Seeing post after post on personal blogs and Facebook has made me want to write something… something to try to communicate what Easter is to me. But as I’ve thought of what to write, the task seems impossible. How can I fully communicate to someone else, some who hasn’t lived through the experiences that taught me what I believe about God, the majesty and wonder and awe that I feel on the day that commemorates Christ rising from the dead?
There are too many personal experiences, too many verses of scripture, too many pieces of art, and too many feelings for these pixels to capture. In spite of that inadequacy, I do want to communicate in part what can’t be said in whole.
Eric Whitacre’s “Alleluia” captures some of the gratitude and humility I’m experiencing today. Gratitude for a God who “so loved” the world that he sent is son, and from personally feeling that love. Gratitude for parents and a religious tradition that have both lead me to seek beauty and truth from the world around me. And humility from seeing that I have been given so much, and from knowing that I need to give more.
A large part of of why I’ve chosen this song is that Eric Whitacre describes himself as a spiritual person and an agnostic. I love that the experiences he had with Christianity at King’s College led him to write what he did. That, to me, makes the praise more valuable, in a sense, because even someone who’s not sure they believe can be moved by the love of a Heavenly Father.
If you need a dose of jaw-dropping beauty, take five minutes and listen to this choral piece by Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds.
When I was a kid I used to look up at the stars and wonder about big questions: who I was and where I came from. There was a beauty in the sky that silenced my quotidian concerns and focused my attention on deeper questions. Now when I listen, I think of some of the deeper answers I’ve come to: that life is about loving others and investing in their well-being (becoming healed by working to heal others) and that life is about experiencing and creating beauty.
This song captures the feeling of those moments, when staring up at the sky I would connect with deeper things.
During high school, I developed a deep appreciation of choral music. Part of it was that I felt it connected me to divinity, to those around me, and to the past. Singing the same songs in the same places hundreds of years later seemed to create a bridge through time, connecting my experience with holiness and theirs.
One of my favorite pieces to sing was Locus Iste, a text based on Moses’ experience where he is asked to remove his shoes because of the location’s holiness. The text, originally in Latin, reads:
Locus iste a Deo factus est, inaestimabile sacramentum, irreprehensibilis est.
This place was made by God, a priceless sacrament; it is without reproach.
How beautiful are [they] to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer; yea, and how blessed are they, for they shall sing to his praise forever.
Locus Iste reminds of reminds of places where I’ve experienced sacredness and holiness, from churches and cathedrals, to mountaintops and rooftops, to a desk where I used to study scripture as a teenager. My favorite version of the song is by Paul Mealor. When you listen to it (only six minutes), what sacred spaces does it remind you of?
Find the song on Apple Music or Spotify, or go for the entire album at these links if you want more Mealor (and it’s good stuff):