This morning as I write, I am listening to Byrd: “Gloria in Excelsis” from Mass for Five Voices. The announcer called it “Balm for the Soul.” It reminded me of a guest preacher at St. Johns who always gave the same sermon called “There is a balm in Gilead,” after the gospel hymn of the same name. I don’t know many people who use or call what they use “Balm” anymore, although my old football trainer used something on our sore muscles he called “Hot Balm.”
Whether we use balm or not, we understand the word’s meaning. It is an ointment that soothes the pain, and yes the announcer was right when she described Byrd’s piece as “balm for the Soul.” Much of the music I used to hear at St. Johns or at Trinity Episcopal before the service was balm. I think the organists understood that many of us when we enter church are at sixes and sevens. Those moments of peace in the sanctuary before the service with organ music playing are what we need. One can feel the anxieties of the week fade away.
I love a good “make them squirm in their seat” sermon like the one’s Luis used to give, but I also loved the “Balm for the Soul” that I experienced during those quiet moments before the service began. How about you? Where do you experience “Balm for the Soul?”