Opening Our Hearts to God’s Grace
Music review: Empty and beautiful by Matt Maher.
by Lisa Hendey | Source: Catholic.net
If you’re familiar with the world of Catholic music or live with a Catholic teen, you’ve likely been blessed by the music of Matt Maher. You may even have sung along to Matt’s hit “Your Grace Is Enough” at your local Life Teen mass and been touched by the wonder of this incredible songwriter’s passion for our faith.
This year, during the liturgical season of Easter, that blessing will come to an even fuller fruition with the release of Matt Maher’s latest project Empty and Beautiful (Essential Records, Provident Label Group) on April 8th. For the past few years, Matt has been crisscrossing the country touching hearts and souls with his work as a “musical missionary”. Performing to crowds ranging from arenas to intimate worship settings, Matt encourages those who enjoy his music to make room for silent, prayerful worship in their lives. This may seem ironic, coming from a prolific songwriter who is on the verge of releasing yet another CD and this time from a major label. But in speaking with Matt, you can’t help but hear the conviction in his heart for what he is doing – a conviction which is infectious and which obviously spills over into the art he is creating with his music. In his work with Life Teen, with Adore Ministries, with Spirit and Song and other organizations, Matt Maher is a beacon of light and of faith for all of us.
The Pauline epistles inspire the title track of Empty and Beautiful, written in advance of the declaration of the year dedicated to the ministry of St. Paul. "In life, we end up having to empty ourselves to achieve that which is beautiful," Matt says. "If you don't, you never really get made beautiful. It's a weird dichotomy, especially in the world we live in because there's so much focus on beauty. The whole idea of having to empty one's self to achieve beauty is completely counter cultural, but that's what happens-marriage, service of the poor, sharing the beauty of the gospel. That's what Christ calls us to do, and I hope these songs will help inspire people to follow Jesus in that way." The title song envisions not only St. Paul’s imprisonment and salvation, but also our personal liberation through the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This moving anthem, beautifully arranged and produced, typifies Matt’s artistry: songs that sound great and showcase lyrics that have the ability to change lives.
Some of my personal favorites on Empty and Beautiful include “Great Things”, a twenty-first century recounting of the Magnificat with the slightest hint of a country twinge and “As It Is In Heaven”, the sole non-Maher produced track on the CD. “As It Is In Heaven”, produced by Ed Cash, gives brilliant testimony to a God who is Father of us all. Maher fans will be thrilled with the inclusion of “Your Grace Is Enough” on this project. This Matt Maher fan favorite, which has become a worship industry standard, has never sounded better. Each of the twelve tracks that comprise Empty and Beautiful underscores Matt Maher’s message that our hearts are truly empty without our God, who lovingly and faithfully calls us to lay down our lives in service of His Gospel and our neighbors.
Having had an opportunity to chat with Matt Maher in the midst of his hectic touring schedule was truly a grace-filled encounter for this mom. With his music and with a life led “practicing what he preaches”, Matt is responding to the very call about which he sings. Matt emanates a humility and a deep spirituality that is touching and affirming. As a parent, I am thrilled to have CDs such as Empty and Beautiful to share with my family – great songs with a great message that you’ll love as much as your kids do.
Empty and Beautiful will be released on April 8, 2008. For additional information visit MattMaherMusic.com
Lisa M. Hendey, wife and mother of two sons, is the webmaster of CatholicMom.com and the podcast host of CatholicMoments.com.
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