Love, the driving force: a journey of discernment

Chronicling my formation with the Loretto Sisters (IBVM)


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Praying with the music of Joni Mitchell

While walking along Bloor Street a couple of weeks ago, I noticed a sign advertising a ‘Rock Eucharist’ at The Church of the Redeemer, an Anglican parish, featuring the music of Joni Mitchell. Being a big Joni Mitchell fan, I was immediately intrigued.

It’s rare to find experimentation like this in the Roman Catholic Mass so I really wasn’t too sure what to expect from the Rock Eucharist. I have to say that I was enchanted by it. It was prayerful, reverent, meaningful, and, yes, experimental.

The Ice Offering. In 2000, I visited my grandmother in Saskatoon and she took me to the Mendel Art Gallery to see “voices”, an exhibition of Joni Mitchell’s artwork. Her paintings, like her music, are evocative.

The themes of creation and conservation were woven throughout the liturgy, drawing from the same themes found in the music selected for the evening. We sang “Big Yellow Taxi” as the opening song, “Woodstock” as a sort of responsorial psalm, “Both Sides Now” as the offertory, “Passion Play (When All the Slaves Are Free)” as the communion song, and “Love” as the closing. The combination of the music and the prayer was powerful, and to be honest, because I found it so unusual, I was very attentive to all of the details.

Middle Point

What I found was that the break from the liturgy routine I am used to opened me up to a renewed encounter with God, hearing God speak to me in new language. It also gave me a deeper appreciation for the spirituality and soul-searching qualities of Joni Mitchell’s music. Long have I admired and enjoyed her work and to hear her music in the setting of a liturgy gave it a deeper richness for me.

Both Sides 2

I hadn’t heard her song “Love” before, a meditation on Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13). It’s beautiful and compels me to meditate on Paul’s letter myself.

Love

Although I speak in tongues
Of men and angels
I’m just sounding brass
And tinkling cymbals without love

Love suffers long
Love is kind!
Enduring all things
Love has no evil in mind

If I had the gift of prophecy
And all the knowledge
And the faith to move the mountains
Even if I understood all of the mysteries
If I didn’t have love
I’d be nothing
Love never looks for love
Love’s not puffed up
Or envious
Or touchy
Because it rejoices in truth
Not in iniquity
Love sees like a child sees
As a child I spoke as a child
I thought and understood as a child
But when I became a woman
I put away childish things
And began to see through a glass darkly

Where as a child I saw it face to face
Now I only know it in part
Fractions in me
Of faith and hope and love
And of these great three
Love’s the greatest beauty
Love
Love
Love

– Joni Mitchell