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The Redemptive Power of Music

Have you ever had the chills run down your spine or been moved to tears while listening to a piece of music? We have all experienced the power of music to move us. Sometimes even only the first cords of a familiar piece will produce an emotional reaction. How does music also have a redemptive power?

Sometimes looking up the definition of a word you think you know well, will teach you something new. In the Oxford dictionary, redemptive is defined as “acting to save someone from error or evil.” I also found out that in Christianity, a redemptive act is something that “leads to freedom from the consequences of sin and evil.”

The redemptive power of music has been palpable in the last few weeks when some of the viral videos from the war in Ukraine have involved music. One of the videos shows a Ukrainian cellist, Denis Karachevtsev, playing his cello amid the rubble of bombed streets in his hometown Kharkiv. Another video shows a pianist by the name of Irina Mauikina. In the video, we watch her come back to her destroyed home to find her piano dusty, but intact. She cleans the piano off and plays a beautiful melody by Chopin as the camera shows the ruins and devastation all around her. On the Instagram account Good News Movement that shared this video, you can read the caption: “There is always beauty that outshines the bad in this world.”

Other viral moments include some of the musicians from the Kyiv Classic Symphony Orchestra performing a concert for peace in the capitol’s Maidan Square. There are still more videos of musicians performing in the bomb shelters. One of these musicians, Vera Lytovchenko, said in an interview: “My music can show that we are still human. We need not just food or water. We need our culture. We are not like animals now. We still have our music, and we still have our hope.”

Music, in its many forms, is redemptive for this very reason--it saves us from the consequences of evil and sin. It shines the light on those parts of us that are made in God’s image: beauty, creativity, and imagination. Music speaks of our groundedness in God and moves us to remember who we are whose we are during our darkest moments.

During Lent, we enter the devastation, sadness, and redemption of the cross through hymns and music. What are your favorite Lenten hymns and pieces of music? Some my favorites include Lift High the Cross; When I Survey the Wonderous Cross; O Sacred Head Now Wounded; Jesus, Remember Me and Handle’s Hallelujah.

For your spiritual practice this week, I invite you to focus on those pieces of Lenten music that move your soul.

Where you can find their redemptive quality—is in the lyrics, in the beauty of the music itself, or both?

How will you respond to the invitation God is giving you through this music?

Join us next week as we explore the practice of contemplative prayer.

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