C.S. Lewis said that two things which cannot be found in hell are music and silence. (The Screwtape Letters)
Josef Pieper chimes in, “… to the extent that it is more than mere entertainment of intoxicating rhythmic noise, music is alone in creating a particular kind of silence… within which, when things come about happily, a reality can dawn which ranks higher than music.” (pg. 55-56, Only the Lover Sings)
George MacDonald agrees saying “Heaven is the region where there is only life, and therefore all that is not music is silence.” (pg. 113, George MacDonald: An Anthology)
Peter Kreeft concludes, “Heaven is both silent, like the contemplative mystic, and full of sound, like a dance or a symphony.”
This all jives with what is recorded about the end times, when the redeemed will be awed to silence “for about a half an hour” (Rev. 8:1) and then “sing a new song before the throne” (Rev. 14:3.)
It would seem that most of the music in our culture today, though, doesn’t really echo that “new song.” We don’t really make much music in which God rests and perches, waiting to show Himself to us. Isn’t all of the music from, say, the Grammys produced more or less for entertainment and pleasure-seeking? In the culture at large, how foreign is the idea of music helping us access the Good? The sentiment embedded in this anecdote about Handel’s famous piece Messiah seems almost strange to us:
“When a nobleman praised Handel as to how entertaining the Messiah was, Handel replied, ‘My Lord, I should be sorry if I only entertained them; I wished to make them better.’”
We make a lot of noise, but not a lot of music.
But all is not lost! Every once in while one hears something that runs contrary to this current trend. Though it isn’t perfect, I think ‘Oceans’ by Hillsong United is a good example. I could see this being sung in Heaven.
A friend recently remarked to me that the period from 6:08-6:45 in this song, where the singer, Taya Smith, begins to soar into the heights, must be something of what Heaven is like – lifting up all of oneself (mind, body, spirit, voice, emotions, etc.) in a great chorus of praise to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I am instantly reminded of the great wedding feast where the music of Heaven will drench us and the glory of God will irradiate us as we sing ‘Hallelujah!’
Ergo, I once again encourage you to, at some point in the near future, set aside everything you are doing (carve out a little attentive, receptive ‘silence’), free your hands from the computer and…
1) Read Revelation 19:6-10 to prime the pump.
2) Simply listen to this performance, allowing God to surprise you.
(Note: Praise is universal. The Holy Father recently taught us that praise is essential to Christian life and explicitly ‘not just for Charismatics.’ So whether it’s King David, chanting monks, George Handel, Rich Mullins, Hillsong United or an off-putting amateur, God loves seeing His children “dance in front of the Lord with all [their] strength.”)