Memorial of Saint Cecilia, virgin and martyr
(Revelation 14:1-3.4b-5; Luke 21:1-4)
Pope Benedict has written that sacred music makes its hearers aware of the glory of God. But what makes music sacred? Certainly sacredness in this sense means more than its being played in church for sometimes we hear music there that belongs more to a rock concert. One commentator on Benedict’s statement writes that sacred music gives us a sense of eternity by the use of counterpoint to attune our ears to a higher order of time.
Musical theory may be beyond most of us, but all of us can feel the grandeur of the “Hallelujah” chorus. Such music inspires us to transcend base desires so that we might sing God’s praises with the choir. It recognizes that God both supplies us the wherewithal to overcome sin and judges us if we squander His graces.
Today we celebrate the patron of sacred music, St. Cecilia, a Roman martyr of the second or third century. Coincidentally, the first reading describes sacred music descending from heaven. It thunders like a thousand-pipe organ with all stops released. But the tune cannot be easily joined. Not a fine ear, but a pure heart is necessary to sing along. The Book of Revelation is urging us to lead righteous lives if we hope to sing with the saints. It urges us to follow the teaching of the Lamb of God who is Christ.