ACCESS CODE: A HOMILY ON THE MEMORIAL OF ST. CECILIA
Have you ever been in a situation where you have something, but you have no access to it? Imagine someone who has a lot of money in the bank, but due to one problem or another is denied access to it. This kind of suffering is more painful because you have it, but you cannot access it. The same thing can happen to us in our spiritual life. In the first reading, we see John crying. He is crying because of a great disaster. We are told of the scroll with the seven seals and nobody is worthy to open it. It is as if there is this hidden treasure, which we are unable to unlock; nobody has the access code. Then the hope comes in Jesus the Lamb, the only one who is able to open the scroll. Without Jesus, we would not be able to tap into the riches of God’s graces.
In the Gospel, Jesus cries for the same reason. Jesus cries over Jerusalem. It is bad enough that John is crying. But imagine Jesus crying. He is crying because Jerusalem had rejected His message of peace. He predicts the destruction of Jerusalem. Of course, for whoever rejects Christ, destruction is inevitable, because He is the access code to grace.
St. Cecilia knew this fact and devoted her life to complete virginity. She also died a martyr’s death. It is not clear why she is the patron saint of church music, but at least it is said that she sang in her heart. The liturgy in general, and liturgical music in particular is there to, in a sense, unlock for us the gate to the heavenly liturgy. We are told that he who sings well prays twice. This is why the sung liturgy is preferable to the said one. Singing has a way of soothing the soul, especially in time of suffering. Liturgical music is like a pathway on which our soul travels towards God.
Many people will give the excuse that they cannot sing. That is not a valid excuse. Singing is a good way to praise God. The official prayer of book of the Catholic Church is the psalms, which we often recite even though they are originally meant to be sung. The church gives us seven times every day when we can sing the psalms. It is given in a prayer is called the Divine Office. Unfortunately, the Divine Office is not very popular. I call it the priest’s best kept secret. It is the official prayer of the church and it is all about praising God with the psalms. It enables our whole life to be spent in singing the praise of God. There is no better way to prepare for heaven, because that is the sole business of those in heaven. They praise God for all eternity. For those who do not appreciate the Divine Office, you are missing out on something very important. Download an app like ‘Universalis’ on your phone or tablet. Whatever you pay for it cannot be compared to its value, because it will unlock a totally new page in your spiritual life.
Music raises our minds to God in a way that most other things do not. When I was in primary school, we had a teacher who was a musician. We soon discovered that there is an easy way to make her happy, no matter how angry she gets. All you need to do is to start singing one of her songs. There is no better way to break her defenses. This can be considered a form of manipulation or blackmail, but it worked. When we talk of praising God, let us not understanding it in the sense of manipulation or blackmail, because God knows our hearts and we cannot manipulate or blackmail Him. However, if we assume God to have the heart of a human being, then we can imagine that liturgical music has a way of melting God’s heart. But since it is our own hearts that needs to be softened, liturgical music can break our heart’s defenses and open our hearts more to God’s graces. Liturgical music is a special access code to God. I like a line in a particular song which says ‘I sing for I cannot be silent’.