Monday, April 25, 2011

Liturgie des Lumières

Saturday night I went to a Catholic Mass. I had been wanting to attend a meeting in one of these amazing churches there are here, and Easter seemed like the perfect occassion. I expected to learn a lot, which I did, but what impressed me the most was the music...

Singing the chants along with the priest and congregation was like a sublime culmination of my university studies, both of music and of cathedrals and their symbolism and evolution. "The song of the righteous is a prayer unto me," and it was truly beautiful to sing. As we sang the psalms it filled the once ghostly and empty vastness of the church with love and spirit and light. "For where two or more are gathered in my name, there will I be also."

In these brief intervals of song between recitations and formalities, the whole building seemed to come alive for me. The walls stood a little taller, the air was joyful, the carved columns and capitals held themselves proudly as the ancient beauty of truths written into prayers and voiced in the form of songs passed down through the millennia since Isaiah rang out and the old tired building became, for me, something like a temple.

The magic of the music transformed the church before my eyes and I imagined it in its former splendour and beauty, every detail carved so patiently by hand, then painted to come alive so that the walls, columns, arches, and windows would shout forth the truths of an Almighty God, vibrant, alive, and full of love.

I marvelled and imagined that the ancient Apostles would have been so happy to see Christians build and gather to worship in such incredible buildings as these--so full of the wisdom of the ages and of the teachings of the biblical prophets. Practically every element of the building was crafted and created with religious symbolism. But I think they would be saddened, too, that so little of the symbolism is understood today by the people who attend, and that these people are so few in number.

Words simply cannot describe my emotions as the multitude of penitent worshipers sang in the form of Gregorian chants, the songs resonating off the ancient stone walls and filling the building with such beauty. The music soaked into my soul, wrapped all around me, enveloping me in the beauty of the music and the spirit of the words, then drifted off quietly and humbly up into the high vaulted ceiling of the third and highest level of the building. In effect, the music was floating, both symbolically and literally, up into the Celestial realms.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful description! Music creates such a strong connection between men, but also the incredible connection between man and God that you talk about. Some of the times I have felt closest to God were when singing hymns of praise in a choir. Thanks for sharing your experience.