It was not my intention to continue with this project. After 124 hymns, I felt I had reached the end of my capacity to offer anything, the end of this line of creativity. But sometimes life throws us a curveball and we revisit old decisions. In the midst of the current pandemic situation, it seems to me there is a place for more contemplation, sharing and music. It seems to me there is a need for these things; a need for us to remember that we are still here and our lives are still wondrously intertwined.
I have arranged the tune Dona Nobis Pacem before. In fact, it was the second song presented when I began this project back in 2014. At the time, I was thinking about this very familiar tune and words in relation to the International Day of Peace that happens every September. Over the years, I reposted it several times as we received knowledge of various violent acts in our world, both near and far. These words always come to my mind when I hear of these things. They are hauntingly questioning: Grant Us Peace. They have been spoken by countless generations, countless voices, in countless prayers. We don’t definitively know the origin of this tune, but many of us find it familiar and comforting. It frames our deepest desire for peace within a simple, yet lovely melody, and it offers us the opportunity to sing in canon form – creating an astounding beauty as we combine our different parts and voices, at different times into a complete picture. A picture of what can emerge when we sing, or work, together.
This morning as I sat down to find something to contemplate, this popped out at me almost immediately. Yes, I’ve looked at it before, but today feels very different than the last time so I started again with different eyes and ears. I think we are all looking for a special kind of peace right now. The peace that reassures us that we are safe, that we are healthy. The peace that reassures us that we will find our way home, and our loved ones will do the same. The peace that reminds us that our disappointments are real, but life will carry on. The peace that encourages us to help our neighbours and support those struggling. The peace that helps us to remember to breathe.
None of us knows what is to come over the next weeks, or even months. The unknown is stressful. Slipping into despair because of the unknown, the cancelled, the boredom are very real possibilities. It is my wish that we are all able to find that special peace in all of this. A space where it’s okay to cry, but also okay to rejoice. Those extraordinary bits of memory and sharing and gratitude that will carry us through this incredible set of circumstances.
Find that thing to hang on to; that tiny bit of joy that opens up the window of peace – even if only a crack. Seek it diligently, for losing sight of all that is beautiful will surely darken our path. Share it if you can, for these bits of light will also guide those around you. Our world is different today than it was. Let us be the answer to this question of peace. Let us learn. Let us grant peace to those we meet – even if we cannot do it in person. Let us sing. Let us speak. Let us savour this special time. It may turn out to be an unexpected gift.
Dona Nobis Pacem