Michael O’Connor

Published On


Page Range

pp. 55–72


  • English

Print Length

18 pages

3. Music, Breath, and Spirit

What is the connection between singing, breathing, and the Holy Spirit? This chapter seeks to answer this question in the context of a theology of creation and incarnation grounded in trinitarian theology. As every singer knows, you cannot utter a word without breath. In the eternal now, the Word is uttered on the Holy Breath by the Father and utters himself back, on the Holy Breath, to the Father. This is the basis of all activity of the Trinity ‘outside’ of the Trinity. It provides the prototype of communication among creatures, including speech and song, as well as the telos of all authentic communication: eschatological participation in the communion of the Trinity. This chapter considers key moments from a trinitarian history of prayer and worship, highlighting the interaction of Word and Breath both in God’s self-disclosure in creation and redemption (going out), and in the return path of prayer, worship, and thanksgiving (coming in). This chapter offers one possible Roman Catholic approach—drawing on Hildegard of Bingen, Yves Congar, Etienne Vetö, and the Second Vatican Council. The methodological assumptions are largely pre-critical, following practices typical of patristic and medieval writers, enshrined not only in strictly theological works but also in liturgical texts and lectionaries and continued by hymn writers and poets.


Michael O’Connor

Associate Professor at University of Toronto

Michael O’Connor is Associate Professor at St Michael’s College in the University of Toronto, and former Director of St Michael’s Schola Cantorum. He is the author of Cajetan’s Biblical Commentaries: Motive and Method (2017) and co-edited, with Hyun-Ah Kim and Christina Labriola, Music, Theology, and Justice (2017).