The song of rejoicing softens hard hearts. It makes tears of godly sorrow flow from them. Singing summons the Holy Spirit. Happy praises offered in simplicity and love lead the faithful to complete harmony, where there’s no discord.
So let those still living on earth sing and yearn for heavenly gold because divine grace banishes all dark obscurity. It makes things that are dim to the bodily senses become pure and lucid. That’s why everyone who trusts God should offer the Lord praises loyally and tirelessly. Sing to God with joyful devotion, and don’t stop.
—Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias
In earlier decades of my life, I was a singer. I sang all the time. I wrote songs and performed them. I was known as a singer. Then life took different courses: I developed vocal problems; I left the faith of my childhood, where so much of my music had been formed; I embarked on a new career path; I did not own a piano or have easy access to one. Gradually, my singing stopped. I picked it up from time to time, mainly through my involvement in a faith community, but after years of little use, my voice still is much weaker and less trained than it was years ago.
But I have rediscovered the importance of singing. Often now, for prayer, I chant a psalm. I try to latch onto a particular song and sing it to myself while walking on my morning or evening commute. My soul has missed the singing. My body feels different when I sing. I once met a music therapist who pointed out that the mere act of humming sets up harmonic vibrations within the body and is very good for us. I read a story about a group of French monks who, at one point, stopped singing their prayers, and within a short time many of them became ill—the singing had helped keep them healthy all those years.
The sacred stories of Christianity are filled with song—and much of our history around the globe has included singing. I believe Hildegard knew what she was talking about.
- Do you sing regularly? If so, how do you incorporate this practice into your life?
- Hildegard wrote that singing leads to spiritual growth. What is your response to this idea?
- Hildegard also specified that songs of praise and joy are crucial. What is your experience of praising God and expressing joy toward God?