Paul Moore: ‘Praise God!’ — a jaw-dropping outburst not just for Protestants

In My Father’s House / Paul Thomas Moore

My singing teacher has been trying to coach me on dropping my jaw on the inbreath before a high note. I tend to either breathe and then drop the jaw, or the other way around.

She recently introduced a way to manage this coordination without my having think about it.  (She was kind enough not to make any jokes about my inability to walk and chew gum at the same time.)

She said just imagine you’ve walked into a room and are surprised by a wonderful gift, or the presence of a loved one from far away whom you hadn’t known would be there. Immediately, involuntarily, there’s an intake of breath, and the jaw falls open.

My singing teacher went on to explain that this forgetting of oneself in awe results in what the Italians call an “inspired” breath. The root of the word “inspired” is spirit, as in “in-spirited.” Keeping this image of wondrous surprise in mind is helping me to relax and bring those high notes closer to realization.

GLADNESS FOR GOD’S GLORIES

In a Christian context, it’s clear that to be inspired means to breathe in the Holy Spirit, and that’s a jaw-dropping experience. I was thinking of that recently while I was reading about St. Ambrose’s insight (inspiration?) that praising God isn’t a result of our efforts; it’s a spontaneous outburst when we come around a corner in our life, and there God is in his goodness and glory. It’s like an audience exploding into applause when shocked by a bravura performance.

Praise is a natural human response to greatness. We offer it to performers, apple pies, even hamburgers. If these call forth my praise more readily than the Lord of Heaven and Earth, maybe I’d better get a little closer to Him.

I must admit, I sometimes get a little exasperated with my Protestant brethren who are readier than I to “Praise God!” at the drop of a blessing. But maybe that’s because I feel a little guilty about them beating me to the praise punch.

Why not praise God without hesitating to assess whether it’s a small blessing or a big one worthy of my enthusiasm? Doesn’t God love me unhesitatingly, without stopping to judge — thank God — whether I deserve it or not? His generosity encircles me daily; why not acknowledge it?

It’s one thing to be modest on my own account, but I should never deny the Lord his rightful praise, nor discourage others from expressing their gladness for His glories.

HE THRILL OF FINDING GOD

Perhaps it’s because historically other Christians tend to read the Bible more than Catholics. It only stands to reason that when we get closer to God in His word, we notice God more in our lives, and our appreciation and impulse to praise supernaturally grows stronger. We must tune in to God’s channel to see what He has for us today, and the answer is everything, everywhere.

God is all around us, though it’s true: His reality is somewhat hidden in this veil of tears, His presence just out of our reach, obscured to every sense save the intuition of faith.

However, occasionally, if we keep our eyes peeled to notice God in nature, in a kind gesture, in the happiness of being in church during those quiet moments before Mass . . . there He is in His Peace and Love for us. The ancient Greeks might say, “Eureka!” (“I have found it!).

The Christian might say, “I have found Him — who always finds me.”

So, maybe the next time a Protestant friend catches me by surprise with an enthusiastic “Praise God,” instead of me thinking, “That’s so evangelical” I might acknowledge that as a Christian, I’m supposed to be an evangelizer. I might confess to a Pharisee-like spiritual smugness, if not outright pride, as in, “I’m Catholic; I don’t need to proclaim it from the rooftops.”

Praise is a natural human response to greatness. We offer it to performers, apple pies, even hamburgers. If these call forth my praise more readily than the Lord of Heaven and Earth, maybe I’d better get a little closer to Him.

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PAUL THOMAS MOORE is a Catholic commentator and singer-songwriter. He and wife Mary Louise attend St. Mary of Lourdes in Germantown Hills. He can be reached at paulthomasmoore@hotmail.com.

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