(Photos courtesy of Liz Wildes, Enniscorthy)
HOMILY OF BISHOP BRENNAN
We gather this morning to give glory and praise to God, to celebrate the Eucharist which is the supreme expression of God’s love for his wayward children. Many roads have brought us together today.
I particularly welcome the artists, musicians and singers who have come from many places to participate in our Opera Festival. I hope you are enjoying your time in Wexford.
Your coming is an annual blessing on our town, and indeed on the wider Wexford area. In the words of the playwright ‘’ music hath charms to sooth the savage breast, to soften rocks or bend the knotted oak.’’
You, the artists and musicians, are the channels through which this blessing is made available to us, and for this we thank you.
It is a happy communion when music and worship meet, compliment and enrich each other. This is what is happening this morning at our Festival Mass.
The Bible is brimming with references to the place of art and music in our worship of God;
In Genesis we read ‘’ his brother’s name was Jubal, he was the Father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.’’ Jubal gives us the word Jubilee, a time of joy and celebration.
Isaiah tells us ‘’ we are the clay, you are the potter, we are all the work of your hands.’’
In Exodus we read ‘’ he has filled them with the skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or a designer or a weaver.’’
In the Book of Chronicles David commanded the Levites to appoint ‘’ singers who should play loudly on musical instruments, harps, lyres or cymbals to raise sounds of joy.’’
Samuel tells us that when David returned from striking down the Philistines, ‘’ the women came out of the cities of Israel singing and dancing, to meet King Saul with tambourines, and songs of joy.
Art and music have always played an important part in our worship and in the expression of our devotion to God. The first mention of art in the Bible is in Exodus Ch 31 when God instructs Moses to create a tent for the Tabernacle.
God goes on to speak of the importance of choosing artists to beautify the Tent saying ‘’ in the hearts of all who are skilful, I have put skill.’’
In this passage we learn two things about God’s relationship with art; He likes it—–and He is the source of it! He wants humankind to create beautiful things because our skill in doing so is God-given.
When God asked the Israelites to create the Tabernacle he gave very precise instructions. Intriguingly, some of the things he specified didn’t have any function, except to be beautiful.
We live in a very function orientated society, we evaluate things on their fitness for function. We need art and artists to remind us that some things have no other purpose except to be beautiful and uplifting.
Thomas Merton, the American Trappist monk who had such a huge impact on people at the end of the 20th century used to say ‘’ don’t just do something…..stand there!’’ In our busy world this is rank heresy! We feel the need to be ‘doing’ all the time!
Art, on the other hand speaks of other values, other realities. Without denigrating the idea of ‘ doing,’ it reminds us of the importance also of ‘ being,’ endorsing the words of Jesus ‘’ man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’’
Art, in awakening our souls to beauty and transcendence, points us to God. In a book called The Goldfinch which is all about the role of beauty in leading us to Jesus, the author, Donna Tartt says ‘ isn’t the whole point of things—beautiful things—that they connect you to some larger beauty.’
That’s why these Festival days are so important, they are a celebration of creativity, of beauty, of community, of doing, of being–in short a celebration of life—and everything that makes life worth living!
I finish with the Musician’s Prayer…..a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.
O Lord, bless this time of music that it may glorify your name. May the talent that you have bestowed on us be used only to serve you. Let our music be a witness to your presence and love and remind us that you are always with us.
May your presence and beauty be found in every note, and may the words that are sung reach and touch the hearts of your people.
May your spirit guide us through every measure, so that we may be instruments of your peace and proclaim your glory with glad voices. Amen