Last night, on my day away from the parish, thanks to the generosity of some people from one of my previous assignments, I was able to attend an open rehearsal of the Cleveland Orchestra and chorus under the direction of Franz Welser-Most performing Mozart’s Mass in C minor. What an absolute treat that was. But the best part is the after rehearsal notes as the musicians go back over the piece to shore up certain sections.
One of the more interesting sections was the Miserere (have mercy). “Be brave!” he commanded the singers. “Sing! Think forte, but sing softly!” And it struck me that this advice is good for the average Catholic too (a faith shared with the maestro.) We are not called to wear sackcloth and ashes, beating our chests and flaunting our guilt for show. If you wronged your spouse, you would not go through the neighborhood heaping hot coals on your head and shouting what a louse you were. (Well, maybe somebody might.) Rather, if you want to salvage love, you go to the person and with forte in your heart, you softly and bravely mend the relationship with that person.
It is no different with God. This too is a relationship with a Person. Sin is a rejection of the right ordering of that relationship. If the relationship is still intact, the sign that the Holy Spirit is still working within you is that you feel strongly (forte!) that you want to mend it. It is an act of bravery to say that you are sorry. And so you speak softly; a nightly act of contrition, the Confiteor at the beginning of Mass, and from time to time the whispered prayers that are said in the confessional.
It makes the singing of the Miserere more beautiful to listen to and the heart more beautiful for God to enter. And in both cases we begin to see the beauty of God more clearly.