I recently received the musical CD “Into Great Silence: Office of the Night” by the Monks of the Grande Chartreuse. Most English speaking listeners might at first suspect it is a seemingly endless chant of obscure Latin liturgy, repetitive and unintelligible. I will grant that advanced knowledge of the Latin is helpful if one is to experience first hand enjoyment with understanding. However, the product includes an extensive booklet detailing the lyrics with both the original Latin text and the English translation. Here is the cool part. The monks are chanting and singing the Psalms as well as various other texts from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. They are praying Scripture musically. Their liturgy scales the heights of praise and settles into profound silence as if in potent expectation and listening.
On page four of the the booklet, Philip Gröning, Producer of the CD and the movie which inspired it, describes their work in this way:
Every night, the monks of the Grande Chartreuse leave their cells at fifteen minutes past midnight to meet in the church and sing matins and lauds. Two, three, sometimes even three and a half hours of homilies, psalms, readings and a profound silence.
For most of us, this is not a realistic practice in terms of length and the time of day. The point is we can pray and sing Scripture with great benefit during the normal routines of our lives. This practice sinks the Word of God deeply into our hearts. I recommend Scriptures set to song in children’s ministry as well as in the home. There are helpful resources currently on the market. For example, Gospel Light Publishing has a couple of CD’s entitled the Bible in Your Brain I & II. And there are others as well.
I remember songs far better than I can remember text not set to music. Perhaps you are similar in that regard. Therefore I value setting Scripture to song. What better place to start than the Psalms, which originally were songs? The beauty of this practice is that it can be done in your car, at home, while walking, and so on. And the more you integrate Scripture set to music into your routine, the more it will impact your decision making, your attitude, and your character. It will draw you closer to God because he will increasingly occupy the focus of your attention. It is not something that only ascetic monks practice; we can learn from their discipline by grasping the value it adds in bringing us closer to God.