Some would call it cacophony. Others would be more blunt and describe it as tortuous noise. Be that as it may, it is my absolute favorite sound. I hear it and immediately everything inside me comes alive, attentive, expectant. You say, “Enough all ready. What is it and what does it have to do with the title of this post?” I am so glad you asked!
“It” is a musical ensemble (band, orchestra, symphony, etc.) tuning before a performance. You know, the squeaks and sighs as reeds are moistened and tested. Add in the plaintive strains as pegs are turned fraction by fraction to tune the strings. With this the trills and scales-leading-nowhere-in-particular circle and stumble as fingers limber up over the keys. Already, it is music to my ears.
Perhaps you’ve seen the program for the evening’s performance and in one sense you know what is about to begin. Or maybe the names and titles printed on the paper in your hand mean nothing to you as you launch into music unknown. But you can be assured by the sounds made by meticulous tuning that what is to follow will be transcendent in its beauty. In fact, the quality of the performance is determined in large part by these moments of attention to precise chromatic detail.
For me, this is an apt analogy for purgatory. It isn’t that the violin is all bad. It is basically very good, just slightly out of tune. And to play its best it needs this time of perfecting. Heaven is infinitely greater than any musical production on this earth and it makes sense that souls should be adequately prepared to enter into the “Eternal Symphony.” It is all part of the Divine Maestro’s plan. How merciful He is to provide for our own perfection!
If, as I die, I hear instruments tuning, you can be assured that I will hurry to join them, tighten my loose strings until I have perfect pitch then take my place adding to the celestial sounds of Heaven!
By Sister Mary Louise, O.C.D.
Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles
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