What is the Music of the Bible?

Someone on Twitter asked me “What would you say is the music of the Bible?”
This is my response.

At once I was in the Spirit, and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne… Around the throne, and on each side of the throne, are four living creatures… And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing:

Holy, holy, holy
the Lord God the Almighty,
who was, and is and is to come.

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honour and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever, they cast their crowns before the throne, singing:

You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to recieve glory, honour and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.

Revelations 4:2–11

Without Music, life would be a mistake — Nietzsche, Twilight of the Gods

If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:
The only proof he needed
for the existence of God
was Music. — Kurt Vonnegut

Music is the literature of the heart;
it commeneces where speech ends. — Alphonse de Lamartine

The music of reality is the song of Scripture; the symphony of life produced at that place where existence and meaning dance together in pain and beauty. A song in which our lives are but small parts of an eternal performance. Our parts begin with the thudding beat of our hearts, a beat of which we all too often assume the lie of a ticking clock — our hearts beat not with regularised meter ba-bum, ba-bum, ba-bum, ba-bum, but throb with the ebb and flow of daily life. In moments of calm the beat wanders luxuriously as through treacle, with action it runs, beats, races on charging as a bull in the midst of excitement! The tempo changes but the engine rumbles on from the start of our part until the dawn of our eventual silence.

We sing with our physicality, our lives are ‘poetry in motion’. And we sing not alone but alongside others: family, friends, strangers, society and the world. Each person we encounter influences a subtle shift in the colour of our pitch. Some create resonance, others discordance. The real glows warm, the digital or literary both ethereal amplifications of an intended real. Our song mingles as dancing fireflies imitating the rolling passage of the stars in the canopy above.

The music of scripture is this — yet more.

Out of the silence God speaks and all of creation becomes. The land and sky, the birds and beasts, night and day is composed and conducted to his glory. Chaos is arranged into order, and life is born. Humanity wanders across the world, as scripture follows the family of the promises. The God who spoke creation into being continues to speak and appear to those he made. Yet as with the most complex of musical works, the divine voice weaves its way through the music dynamically. At points ringing out as thunderous drums before giving way to the most delicate of string harmonies which could be dispelled by an unfortunate cough.

When listening to, say, Mahler’s Fourth (a favourite of mine) or Holst’s Planets the listener can allow the music to simply wash over them, to enjoy experiencing the emotions elicited by the sounds. Even a casual listener can genuinely enjoy hearing these pieces. But to properly appreciate the brilliance of the composition demands a determined attention to detail, and a patience to discover the threads which become motifs. The sense of the ‘epic’ gives way to an admiration for the interaction of archetypal figures painted with ephemeral permanence.

It is much the same with Scripture, which first sets a stage and presents men and women with their exits and entrances. Each story is entire in itself, yet each story hangs as the planets in their celestial dance around the Sun in perfect balance; stories oft forgotten by the masses lend significance to those which we have tamed into cliche soundbites, forgetting that these stories are not just literary, intended reals but, for the most part, lived realities through the ages.

The music of reality is the song of Scripture, the song of the stars, the angels and joined by all those who have heard its melody within their hearts.

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus.
Dóminus Deus Sábaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra glória tua.
Hosána in excélsis.

The lyrics of this song return again and again to the Name of the Lord, the one who spoke and all that is — became. This one is the one who walked in the Garden, who burned with promise, wrestled under the stars, and gave dreams meaning. This is the one who heard his people’s cry, who liberated, castigated, exulted and steered them into a nation through which he would bless the world. He was before the beginning and in the beginning, and though he spoke and appeared to humanity he would himself become humanity and dwell with them for a time.

And dwell with them he did.

The voice of the divine sang from human lips for a lifetime. He sang more than just words, though he indeed sang stories, prayers, and discussions, he sang life and rightness into reality itself; healing the blind, the lame, and enlightening the dumb, calming storms, walking on water, raising the dead and turning water into fine wine. For the song of Scripture is more than words on a page, it’s a spirit in our hearts and a relationship to reality which hangs on a single name; the name of the God become man who lives with such a force of life that the dying and decaying around him are rejuvenated, the name of the God become man who embraced death upon a cross and dared it to prove him wrong, to prove him a madman, a liar. Death’s grasping hand clutched his his corpse and held him firmly in a cold, dark tomb — victorious, it seemed.

The silence hangs in the air.

Stretching into an abyss.

If you listen carefully, the dawn of the third day stirs with a tender viola humming into happiness. It’s joined by the rest of the strings which swell as the women walk toward the site of the grave before a sudden staccato burst of trumpets; the stone rolled away and the soldiers are filled with fear. Various instruments join the music as it swells with anticipation, until Mary is stood in the Garden and turns to see the Gardener. A choir vocalises, and reaches a crescendo as she realises that this, this man is the God-become-man Jesus. He is alive — and shall forever remain alive!

The music of reality is the song of Scripture, sung by the Church; by all those who have heard the melody of the presence of the Holy Spirit of Christ, and found that it brings to them a fuller sense of life. Can you hear the music? Will you sing his name with me?

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music — Nietzsche

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