Flip Flop Philosopy on Musica Sacra
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,940
    Our organization is one totally dedicated to Sacred Music. The question has been asked over and over, “What is sacred music?”

    Almost inevitably the discussion begins at the formulation of theoretical approach, dissection of execution, methods and schools of thought, instrumentation, vocalization, and so on.

    I propose that although these are essential to our very gathering, they are merely the tools necessary to the FIRST word in the phrase, “Sacred Music”. They are the filagree on the manuscript, that which joins humanity to heaven, soul to spirit, in essence the beauty and form of the element that it wholly serves, the Sacred. And when everything is dissected from the amalgamation of that wonderful and highest art, the heart of musica sacra is truly the prayer. All else serves the prayer and the pray-er. Our task is to guild the heart with an incense of sound, the ‘musica’. It can never be an end to itself. In Corinthians we are reminded that “if we sing with the tongue of men and angels but have not love, we are a clanging cymbal.” Therefore, beauty alone without love is hollow. Empty.

    God FIRST wants the Sacred Love of our hearts, and only then can it be wrapped in the incense of the “musica” to find its true merit and value in the Kingdom of God. We must never forget this principle. Sometimes we get it flip flopped and think that beauty alone is the goal or aim of our art. No, God alone is our goal and aim. When that is our impetus, then the beauty of our art can truly be whole, inspiring, timeless and mystical, and only then can it summon a heavenly corterie.
    Thanked by 1bhcordova
  • CGM
    Posts: 490
    Let us not forget, though, that God, who can be known through his transcendentals of Goodness, Truth, and Beauty, can in fact be experienced through beauty — which is why we have to strive to make our sacred music as beautiful as possible, in order to facilitate that encounter with the divine, for the congregation even moreso than for the musicians.

    So I agree that the pray-er who is also a musician must have his heart in the right place, and I agree with St. Paul that beauty without love is empty, and yet I would counter that beauty has its own power to move and elevate hearts, and it should be cultivated for the transcendental — a path to God, and a characteristic of God — that it is.

    In other words, as with so many things Catholic, beauty is not an either/or, but a both/and.
    Thanked by 2Caleferink francis
  • CatherineS
    Posts: 502
    I would suggest, perhaps erroneously, that if and when something beautiful is produced by someone with a corrupt heart, it is only by God's mercy that the beauty can be experienced or have some holy impact, despite the corruption. But God can also work miracles in ugliness - how many famous conversions took place while a person was in the midst of suffering, illness, imprisoned, outcast, lost, or in some other ugly context where one might expect a person to suffer despair and misery? But instead they were somehow touched by a direct knowledge of God's love and mercy.

    Which doesn't mean we should therefore play horrible music in ugly churches, but rather that God does what He pleases despite our incompetence, and if He wishes someone to be drawn to Him, He will make that happen despite the unappealing or contrary circumstances.

    (I'm not intending to disagree with anyone, particularly, just musing on the subject, which has been much on my own mind over the years. I don't think there are more 'pious' dedicated Catholics in any one parish or another I've attended, whether the style is modern, charismatic, pop-music, just plain awful, Gregorian chant, classic hymns, or anything else. The more 'animated' the music the more the people tend to confuse sensory stimulation with religious experience, perhaps. The more somber and formal the rite, the more people tend to confuse formality with religion, perhaps. I don't know. Conversion of heart is a very personal, interior transformation, and intimacy with God develops in many widely different contexts and places. I couldn't bear, personally, to do anything noisy or informal in a church. I find it very offensive. But I have had days when I've prayed in a Mass that was nearly a rock-concert, and prayer is prayer, whether you are being tortured to death or at home or at work or at one of those very lovely churches that does everything with grace and dignity and a well-trained competent choir.
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 7,407
    I agree, basically, with Catherine's comments just above here. They are spot on. I would only add that beauty which is worshipful or revelatory of God can be practiced or made by unbelievers as well as believers, by sinners (which, after all, we all are) as well as saintly ones. I think of atheist architects (Philip Johnson for example) who have designed profoundly holy places, sacred space. I think of the doctors in our lives, many of whom are unbelievers, who yet, in their vocation to heal and treat our afflictions, are doing God's work even if they know it not. There is amongst our treasury of religious art many works which were painted by an artist who was not necessarily a believer. Much of our great music was composed by those who were/are hostile or indifferent to religion. Beauty is beauty, and whatever its provenance it glorifies God, An English garden, a French parterre, and a Japanese rock garden are equally, though differently, beautiful and glorify God equally - just as (as we have discussed before on this Forum) does a hymn that professes Catholic truth e'en though it was penned by a 'Protestant'. Being actually Catholic does not at all guarantee that what would be a work of religious art is beautiful. Quite the contrary - one has only to view the merchandise on sale in a Catholic book store to affirm this.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,143
    I think the heart of the proposed discussion must be whether music, however beautiful, made in beach footwear can still be called sacred.
    400 x 270 - 40K
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,940
    I also second the thought that beauty is a manifestation of God, even created by one who does not 'know' him. Beauty is truly a gift.

    Nevertheless, my point is particularly about the beauty of sacred music and OUR role in performing it. So, I suppose my point is very specific and truly addresses the state of heart of both musician and pray-er.