Posted in Essay, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space in Music

Probably most of us connect to music of some sort. And we all have our favorites. My favorites are a moving target…sometimes Katy Perry and sometimes Arvo Part. I’d like to consider that all music is sacred in some way. The creative spirit arriving and making something new. But, I admit, I can be an old fuddy duddy when I hear some of the music the youth I work with listen to. On the other hand, it is definitely a creative expression of their understanding of life; it is a way that they share their story.

What I’d like to consider for an exercise in capturing sacred space today, is not just any old music or reflection on your favorite song, but an exercise of audio divina. Listening with a contemplative spirit. I have chosen the Amen chorus from Handel’s Messiah. I chose this because Amen, strictly translated, means “So be it!” and it is a soaring and beautiful ending to this grand piece of music. So get comfortable! Here we go!

The earth has music for those who listen.”  ― George Santayana

I invite you to use this extraordinary listening and enter into the contemplative prayer practice of Audio Divina using the video and the steps outlined below.

  1. Explore the music. Listen once. Journal any notes you wish to make about the piece.
  2. Go deeper, listen a second time. Where were your ears drawn? What feelings rose up? Engaging your imagination, enter the music. Where are you? What are you doing? Do you see something differently from this vantage point? What relationships do you notice? Journal your reflections.
  3. Allow the music to lead you into a time of meditation Silently, offer prayers of gratitude, intercession, lament, confession, or praise – whatever wells up in you. If you wish, journal these prayers.
  4. Adjust your sitting position so that you are comfortable. You can continue listening to the music with your eyes closed.  Release tension in your neck, shoulders, arms, hands, legs and feet. Breathe deeply and slowly. Find your quiet center.  Rest in this quiet for 10-15 minutes, being open to all that is within you. Allow thoughts to drift past you as if they were clouds. If your mind wanders, that is okay, call it back to attention when you are able. At the end of this time, slowly open your eyes. Breathe deeply. Journal any insights you want to remember, actions you are invited to take, and any thoughts or feelings that are present. You may have only had random thoughts flying though your mind the entire time. Journal about that. Be gentle with yourself and have no expectations of grand revelations. The point is to practice and to offer quiet time to be attentive .
  5. Close by lifting up your gratitudes and thanksgivings.

If this music does not appeal, use this same process with music of your choice.

It is not often that we get the chance to listen to something-not for the pleasure it gives us, but for what it can teach us. I hope you can find a little sacred space in the music you choose to learn from.

Shalom and Amen,


For a longer experience that delves into the beautiful music of Handel’s Messiah. You could listen to Part 3 (below).

© 2013, post, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

terriREV. TERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual. (The 2014 issue just released!)

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at ,, and  To reach her for conversation, send a note to


I am a monk disguised as a passionate prophet. My true loves are God, family, and the creative arts. And maybe just a little bit of politics too. (PS My photo is by Eric Lyons Photography).

8 thoughts on “Sacred Space in Music

  1. This takes me back to my novitiate days (way back), when we sang this. I still remember having to repeat pg. 34 of the Hallelujah Chorus over and over to get the timing just right. Good memory of an impressive musical experience. Thanks, Terri. Merry Christmas.


  2. Music is indeed something to enter into openly, with awareness. Slowing down to truly listen, especially in a season where our culture tempts us in the opposite direction, is a great practice. I enjoy being introduced to new pieces – Arvo Part, John Cage, Phillip Glass and other innovative, minimalist composers can be initially dismissed as “weird”, but listening closer and with an open mind yields new insights…to ourselves, to our world. Thanks for a good lesson!


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