Refresh my heart: Awake, O organ and guitar!

The celebrant at Mass last night reminded us to keep an eye open, during Lent, for “thin places,” places where the barriers between us and the kingdom seem fragile, as if we might break through and see creation as God does at last. I reflected on a few of these places I have been, and I wondered what makes them holy, or better, what makes their holiness manifest to me. Fr. Mike’s brief reflection on the contributions of community life to his experience of God gave me an image, suddenly, of places not just thin, but scraped thin, worn away, ground slowly down by hours and years and generations of prayer – everybody’s prayer, not just mine. Like stone steps.


Time-worn steps to the chapter house
"Time-worn steps to the chapter house," by Neville10 on flickr.


It is not only places, of course, but also times, like that moment just after the cry, “Christ, our Light!” at the Easter Vigil, that get worn thin. And there are thin places in my heart too; many of them scraped thin, I think, by music.

I am, as I frequently tell people, “that other kind of liturgist” — I have no musical training and unsophisticated taste. I do like to hear new music, but like many other untrained liturgical singers, I love to sing the songs I have sung hundreds of times before, especially the ones that take the church’s experience of God and make them come alive in my heart and stay in my memory. Since last week I talked about the power of ministry to open a doorway for others, I thought I would start by thanking those who do this ministry that I cannot do! Thanks to you, I sing praises to God among the nations. Your faithfulness is wearing a stairway into my soul.

My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make melody.
Awake, my soul!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn.
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples,
and I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is higher than the heavens,
and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Psalm 108:1-4


  1. This beautiful piece, like the experiences that inspire it, seems to lead to a natural surge of gratitude. I don’t think we can program or force these moments of awareness- the ‘thinness’ is too fragile to be manipulated. We can only remain attentive, and remember to say “Thank you.”

  2. In case anyone is curious, the steps are those leading up to the octagonal Chapter House of Wells Cathedral, Somerset, England. The building is well worth a visit, with a unique front, a startling reinforced Gothic crossing under the central tower, a mediaeval astronomical clock, etc, etc.

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