Music Mondays are a weekly reflection on a different Christian album and artist written and shared by community members of UCM at UBC. Most modern day Christians get the brunt of their theology from music these days, so we're digging into these songs to let you know what's going on and why. For weekly updates, go check out our social media (@ucmatubc on IG and UCM at UBC on fb).
Hi friends! Here’s your album of the week!
We’re gonna start switching gears a bit: so far the albums have been pretty explicitly worship albums. Now we’re gonna start broadening our range a bit to include albums that might not be “worship”. Christian art is always worshipful in a sense, but not always in the same way that typical worship music is—I wouldn’t sing everything I listen to in church, even if the lyrics are about God.
Our first hop in this direction is Page CXVI’s ‘In the Garden’, an airy, spacious album with only four tracks on it. Page CXVI is by Latifah Alattas, a producer, singer, songwriter, and has up to this point only included re-vamped hymns and spiritual songs. On this album, she includes three originals besides one hymn. Enjoy the artistry and see my commentary below.
Listen to the full album here: https://open.spotify.com/album/2YM7ewNPRvu6sUYzPnm7sV?si=dOoZGN3EQKe1JFfC3soTxA
Hit the "read more" button to open the whole post! ------->
1. In The Garden
This ¾ waltz compares the life of faith to a “garden of belief” in which “everything must die...For this death it leads to life”. The artist leans into motifs of renewal as she sings of gardens, seasons, even the dawn, motifs that evoke the words of Paul in saying that our “old self” was crucified with Christ (Rom 6:6), or that the old person must be laid aside for the new person (Col 3:9-10, Eph 4:22-4). These very natural metaphors draw us into close comparison with nature itself: Even as nature goes through the gradual, ongoing processes and cycles that lead from decay to growth, so too our own life of faith moves in a gradual, ongoing process from decay to growth. Paul in the passages above is referring to the fact that there is a part of us that must die so that a new person, a new human, may be born by the Spirit—this is embodied by Baptism, in which we are laid down in death and raised again in new life, just as Christ himself was laid down in death for three days before he was raised anew. What’s important for us in this ongoing process of removing the old and the growth of the new is that we keep our hearts open, soft, malleable to the Spirit’s corrective work. This is what is sung about in the bridge, as the garden metaphor is moved from the “garden of belief”—our own life of faith”—to the garden of Eden, paradise, which humanity (Adam & Eve) was cast from. They were shut out of the garden and so shut out of their previous state of innocence and intimacy with God. Let us keep ourselves open to God, keep our hearts free from hardness and soft to the Craftsman's gentle touch. That is a good way to continue growing in this life of faith.
This short little song repeats the central theme of Colossians 3:11 “Christ is all in all”. The verses before evoke the theme of the song before, connecting the first track to this one: in the passage, because we are being renewed in the image of our creator, “there is no longer Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free; but Christ is all in all” (3:11). In the song, the word all is sung through a vocoder (vocal effect) and other effects so as to mix with Alatta’s own clear voice. They sing “all” to complete her sentences, the vocoder making for a chorus effect to evoke the sense of “all”. This song is simple but beautiful, a reference to the fact that we are all united together into the body of Christ.
3. Great is Thy Faithfulness
A beautiful take on a classic hymn. This is much of what Alatta does best, re-working old hymns to create something both lyrically and musically beautiful. As the two songs before are about the life of faith—its growth and change, plus its breadth across all believers—so too is this song about the life of faith, especially God’s faithfulness throughout all of it. The faithfulness of God is one of the most beautiful things to meditate on: we worship a God who will not let us down. It is the faithfulness of Christ by which we are saved, brought about because of God’s faithfulness to those commitments he made to the Israelites. We can trust in his ongoing faithfulness in our day to day as we continue to grow in faith: our garden of belief being carefully pruned and cared for by the one who has remade us in his own image. Entrust yourself to him my friends, he is faithful to care for you, for us, for all.
4. All Things New
The most interesting part of this song is the first word: Alatta sings two words at the same time (two separate recording tracks). She sings Mother and Father at the same time to refer to God. I encourage you to listen to and think on the rest of this song, it is very trinitarian and a beautiful song! I am going to hone in on this first word and bit. Alatta is choosing to sing both Mother and Father at the same time to broaden our understanding of how God reveals himself. God’s undeniably primary way of revealing himself is in terms of masculine imagery: Father, warrior, defender, husband, etc. Nevertheless, there are feminine images too: God is said to give birth, to nurse his young, compared to a mother-bear, and even Jesus refers to himself as a mother hen! There’s been a movement in recent theology to bring these metaphors for God to the forefront of our conception of him, to reconceive God as both masculine and feminine, as Alatta does at the beginning of this song. To provide my own thoughts on this: while surely it is good and right to treat all metaphors of God, much of this movement risks committing a crucial error. God chooses to reveal himself in a myriad of ways, but these pieces of self-revelation only evoke certain aspects of his person: We are in risk of disobeying the second commandment whenever we attempt to canonize God in one concept or another. God is only fully revealed through Jesus Christ, and is revealed by Jesus Christ as Father, Spirit, Son. Alatta’s song is beautiful, and good, and the first lyric should cause us to stop and to consider God in all of his aspects. Importantly, it should cause us to consider whether we have created an image of God in our own heads, fashioned a box to place him in, one which does not account for all the ways that God reveals himself—all the metaphors he uses for himself in scripture. Jesus Christ, the Word of God, is the fullness of God revealed to us. He is the way by which we come to know God as God, and so let us enter in through him.
Jameson is one of the staff members a UCM at UBC. He's currently studying at Regent College in Vancouver. Check out his full bio here.