So poor Stanislaus was martyred anew, and Edmund survived the slings and arrows of Lent Madness to go on to the next round.
One of the hard-fought lessons of twenty years of ordained service is that clergy and church musicians don’t always get along. I once knew a music professor, a brilliant organist and choir director, who thought he ran Sunday mornings and ostentatiously did the crossword during the rector’s sermons. He said the sermons were boring but I always thought he saw church as a performance and resented the times when the focus wasn’t on him.
I’ve also seen clergy who ran roughshod over musicians, telling them what they could and couldn’t play and not respecting their legitimate contributions to the service. All of which is to say that I quite enjoy working with Barry, the music director at All Saints Collingwood. I feel like we are coequal partners working together for the glory of God, which is how it should be.
What a pleasure, then, to learn from today’s Lent Madness post that J.S. Bach was a man whose music came out of a deep personal devotion to God and to God’s worship. How many Christians have been moved by his compositions, such as his Mass in B Minor and his Passion of St. Matthew. Friedrich Nietzsche, who was no great friend of our fish, said of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion that ”One who has completely forgotten Christianity truly hears it here as gospel.”
Harriet Monsell served God just as devoutly as Bach, but her service came from her hands and compassion. Today we are grateful for the gifts of Anglican monastics like the Sisters of St. John in Toronto, but we take them for granted. It’s lovely to think that women like Harriet, or men like Richard Benson of the Cowley Fathers, were inspired to rekindle the monastic tradition that the English Reformation had pretty much snuffed out.
Just today I met a woman who is an activist, small but full of compassion for the poor, who is very secular and yet totally a spiritual descendant of Harriet Monsell. Just as our souls thrill to Bach’s soaring masses for choir and organ, so do our hearts moved by those rare people who combine love for God and love for their fellow humans.
Goodness, this is a hard one. Will Bach be back for the next round, or will voting for Harriet become a habit?
Blessed be their memories.
You can make today’s pick here: https://www.lentmadness.org/2023/03/bach-v-harriet-monsell/
As always, scroll down to see the voting buttons.
Cheers and blessings,