Selah – an acrostic



One of my favourite pastimes is playing classical guitar and one of my favourite pieces is Bach’s Prelude, Fugue and Allegro, BWV998. In the final bar of the Prelude, Bach marks the last note with a sustaining sign. Bear in mind this was for a plucked instrument (originally a lute), so the note would quickly fade. He then has a dotted (extended) rest followed by a two beat rest, dotted and sustained. In other words, he lets the final note gradually fade away, and then there is intentional silence. Nowadays we are uneasy with silence. We want to fidget, chat or applaud. If we were to listen with 18th century ears we might hear the note fade into infinity; we might detect a whisper of angels’ voices.

We don’t truly know what Selah meant in the Psalms, but we surmise it was a comparable musical instruction. You have been praying and praising. Don’t be too quick to disturb the silence, to rush from God’s presence.

Still yourself: can you hear the beating of God’s heart?
Even Jesus cherished time to be apart;
Learning to press life’s pause button is a vital art,
As when Martha’s sister chose the better part.
Heaven’s symphonies are pianissimo when they start.

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