Make a Joyful Noise unto the Lord

The Synaxis of the Archangels* is celebrated on November 8. The angels constantly surround us and protect us from evil.

I will sing and make music to the Lord, Psalm 27:6

Did you know that over forty psalms contain the word, sing in them? That means that singing is one of the themes in almost thirty percent of the psalms. When you stop to consider that the psalms were ancient Israel’s book of prayer you begin to realize that making music was central to Israel’s worship. In fact, singing is probably the most ancient form of prayer. Compare the worship of ancient Israel with that of our church today, and you will find the same emphasis on song. The Divine Liturgy is almost entirely sung and singing is still the main form of communal prayer.

There are many interesting aspects related to prayer and song. One of them is how we learn. Think of the way we teach children their ABCs, we sing to them that well known song: “A, B, C, D, E, F, G. . .” Certainly we have heard a child sing the alphabet long before they could write or recognize any letters. Hymns were and still are the fastest and easiest way to teach ourselves and others about the Faith. Hymns are also the surest way to remembering our church’s complicated theology. Another aspect of song and prayer is how enjoyable it can be. My own experience as a parent has proved to me how much we all love to sing from an early age. My daughter, Alexia, loves to sing, and singing captivates her in a way the spoken word cannot. All of my daughters find singing a more fulfilling way to pray, and they will stand with me and sing hymn after hymn before they go to bed. It is sad but also a bit odd, how by the time we are teenagers we begin to feel that we can no longer sing. By the time we are adults we no longer sing, and the hymns of the church become unknown and unused. This is unfortunate because being hymn illiterate means our prayer life, both our private and communal prayer life, becomes limited and even suffers. Finally, there is one last aspect to song and prayer that I would like to highlight and that is the way song can capture the human experience. Through song we can more effectively express our joy, our sadness, or our confusion than we can through simply speaking or reading a written prayer. Song can capture our emotions in a profound if not mystical way. Therefore hymns give us a way or a means to expressing what is occurring in our lives.

It is time for us to reclaim song if we have not as prayer and to place the hymns of our church into our prayer life. Community hymn singing requires that each of us participate, so that we can add our voice to that of the communities’. I encourage you all to use and perhaps purchase a hymnal and to begin to learn how to praise God in song. Keep in mind that it is never too late to return to something you loved to do as a child and to sing to your God.

* This Icon of Synaxis of the Archangels was found here.