This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad. – Psalm 118:24
This is the day that the Lord has made
Let us be glad and rejoice! Let us be
glad and rejoice in it, this is the day
that the Lord has made.
The melody rings in my head, my heart; I’ve never forgotten that hymn, the version they used to sing in St. Mary’s when I was still young enough to go with a hungry heart, with a soul clamouring for connection with Deity. It was true, that version, because it was musically beautiful. It lilted in a timeless gracefulness.
All too soon, the realities of church history vis a vis my Indigenous family would become too heavy to lift, and I would begin to let go of Catholicism. It may have been coincidence, but it felt like a kind of awful confirmation, that the tunes to responsorial hymns were also changing. As the gaps in our family attendance grew, I felt more and more strongly disconnected, and coming back to find that tunes familiar since babyhood were changed just reinforced that disconnection.
I missed the melody of that hymn.
I missed the sense of wholesome joy that comes from knowing a melody so that you can lean back into it, and everyone around you is in the know, too, and you can soar. In place of that, I’d come into church and find that the tunes had been changed, again, and that the whole congregation – perhaps never great singers – were stretching, straining, mumbling and unsure. It made it easier to walk away.
So, today, I will be glad and rejoice. I was tiny at the time of Vatican II, too tiny to comprehend the human necessities of the changes it brought. Learning about the changes later, I found them good: let the priest speak the language of the people, and let women uncover our heads. After all, it was Paul, not God, who started that whole “cover up and shut up” business. It is the way of religions; the more we organise, the more we depend on the clarity of a committee of voices.
The church, any church, is a verb. It moves by the light given to any leadership, and the light given to any followers. It moves by consent, however eventually. When the consent fails, the people leave, as they have been doing. That can be seen as sin, or it can be seen as awakening to the responsibility to hold our organisations accountable, and to testify, if need be, by leaving. We never leave the compass of Love.
Perhaps new and better changes are coming for the living community of Catholic believers. As for me, I thank the Church for, among other things, at least one really good tune, that rings in heart and mind still, and lifts me up. It is perhaps fitting that, while Youtube is rich with many versions of Psalm 118 set to music, the tune that touched my heart is not among them. It is ephemeral, of another time and place. Still, I am free to remember, free to treasure and carry a melody that perhaps rings only for me, anymore.
That’s okay. I, too, am a verb.
This is the day that the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice
Let us be glad and rejoice in it, this is the day that the Lord has made.
If you like these posts, please also consider donating, in the memory of Albina Sewell, to Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton; her chosen charity for memorials is not religiously affiliated, but serves all children.