A google search will reveal that no one has put a figure on the number of songs with the word ‘love’ in them, never mind the poems and sonnets not set to music.
Probably because I was talking recently to one of the parishioners about a documentary on Neil Sedaka, his song, “Love Will Keep Us Together” has been jingling around in my mind for the last week or so. I’ve also been humming to myself, “My Song is Love Unknown”, by Samuel Crossman; definitely one of my favourites.
What you may not know is that these two songs have one or two things in common apart from the word love.
Neil Sedaka in the late 1960s and very early 1970s was going through a hard time. In the face of changing musical tastes, his songs were not as popular as they once were. What’s more, he discovered that his mother and her lover had spent most of his fortune. Sedaka moved to England to a sort of exile, and started from scratch.
“Love Will Keep Us Together”, marked a come back for Sedaka and a new phase for his career. Love certainly did keep him together, the love of his family and his music. And his lack of bitterness when talking about those hard times shows that love really did help him move on.
Samuel Crossman wrote “My Song is Love Unknown” in 1664, after he had been ejected from the Church of England. It was while he was in ‘exile’ that he penned the words to arguably one of the most sublime hymns ever written on the Passion.
Throughout the hymn, Crossman sings of the events of the Passion, but the ‘Love Unknown’ is the meaning of Jesus’ death, and not just for humanity in general. Crossman writes not just as a preacher is expected to, but as someone who has obviously experienced an intense and personal love of Christ.
We can enter into the days of Holy Week and the Easter Triduum in two ways. We can see them as some kind of re-enactment to remind a community where they came from, or a means of ‘passing on’ the faith.
Or, we could re-live them.
I don’t mean that we ‘travel back in time’. Nor do I mean that we try to somehow whip ourselves (literally or otherwise) into some kind of false religious fervour.
I mean that each of us, in praying, singing and taking part in the ceremonies, open ourselves up to the truth: that Christ died and rose again for you, and the woman sitting next to you on the bus, and the guy crossing the street, and the child crying in the cot.
Jesus died for me. Love is personal, or it isn’t love.