Holy Synod – Encyclicals – Inaugural “Sunday of the Musicians of the Church”
October 2, 2022
To the clergy, monks and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America,
My beloved children in the Lord,
“Rejoice in the Lord, O righteous! Praise befits upright men. Sing him a new song, skillfully play the strings, loudly. (Ps. 33:1, 3). Music permeates the scriptures, from the first pages of the Pentateuch. In the fourth chapter of Genesis we read about Jubal, ‘the father of all who play the harp and the organ’ (Gen. 4:21). Songs of holy people are found throughout the Old Testament and the New: the songs of Miriam, Moses, Deborah, Hannah, David, Habacuk, Isaiah, Jonah, the three children, Zechariah and the most holy Theotokos, to name a few. cite just a few. .
But of course, even before the formation of the first father Adam, when the physical world began to exist, the scriptures speak of music: “the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy” (Job 38: 7 ). “Praise the Lord, O sun and moon,” says the psalmist (Ps. 148:3). Music is, in some mysterious way, part of creation and part of redemption, so even the sky is filled with song. “With the song of the angels we cry out to you, Almighty: You are Holy, Holy, Holy, O God” (troparion from the Morning Prayers). And this song, though it begins in time, extends beyond time, and is taken up by angels and saints forever. As such, the Apocalypse of Saint John the Theologian is perhaps the most musically rich text of all Scripture, replete with hymns and invocations of hymns: “And they sing the hymn of Moses, servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty; righteous and true are your ways, you King of saints” (Rev. 5:9, 14:3, 15:3).
Today in our churches we carry on the tradition of sacred song, so to speak bridging the gap between the ancient songs sung by the prophets and patriarchs and the eternal song sung by angels and saints. Our church music traditions are both a continuation of the ancient worship of the Old and New Covenant and a participation in the celestial liturgy. This is why the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America has set aside the Sunday following the feast of Saint Roman the Melodist for an annual celebration of church music, to honor singers, choirmasters , composers, arrangers, singers, readers, bell-ringers, hymnologists, translators, hymnographers, and all who help our parishes and their congregations to make “a joyful sound unto the Lord” (Ps. 98 :4) so that our temples resound with the praise of God.
I encourage all of our parishes and institutions to take this opportunity to honor those who contribute to church music, and I urge all church leaders to help foster vocations in this area. May we all, at all times, according to our own vocation, praise the Lord with ‘psalms and hymns and spiritual songs’ (Eph. 5:19). And may he in turn be pleased with our sacrifice of praise, and rejoice in us, and calm us with his love, and sing for us in his joy (Zephaniah 3:17).
With the blessing of the Lord, I remain truly yours in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada