Saturday, July 19, 2003

Augustine on music in church

I've been re-reading The Confessions for course preperation, and am struck by how he describes the music found in the cathedral of St. Ambrose in Milan. He notes that under Ambrose "the practice was institued of singing hymns and psalms after the manner of the Eastern churches. . . ." (9.7) Ambrosian chant was modeled after Byzantine chant!

Note also the effect that this beauty had on Augustine, a man of deep artistic sensibilities. After he was baptized, he says that "The days were not long enough as I meditated, and found wonderful delight in meditating, upon the depth of Your design for the salvation of the human race. I wept at the beauty of Your hymns and canticles, and was powerfully moved at the sweet sound of Your Church's singing. Those sounds flowed into my ears, and the truth streamed into my heart: so that my feeling of devotion overflowed, and the tears ran from my eyes, and I was happy in them." (Book 9 chapter 6)

What a wonderful testimony to good liturgical music! We should all strive that our singing serves the twofold aim of beauty and truth, so that the listeners are emotionally moved by the music to knowledge of the Truth and Beauty who is Christ.

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