Fasting and Feasting on Music

April 21, 2022 Marie Greenway

I still remember my first Easter at my current church. In the lead up to that glorious day, we stopped singing the Gloria in Excelsis for Lent. As we drew closer to Good Friday, we stopped singing even more of the songs in the liturgy. Then, on Easter Sunday, after the pastor chanted “Glory be to God on high,” the entire congregation burst forth with “and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” like the music of the angels accompanied by an organ. The return of the Gloria provided great joy that Easter Sunday.

Fasting from Music during Lent

That joy came from more than the text and music—as joyous as they are. The impact of the Gloria was felt because of our Lenten fast from music. This fast reminds us to consider the solemn time of Lent by removing certain music from the Divine Service.

Removing certain music from the Divine Service does several things. First, it reminds us that Lent is a time of sorrow as we remember our sins. Second, it jerks us out of our consistent repetition of the liturgy by making us realize we are missing something. Third, our missing something leads us to look more closely and think more carefully about what we are missing. Finally, removing music during Lent gives that same music a joyous impact when it returns to the Divine Service and we sing it again on Easter Sunday.

Balance of Feasting and Fasting

Throughout our lives, we are naturally presented with times of fasting, whether it be due to a tragedy, hardship, or learning to live without something. These forms of fasting occur throughout the year. Likewise, we encounter times of feasting or joy throughout the year—not only at Easter.

This back and forth of fasting and feasting helps balance our lives physically and spiritually. Physically abstaining from something for a time ensures that we do not consume or experience too much of that thing, leaving us dulled to its joy. This can often affect us spiritually as we learn to rely on God rather than material goods or learn to long for the gift God has given us that we have gone without for a time.

Feast with Great Joy!

When we come to a time of feasting, such as Easter, we return to those things we missed in our lives—or recognize that we don’t need some things at all—with great joy. A time of feasting might also allow us to find great joy despite the sorrow we may have experienced in a nonvoluntary fast. Feasting is also a time to recognize God’s great gifts of creation and salvation.

Musical fasting during Lent helps prime us to the great joys of the music of the Church. This joy is lasting because the texts speak of eternal things. They do not repeat the trendy phrases of a brief era. Christian music is timeless and beautiful in all ages. When Easter comes, our musical fast ends, and we sing in joyous voices, recognizing that Christ has defeated death.

We will fast from this music once again during Lent next year. For now, let us enjoy the good gift of song God has given us and raise our Alleluias to the skies!

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Rejoice in the resurrection by listening to this Easter playlist filled with CPH music for organ, piano, handbell, and choir. 

Listen to the Easter Playlist


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