Monday, June 09, 2008

Bishop Boyea's Homily to Musicians

This is almost three weeks old now, but I thought it was worth posting. I am very excited about our new bishop, Earl Boyea, who is a Church historian and a lover of the Traditional Latin Mass. As many of you know, he regularly celebrated the TLM as Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit before coming to Lansing.

Below is Bishop Boyea's homily to diocesan musicians from the Solemn Vespers Mass on the Feast of the Holy Trinity, May 18th, 2008 [some parts I especially like in bold]:

"In 1922 a fragment of an early Christian hymn was found at Oxyrhynchos dating to about 280 AD. Some of the very few words which survive are these: “All the glorious creatures of God should not remain silent and be outdone by the radiant stars…” The stars, in their radiance, in their power and majesty, are praising God by their very existence. We can do more. We can sing our praise and thanks, especially on this great day as we praise our Most Blessed Trinity. Thus we give praise as do the stars. However, we, by consciously acknowledging the source of all goodness, our God, Three in One, our creator and redeemer, go beyond the stars and the rest of creation by deliberately not looking to ourselves but rather to the Other, the One.

This evening I wish to thank all of you for assisting our priests in leading the people of this local Church of Lansing in their acts of thanksgiving and praise of our God. I have often told parish musicians that everything you do is like another homily or instruction. Thus the words we use in our songs and hymns and inspired songs are of critical importance.Thus, if we are singing hymns which glorify ourselves or what we do rather than give God the glory, then we clearly are not heeding Psalm 115: “Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give the glory.” If we sing and celebrate that somehow we create the Church or our salvation or the goodness of the world rather than acknowledge God as the source of all and in comparison we are nothing, then we clearly are not heeding Psalm 144: “Lord, what is man that you care for him, mortal man, that you keep him in mind; man, who is merely a breath, whose life fades like a passing shadow?” In short, if we celebrate ourselves rather than our God, then we clearly are not heeding Psalm 146: “My soul, give praise to the Lord…make music to my God while I live. Put no trust in princes, in mortal man in whom there is no help. Take their breath, they return to clay and their plans that day come to nothing.”

Yes, you have a singular, vital, formative role in our Church. If it is true that Lex orandi, lex credendi, then your assistance in the life of prayer which we live out each weekend in our parishes, is truly formative of the faith of our people. This also means that you bear an awesome burden—do not teach wrongly, do not teach idly, do not teach carelessly; rather teach in season and out the great truths of our faith. We preachers need you song-preachers to assist us.For this to happen you must let the word dwell in you richly. This is the first and most important part of your ministry. To live in and with the Word of God. It is only out of that abiding with Jesus that any of us can presume to speak about the word.

Secondly, know well the Church, that bride of Christ for whom Christ shed his blood and to whom he gave that outpoured blood and his broken body as food. Now to do both of these things may require of you some more work. It is not enough that you may be skilled and technically proficient in your tasks. You need also to breathe and know Christ and his body, the Church. First of all, pray, pray, pray—know Jesus, know our Heavenly Father, know the Holy Spirit. In addition, then, read, take courses, become certified. Do whatever is necessary that you may more effectively proclaim this faith. For then you will truly be doing all in the Name of the Lord Jesus and thus giving Thanks to God. God bless you all."

I like where he tells musicians to take courses and become certified. How many parishes have as their music director just some guy who knows a little bit of guitar and who is incapable of doing truly exquisite musicial arrangements? I look forward to much more good stuff from Bishop Boyea in the future.
I got this homily from the blog Joy. Please check it out for more insights from a parish music director seeking to draw upon the Church's musical tradition in the liturgical life of her parish.

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