Voice and Heart in Harmony

Our praise of God in communal and private prayer is best expressed when our heart in is in accord with our voice. This is a notion extending back to the Bible and the Fathers of the Church, whereby it is understood that it is not enough to pray with words alone, but that they need to be accompanied by a sincere heart and attentive mind. Do we ever do this perfectly or achieve a high degree of harmony of voice and heart in this life? Probably not, but we strive to, and ever seek God’s help to do so. All sincere prayer includes the heart, and this work of the heart reaches to the heart of God.

Those who pray the Divine Office are invited by the Church to take the liturgical texts as guides for one’s thinking, which will help form and inform one’s prayer. The celebration of liturgical prayer, in order not to be something sterile or cold, has to be warmed by the activation of the heart, one’s desires for God and the things of God. The movement of the lips needs to be fired by a mind and heart directed toward God and neighbor. The depths of one’s thoughts, will and affections need to be brought into the prayer we engage in as monks in the Church. For prayer to be fervent, active, intelligent, “in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:23), it has to be something much more that rote repetition of words and phrases. Our faith, hope and love must flow from our hearts in the process of truly praying.

The General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours (#19) affirms:

“Mind and voice must be in harmony in a celebration that is worthy, attentive, and devout, if this prayer is to be made their own by those taking part and to be a source of devotion, a means of gaining God’s manifold grace, a deepening of personal prayer…Seeking Christ, penetrating ever more deeply into his mystery through prayer they should offer praise and petition to God with the same mind and heart as the divine Redeemer when he prayed.”

Also #104 of the same document speaks of the psalmody of the Opus Dei as a joyous response from the depths of the heart: “The singing of the psalms, though it demands the reverence owed to God’s majesty, should be the expression of a joyful spirit and a loving heart, in keeping with their character as sacred poetry and divine song.”

The Directory for the Celebration of the Work of God, #7, expresses well the idea that members of monastic communities “participate in the Work of God with all their bodily and spiritual faculties. The posture and gestures of the body, as well as the voice, should be signs of the inner devotion by which the community, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, manifests the presence of the mystery of Christ through a lively participation which is both active and conscious.”