I try to teach the chant from time to time. I always sing it and share it around.
It’s just a chant. Quite tuneless, especially from my lips. It just drones its weary course, like the muddy depths of an ancient river.
When enthusiasm flares and I press men to try my tune, they look at me, suspicious. Only the polite accede. But soon they too find reason to be off, leaving me to my lonely tuneless tune.
I shan’t blame them. I was unimpressed at first. And beyond that, too…..
“We shall sing.” he had announced. “Song shall bind us together.”
And so he made us sing. He sang as if the dirge were a gift from heaven. Our voices barely heard, he made us sing again and again.
The several instruments amid his piles of stuff spoke of his love for music. But we had come for other things. Lessons to redeem our future.
The song displaced many a class, to our great dismay. Moon upon new moon greeted a dwindling band, as mutinous murmurs whispered anger at the song, until but half remained.
This fool sang, with nowhere to flee and soul suborned by force of another’s will. So I sang on.
My voice, unskilled for worthy use, droned on this doleful dirge until its notes oozed from my every pore.
Other lessons long forgot, this song still invades my waking thought. Insidious and strong its cords control my every move. I am slave to the song.
In time but a handful remained. A handful of handsome voices drilled and strengthened by aeons with the chorus. Powerful voices, agile and clear. To those faithful voices the song was given.
Arrogant souls were long away. Untamed hearts had run their restless retreat to lesser things. Fools had found yet other fools to follow. And a handful remained to sing.
And so the song began. To one he gave a harmony, simple and safe. To another a stuttering stagger that stumbled along the dirge which my humble voice held firm. And so the voices met in blend.
I cried the first time; my doleful dirge undergirding such happy collision of chorus. And we discovered the truth, that “Song shall bind us together.”
Many happy days were charged with this song, pitched with gusto, as we celebrated sounds we had dared not imagine. Oh the joy of each new part, as complicitous intricacies wove themselves into an ever more vibrant tapestry. We were transfixed and transformed. Nothing was ever the same again.
Our joy was to sing. Our life was to sing this song of ever increasing intricacy. We were born to sing and mundane things were readily thrown aside for the chance to blend voice again. And so it was, days without number.
The course complete we finally faced our future. Each packed for disparate ways we stood to raise one rousing last rendition, then fell upon each neck and cried. How could we survive without the song? How could life be lived without the chorus? How could we go on without each line, each lip, each lung?
He turned from his wagon, piled high with tomes and trinkets, and bade us sing again. And so we did. Intoning the dirge, I brought the song to birth. Then a simple harmony eddied in. Another current here and a stone skipping there, with birds and breezes skimming the waves until our hearts would burst with celebration of sound.
Then, when all that our voices could muster rang in glorious cascading collusion the song finally roused to life. He had a fiddle in his hand and it soared upon our voices like a creature risen from the dead. Our song was but air to the nostrils of this wild majestic thing. What we had called song was trampled under foot by the glorious arrogant creature brought to life by the old man’s hands on string and bow.
We dared not stop for breath, but exulted on the triumph of true song birthed on voices, built on dirges from captured, raptured souls.
And then he was gone.
We hugged again and drifted apart, to the dreams we had each brought with us.
So now I sing my song. And I cry. And at times I run when I hear voices joined, to see if the teacher is there.
I met a man who knew my song and he brought a harmony I had never heard, which he assures me the teacher taught him. “He plays flute, you know”, he said. Oh, if only I could hear him play.
Notes: I wrote this piece on December 8, 2007, to invoke something of the wonder of a life yielded to God, able to taste glories that selfish men never know. The dirge is the discipline of yieldedness, sifting those who will kneel from those who fight for their rights. With that dirge comes the unexpected and undervalued discipline which empowers us to achieve what we did not even know was important.
Then, once our hearts have been tamed and a communion established between us, we mere mortals can work with heavenly things for which we were once disqualified. The rapture of such service to heavenly cause, sounding forth a harmony and unity extremely rare, is worth every minute of the mundane path which leads us there.
But that is not all. The Master is able to transform even that which has been transformed and turn our glories into the mere clacking of sticks, upon which rhythm His heavenly purpose soars all the more resplendent.
Once touched by unity in divine service and tasting of the heavenly glories yet to come, we are spoiled for the ordinary and find ourselves searching for those who know of what we speak. Our hearts are set on heaven and we long for the courts of the Lord.