (at least for me) until a few years ago.  I grew up reading (and even memorizing) them but only recently discovered what had been "hidden in plain sight", so to speak.  

After converting to Catholicism (I was received into the Catholic Church in 2011) I became exposed to "Responsorial Psalms" being sung in the liturgy and was immediately captivated by the richness, beauty, and relevance of that tradition.  Yet as a music director I noticed a conspicuous dearth of rich, beautiful, relevant musical settings to accompany the sacred texts.  That led me to start writing my own arrangements to use in Mass - and led to the founding of singapsalm.com as, I hope and pray: 

  • A valuable resource hub for music ministers, both liturgical and non-liturgical 
  • A ministry of encouragement to anyone who stumbles upon this site 
Posted on February 17, 2015 and filed under Liturgy, Music, Worship, Catholicism.