Last Friday, I ran to the service of Lauds, leaving the house a little later than usual and feeling disturbed about something that I couldn’t shake. I wanted to just “wall off” for a few minutes while I went to the service, but the thought went through my head: “Don’t harden your heart.”
I threw on my robe, checked the page numbers in my service book, and hoped I wouldn’t be late. As I sat down, the words of the opening antiphon leapt off the page: “If today you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” The tune started, and I found my spirit lifting.
This particular antiphon is chanted every weekday at Lauds during Lent, giving us this message every day. What amazed me was that as I saw, and heard, this antiphon again for the first time this year, it was like hearing the voice of an old friend say my name after not having seen him for many months. There was no condemnation, but rather a hopeful sound that I would welcome again in my own ears and heart.
This is one of the most beautiful aspects of chant — its return! In the annual repetition of this antiphon, it has become part of my own spiritual life. This can be and is true for any chant learned, repeated, and savored — it will become part of you in unexpected ways and unimagined moments — even when running late to a service!