In Company

And therefore we praise you, joining with the heavenly chorus, with prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and with all those in every generation who have looked to you in hope, to proclaim with them your glory, in their unending hymn:

Solo singing is very different from choral singing. The musicians take cues from solo singers, bending their talents to fit the style of whoever happens to be singing. If a soloist loses the melody or forgets the lyrics, there isn’t much anyone else can do to help. Responsibility and credit rest on just the one singer.

Choral singing is something else altogether. Every singer bends his or her voice to fit with the other voices. Singers listen to each other to keep a balance between parts and to honor the piece of music being sung. As a group, singers can hold notes much longer than any solo artist – singers just stagger their breathing. There’s a fullness in the sound of choral singing that cannot be duplicated with single voice, and the many voices together create a depth of sound quite different from even the most talented single voice. Low voices and high voices sing together, and no one person has to be able to do it all.

I think prayer is as much like choral singing as it is a solo act. It may seem like we each pray alone, separated from all others. But there’s a whole host of faithful through time and place who pray with us. We may not be able to see them, but the rest of the heavenly choir is always with us. All those who have ever prayed, all those who pray now, and all those who will pray in the coming years belong to the same choir. My strength becomes theirs, their strength becomes mine. Without this heavenly chorus, would I have the strength to pray?

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