Sunday, September 13, 2020




This far north in the winter, snows have already arrived in the mountains and foothills, in fact July is the only month we can be assured the days and nights will not surprise with a snowfall, though the usual snowy months are October to April. At the same time while the normal cold days average minus 15, extended periods in the winter months of temperatures of minus 30 to minus 40 are common enough that the morning weather reports include frostbite warnings.

Before the pandemic, the sounds of the city were fortissimo while the normal winter sounds, always lessened by the snow cover and thin cold air are pianissimo.

This year city sounds, in particular the music of people talking, laughing, walking about, driving, or taking the bus to work, shop, etc., are inconsistent.

A strange silence has engulfed us in this pandemic, an oppressive silence which paradoxically is a banshee screaming: normal is gone.

A few days ago, with a plethora of new Covid protocols, the government re-opened the schools and as I walked past the large one in the neighbourhood, the building covers half a block and the field a block and a half, I heard the long silenced by Covid sound of children!

Each human voice is unique, has its own cadence, range of volume, while each syllable is voiced as a particular note.

The sounds of exuberant children are the consonance music of excitement of being alive among ones like themselves. That long silenced exuberance reminded me immediately of one of my favourite Louis Armstrong songs, whose melodic line in any of his performances was always his radiant smile: I see trees of green, red roses too

I see them bloom for me and you

And I say to myself, what a wonderful world

I see skies of blue and clouds of white

Bright sunny days, dark sacred nights

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

The colours of the rainbow are so pretty in the skies

Are also on the faces of the people walking by

I see friends shaking hands saying

How do you do?

They're really saying I love you

I see babies cry, I watch them grow

They'll learn much more than I'll ever know

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world [1]

Many people these days, after months of this pandemic do not appear so wonderful, particularly when the music of respectful, even loving, human conversation has been replaced by the cacophony emanating from so many angry people with endless and ever varying demands of everyone they assume is not of their clan and therefore owes them redress for whatever lies behind all the screaming.

This is not to say there are no injustices needing redress, nor divisions needing to be bridged, rather that what should be the consonance of authentic dialogue, with ears and hearts open to listening, has become the dissonance of countries tearing themselves apart in anger.

Fundamentally it is a refusal to love.

Love creates us, sustains us just as Love created and sustains the cosmos.

Among the gifts given us are those of a voice, for our use and enjoyment in communicating with other, and the gift-ability to hear the voice of other. Yes, of our own too, a particular voice we should listen to when we speak to verify if it is lovingly melodic, comforting, or perhaps betrays we have an overly close relationship with banshees!

When the Lord is questioning Job, there is this wonderful line in chapter 38:7: While the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy…….

The Holy Trinity is surrounded by the musical voices and singing of all the choirs of angels, yet the above word reminds us all creation is musical, for example: wind in the trees, variable by the intensity of the wind, the seasons of the year, blizzards have their own sound as do rainstorms, the drops sounding various notes depending what surface they land on and thunderstorms are clearly the kettle drums of creation; waves rolling ashore, rushing streams, the rustle of dry leaves in the fall nudged along by the wind, the crunching sound co-mingled with the laughter of children stepping on them, or in spring splashing in puddles.

If we listen and contemplate the sounds of creation this will help tone down the dissonance of the widespread angry voices of our day.

When Jesus is born hosts of Angels sing the announcement, Luke 2:13,14 and while nowhere in the Gospel accounts is there mention of Jesus laughing, though undoubtedly as a human being like us He did, we do know, following Jewish liturgical practice singing, the Psalms in particular, was part of His gifting music, indeed both Matthew 26:30 and Mark 14:26, note that after the Last Supper singing a hymn: they went out to the Mount of Olives. [Mt. 26.30] The ‘they’ obviously including Jesus singing.

Chapter 5 is one of the more beautiful chapters in Revelation, both in the musical cadence of the words and it’s reference to the simultaneity of the music/singing/prayer in heaven and the exuberance of all creation in the presence of the Lamb: Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out…..Rev. 5:13

In his 1697 play THE MOURNING BRIDE, William Congreve wrote: music hath charms to sooth a savage breast.

That is consonance music, of creation, of language spoken, sung with respect for other, not falling into the trap of anger, the ‘savage breast’ being an angry heart.

If we strive to be charitably melodic in conversation, even with people we totally disagree with, such patient understanding is charity in action. If we strive to be so charitable a significant amount of the stress of this pandemic will be lifted from our hearts and that space will be filled with joyful peace for our interlocuter brother or sister, and ourselves.

It is critical then for our emotional and spiritual health we invoke the Holy Spirit for His gift of discernment when it comes to choosing the type of music which dominates our listening. Music that does indeed charm, sooth, the ‘savage breast’ or music which winds us up accelerating discontent, anger, restlessness, lack of hope.

As Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis truthfully and comfortingly reminds us: “……Since we are already a “new creation” in Christ [2 Cor. 5:17] and His power is ceaselessly at work within us [2 Cor. 13:3], we must bravely press on into every apparent cataclysm as Miriam and her band of trusting Israelite women blithely ventured into the desert at God’s bidding. Of them we read:

          Then Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the

          women went out after her with timbrels and dancing. And Miriam sang to them:

                                              “Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously;

                                                the horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea”

                                                                                                      [Ex. 15:20-21]

Remarking on this curious availability of musical instruments in the wilds of Sinai, one rabbi comments splendidly: “Where did Miriam and the other women obtain timbrels in the wilderness? These righteous women were so confident that God would work miracles for them that they brought timbrels along from Egypt, anticipating that God would give them cause to celebrate.”  Empowered by Christ’s presence within us, how could we Christians, too, not dance with confidence in the face of tribulation and shake timbrels at the darkness with a merry heart?” [2]


[1] What a Wonderful World; Composed by Bob Thiele (as "George Douglas") and George David Weiss. First recorded and released by Louis Armstrong, 1967.

[2] FIRE OF MERCY HEART OF THE WORLD, Volume III, p. 719; Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis; Ignatius Press 2012

© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph