In Italy there was an excellent community of monks. Good spirit, they were very much liked by the people. Yet they had a problem. They were hopeless in singing. A rather critical dilemma for a community that meets regularly every single day to chant psalms to the Lord. They tried very hard but their voices were simply not tuned. They felt that their liturgies were a letdown.
Then one day, a monk from another monastery happened to be passing by. He was a renowned singer. They were thrilled because he would sing at their Vespers that evening and finally their liturgy will be complete.
At night however an angel came to the superior in a dream and asked him why there was no music in the chapel that night. “In heaven we always listen to the beautiful music coming from your chapel” the angel added. “There must be a mistake”, answered the abbot. “Normally we have very poor music, but this evening we had a skilled singer with a well trained voice and he delighted us all with his singing. It was the first time we have had such good music. It was a treat to our ears.”
“That could be”, the angel answered. “But up in heaven we heard nothing!”
You see, in heaven they look at the heart and not at the mouth. We live in a world that is obsessed with the exterior but we need to acclimatize ourselves to the interior world where real life is, where heaven is.
The Prophet Elijah is one of the giants of Scripture. A man who saw God, a wonderworker and an enthusiast for God, he was of the tribe of Aaron. Orthodox tradition tells us that when he was born, his father Sabah saw angels of God around the child, swaddling him with fire and feeding him with flames! This perhaps explains his fiery character!
As an adult, he was in constant conflict with the Israelite king, Ahab, and his wife Jezebel, for they worshipped idols and turned the people from the service of the one, living God. On top of this, Jezebel, being a Syrian, persuaded her husband to build a temple to the Syrian god, Baal, and appointed many priests to the service of this false god.
Elias performed many miracles by the power of God: he closed the heavens and no rain came down for three years and six months and then he brought rain from the heavens; on Mount Carmel, he called down fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice to his God, while the priests of Baal were unable to do this; he miraculously multiplied corn and oil in the widow’s house at Zarephath, and restored her dead son to life; he prophesied to Ahab that the dogs would lick up his blood, and to Jezebel that the dogs would devour her – all came to pass. He performed many other miracles…
And yet in a moment of crisis, he “was afraid and ran for his life”, traveling forty days and forty nights in the desert, hoping to find shelter on Mount Horeb. At a certain point in this journey, he was so depressed that he just wanted to die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
How many times we had the same thoughts. The wife tied to an inhuman husband, the catechist whose efforts seem to be in vain, the mother wondering what happened to her son who is on drugs… “I have had enough. Take me home. The burden is more than I can bear…”
This is when something happened that transformed his life. At Horeb, he talked with God, he heard a “still small voice”. Elijah had an experience of God. Everything on the outside remained the same – Jezebel still wanted to kill him, the atmosphere around him was still very hostile, but he was new. He had a new music in his heart.
A new music that changed the way he danced in life because it gave him the impulse to continue and a new outlook.
Shawn was in first grade. His teacher asked the class, “What is the color of apples?” Most of the children answered red. A few said green. Shawn raised his hand and said ‘white’. Some of his classmates giggled, the teacher explained that apples can be red, green, or sometimes golden, but never white. Shawn replied, “Look inside”. Yes, a better perspective.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.