Maeve Louise Heaney

Merging Music and Theology

Theology through Music: an Experiment

November 15, 2014
Maeve Heaney

Singing Nuns So this is a quick post, and a functional one. Just came back from a quick but really fruitful Conference in Toronto. Will get back to gathering thoughts around that... but wanted to put up on the website an experiment. By way of invitation: The conference was on Music, Theology and Justice, and in my paper, with the help of a group of colleagues a I sang a song I had written, and then proceeded to analyse and unpack the theology underlying, hidden in, or revealed therein. It is a work in project, as meaning always is. The song, called Jerusalem, is available here - the recording is basic, so apologies, but it seemed more important to evoke the performance than to give the perfect recording of the same. My gratitude goes out to Michael O'Connor, Michael J. Iafrate and Christina Labriola for their collaboration. The lyrics are in the post if you scroll down, but I would invite you to listen to the music first, and then go the the lyrics. For many reasons, but let's just say meaning in music is not always and never only in the words.  The questions I would ask you to reflect on as you listen, are the following ones: Part 1: What do you hear?   Is there anything you would point out about the music? And about the lyrics? And in the performance? Part 2: what do you think the song could mean? Part 2: Theology Are there any phrases (lyrical or musical) or thoughts that remain with you? Do you know why? What, if anything, does the song provoke in you Is there a change or shift your understanding of the theology of salvation? Can you describe it? As a researcher, is there a question you would think important to ask in relation to the musical meaning of this piece? if you would like to stick your oar in, that would be great! Thank you!

Jerusalem: Salvation in the Poor [lyrics]

You set your face towards Jerusalem, finally the beginning of the end/ The path you've taken is the ground beneath our feet, so tell me why so often we lose sight of this… Forgive us Lord! For hearts of stone!/ Our eyes don't cry! Our minds don't know/ Forgive us Lord! And don't give up!/We still don't know what we're doing…/ Have mercy on Jerusalem! Blessed are those who draw your gaze on them,/The 'anawim' you choose to call your friends /Between you and I are those of whom the Kingdom is /My heart needs to stretch and break to let them in… Forgive us Lord for hearts of stone! /Our eyes don't cry - our minds don't know/ Forgive us Lord! We haven' learnt/ We still don't know what we're doing…/ We're so in need of [You] Wrong is right, and weak is strong, and stupid is wise…/ Poor is rich, and up is down, and You are Real… So thank You Lord! For losing all/ For unashamedly being on the side of your people/ Thank You Lord! For giving all- for unreservedly being broken and given…Thank you, Lord! Jerusalem… A peace that fights! A word that bites and heals within…/A freedom that enchains us to reality


  1. This is a first unedited thought! (you may get more later!!). Firstly I like it. Secondly what really struck me was that the “forgive us Lord” refrain is relatively upbeat and the “verse” part has an almost driveness about it. I thought originally that the forgive us Lord should be less upbeat but then realized it is like this because we can ask forgiveness and there is hope.
    As to the phrase that stuck, may be because it intrigues, is “Blessed are those who draw your gaze on them”

  2. Really well thank you, though tired as this week we have just had a week of 24/7 prayer and I picked up the 5.00 am slot Tuesday – Friday and had done the 6.00 am Sunday and Monday.
    However back to the phrase that intrigued me. I think it intrigues because you expect to be blessed if you gaze on Him and yet in this phrase this idea is reversed.

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