So, what is love, where is the love, and how do we demonstrate it? I believe that when we are really and truly “in love,” we move from our individual selves to unite with another—any other—whether in companionship, friendship, marriage, community—or any kind of trusting relationship you name. While operating in true love we should become the best versions of ourselves that God created us to be. Love is the attraction of all things toward all things and the care of all things; it is a universal language, and it has an underlying energy that we are called to make present in all we say and do in this world.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955, French Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist), said love is “the very physical structure of the Universe.” This is a surprising statement for any scientist to make—and yet for Teilhard: gravity, atomic bonding, orbits, cycles, photosynthesis, ecosystems, force fields, electromagnetic fields, sexuality, human friendship, animal instinct, and evolution all reveal an energy that is attracting all things and all beings to one another. He said that the universe is in “a movement toward ever greater complexity and diversity—and yet ironically also toward unification at ever deeper levels.” In other words: love fills in the spaces and gaps between us and all other things and beings…
What does that mean for us nowadays as we cope with this pandemic and all the problems generated by it?
Love is so simple and yet so hard to teach—and yet we all know love when we see it in motion, and from whomever it truly emanates. There is not a Native person, or Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Islamic, or Christian way of loving; or a Methodist, Lutheran, or Orthodox way of running a soup kitchen, food pantry or charity; or a gay or straight way of being faithful in relationship; nor a Black, Caucasian or Asian or any other way of hoping. (Teilhard’s diversity!) We know the positive force of love’s energy when we see it from anywhere true love comes, and we all recognize the opposite—a resistance and coldness when we feel it. The first commandment instructs us to love God more than anything else because to love God is to love what God loves. And to love like God means to love everything . . . no exception! The actual word ‘religion’ comes from the root religio, which means to reconnect, to bind back together—now there’s a bit of food for thought in this fractured world…
We have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit so that we may love all things and people in themselves and for themselves. That is when we begin to love our family, friends, and neighbors apart from what they can do for us or how they make us look. We love them as living images of God in themselves—despite their finiteness and fallibility. From love of God (everything), any couple’s love may expand still further, Teilhard has suggested. The more deeply and passionately two people really love each other, the more concern they will feel for the state of the world in which they live. They will feel their connection with the earth and a dedication to care for this world and all others as a natural extension of their mutual love.
Love demonstrated by parents or by people in general is always about the “other” first. Jesus demonstrated this when He accepted the cross—as true love always involves some sacrifice of self—and maybe some discomfort for the other person’s well-being. If we were to all act with this kind of care for each other, we would never have to worry about being cared for ourselves, or about whether we are living our best selves. The world would be a much safer and loving place. This is the great love and the great way of love given to us by Jesus.
We are now in a time of great distress in the world, but it is our responsibility to speak and demonstrate this language of genuine, sacrificial, authentic love, (if we claim to follow Jesus) and extend it to all of God’s creation. In many moments of our lives a good question-reconciliation for ourselves should be: where is the love in what I am deciding to say and do? Because the first commandment is for all people.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always." (John 14:15-16)
Just a note: Some of you may have noticed that I did not finish my article with my usual “Keep singing!” that I always use. I would love that you do keep singing—in the safety of your homes and with your loved ones—your “quaranteam-choir.”
The new directives for reopening our church to real time attendance states that the Assembly may not sing responses or hymns and songs in church—and no choirs or chorale groups, either. The science is pretty clear: choral, or assembly and group singing, is a “super-spreader” of the virus.
We (the Directors of Music Ministry) in following these (temporary) directives given us by our Church, Archdiocese and Archbishop are not to encourage the people (The Assembly—that’s you) to sing in church in order to help stop the spread of Covid 19 to the faithful. By planning moments of music without singable refrains, by no availability of hymnals or missalettes, we hope that you not be tempted to sing, or forget and by habit do so in church.
As a Pastoral Musician, understanding very well the comfort of music, this is such an awful challenge for me—and is definitely is a sacrifice for all of us—singers, worshippers and assembly—alike. But in sacrificial love and care for all (especially the vulnerable), we must do this in order to prevent more sickness and death.
So, for now: How does communal worship look for those attending or watching? All the ‘Ordinaries’ of the Mass are spoken (Kyrie, Gloria, Holy, etc.). I will be using antiphons created and related to the day of the Sunday scriptural texts for gathering, for the preparation of the altar, for the communion procession. No singing by the Assembly; and sometimes instrumentals. For now it may feel very “old world” to us all who enjoy a variety of music.
Here is my advice to you: Please use this time of stark, quieter worship as an opportunity to internalize all the texts of our Scripture and worship. In other words: for now we must strip away the music from all the things we say together and used to sing together. We are given this time to reflect all the deeper on the words of our worship—and we know that God works through all things for good. (The theme of my last several weeks of articles.) I have always chosen music by their texts first—this is what I am called to do as a Pastoral Musician—as our sung texts must be Scripture based.
Our music, our lifting our joined voices in love and praise of God together will return, Be Not Afraid. Love is about sacrifice. For now we have the time to focus on all of our texts of love for God and each other as commanded.