The ictus is the point in the conductor’s pattern where the actual beat occurs. If you are tapping your toes to the music, the ictus occurs when your foot hits the ground.
My conducting professor would have a cow if he saw most of the conducting patterns we see on Sunday mornings. Not because they are “incorrect,” but because the ictus usually occurs up around the song leader’s ear, when it should be at his waist. But few of my brethren are professional musicians, so who cares where the ictus is, as long as there is one?
That ictus, that stable underlying pulse, must be visible and steady so that we know when to sing. What drives me crazy is when a leader just waves his arm on each word, rather than each beat, and expects us to read his mind about when the next one is coming. Give me an ictus! Even if you begin an accelerando (gradually speeding up) or a ritardando (gradually slowing down), we can still anticipate when a beat is coming and stay together as long as there is an ictus in your pattern. If you’re just beating words instead of beats, who knows when it will come?
Of course, the group has to be watching the leader for any of it to work at all. Funny how the ones who recite, “Let all things be done decently and in order,” will sing what they want when they want, regardless what the leader is doing, and do it loudly enough that they take half the congregation with them. But don’t get me started…
God is the ictus in a Christian’s life. [The Lord] is the stability in your times, Isaiah said, 33:6. That word is the same word translated “faithfulness” in many other passages. God’s faithfulness endures forever, Psa 117:2.
Interestingly enough, it is also the word “steady” in Ex 17:12. Moses lifted up his hands as the people fought the Amalekites, but as his strength failed and they sagged, Aaron and Hur sat him on a rock and held his hands “steady” for him until the battle was over. God holds his hands steadily on high as we fight our battles. That is how we defeat Satan and overcome sin. It’s how we handle trials and tribulations—with the steady helping hand of a God who never wavers.
Even if you aren’t a trained musician you can feel the beat. That’s why your toes tap and your hands clap. It’s why your head bounces when you hear a tune you enjoy, but none of it matters if you aren’t watching the leader.
God doesn’t leave you wondering when the next beat will come. Look for the ictus as He leads you. Sometimes it may slow as the toils of life bog you down, but it will not leave you behind fending for yourself. Sometimes it may speed up as you run from the Enemy, but it is always there for the ones who care to watch and be led.
I often listen to music when I exercise. I find I can go longer and do more than just counting repetitions. If you are in a particularly difficult time of life, let God’s ictus help you put one step in front of the other, again and again and again, until you have finally reached the end of the trial. Let it help you keep moving until you achieve the final goal. God’s steady, stable, faithful hand will lead you on, until you sing that final triumphant note in the song of life.
I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. For I said, "Steadfast love will be built up forever; in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness." Psa 89:1-2.