The Delight of Melody . . . the benefit of the words.
When, indeed, the Holy Spirit saw that the human race was guided only with difficulty toward virtue, what did He do? The delight of melody He mingled with the doctrines so that by the pleasantness and softness of the sound heard we might receive without perceiving it the benefit of the words.
~ St. Basil the Great, Exegetic Homilies, Homily 10
“I shall never forget,” recalls one observer, “how, once the hymns of praise (stikhera) were being sung. Father John had by that time almost finished vesting, so as to celebrate Divine Liturgy. Only the chasuble was not on him. Quickly, in a swift movement, more running than walking, he came out of the altar to the choir, joined the singers and began to sing together with them. He sang animatedly, with deep faith, himself acting as choirmaster, again stressing individual words and slowing the tempo where that was required by the logical meaning of what was being sung. Experienced singers instinctively guessed these words, this tempo and rhythm, and followed him with no small skill and animation. The singing, not very harmonious at first, quickly became melodious, strong, sonorous, mighty, animating, flowing over the whole church, wholly filling the hearts of those who were praying. It was touching to look at the singers at that moment. It was as if some holy early Christian family, with its father at the head, were singing, singing its victorious, holy and great hymns.”
~ from A Spiritual Portrait of St. John of Kronstadt, by Bishop Alexander Mileant