“Music or martyrdom” by C.S. Lewis

“What is looked for in us, as men, is another kind of glorifying, which depends on intention. How easy or how hard it may be for a whole choir to preserve that intention through all the discussions and decisions, all the corrections and disappointments, all the temptations to pride, rivalry and ambition, which precede the performance of a great work, I (naturally) do not know. But it is on the intention that all depends.

When it succeeds, I think the performers are the most enviable of men; privileged while mortals to honour God like angels and, for a few golden moments, to see spirit and flesh, delight and labour, skill and worship, the natural and the supernatural, all fused into that unity they would have had before the Fall. But I must insist that no degree of excellence in the music, simply as music, can assure us that this paradisal state has been achieved. The excellence proves ‘keenness’; but men can be ‘keen’ for natural, or even wicked, motives. The absence of keenness would prove that they lacked the right spirit; its presence does not prove that they have it.

We must beware of the naïve idea that our music can ‘please’ God as it would please a cultivated human hearer. That is like thinking, under the old Law, that He really needed the blood of bulls and goats. To which an answer came, ‘mine are the cattle upon a thousand hills,’ and ‘if I am hungry, I will not tell thee.’ If God (in that sense) wanted music, He would not tell us. For all our offerings, whether of music or martyrdom, are like the intrinsically worthless present of a child, which a father values indeed, but values only for the intention.”

–C.S. Lewis, “On Church Music,” in Christian Reflections (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 98-99.


Music as a Gift

“Music is God’s gift to man, the only art of Heaven given to earth, the only art of earth we take to Heaven.” – Walter Savage
Growing up, my mom would paraphrase this exact sentiment. She always reminded us kids that there would be music in heaven and would say “it is the only skill set we can take to heaven with us and know it will be put to good use.” She would often use this as a motivator whenever any of us kids would want to quit the various instruments we played. I can honestly say I am grateful she pushed us and kept our eyes on the much bigger picture. It wasn’t about a song being mastered, it was about character being cultivated. She knew the value and importance the role of music has upon each of our lives. It can bring back floods of memories, conjured deep, unspoken emotion, set the mood for a special occasions, and accompanies us through the journey of life. However, it does not stop there, but continues on with us into eternity. If such marvelous and majestic music is performed and sung in the throne room of the Almighty, it definitely should inspire us to strive for the most pure, the most lovely, and the most edifying music to be the staple in our musical diet.