The Music We Make
“Sing for joy to God, our strength!…Start the music! Beat the drum! Play the sweet lyre and the lute.”—Psalm 81:1-2 (Complete Jewish Bible) A few days after my mother went to heaven, I found my bereaved dad plunking notes on the keyboard she used to play. She had a great love for the piano and taught me to play. He missed her and her music.
“I don’t want to just poke around with one finger,” he said to me. “Can you teach me to play?”
So I began to explain octaves and showed him how to place his hands. Octaves are seven unique notes plus the eighth, which is a repeat of the first only higher or lower in tone.
We went on to discuss the marvelous design of music. Biblically, seven is the number of perfection and eight is new beginnings. A single note C is followed by a second note C at the top of the octave. Playing the two ends together is called a “single and a double.” The seventh note completes the scale; the eighth starts a new one.
This pattern represents God’s harmony in our world!
So entranced by this concept was St. Augustine that he wrote, “The harmony between the single and the double...has been naturally so implanted in us (by whom indeed, if not by Him who created us?) that not even the illiterate can remain unaware of it.”1
Since the beginning, God has expressed His work through the number seven: Seven days of creation, seven Holy Feasts of the Lord, seven days of the week, seven times marching around the walls of Jericho, seven churches in the book of Revelation…and the list goes on.
The number eight consistently represents new beginnings. After the flood of Noah’s time, eight people survived (Noah and his wife, Shem, Ham, Japheth and their three wives) to begin anew (Genesis 7:13). Boys were circumcised on the eighth day (Leviticus 12:3), Jesus appears to the disciples after eight days (John 20:26), just to name a few examples.
As my dad and I played around on the piano, remembering my sweet mom and her love for music, I listened to the chords and the notes with new appreciation for the beautiful music she is hearing.
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,” Paul said of what is waiting for us in heaven.
How glorious is God’s creation that He would give us music as an art, a skill, a poetic outlet that reflects His glory and is imbued with His perfect harmony!
The music we make today, created to give us expressions of worship, love, joy, and sorrow, is but a faint melody compared to the glorious symphony that awaits us.
1.The Trinity 4.2.4, tr. Stephen McKenna, in The Fathers of the Church, ed. Roy Joseph Deferrari (Catholic University of America Press, 1963), Vol. 45, p.134.