Wednesday, May 21, 2008

General Audience: On Romanus the Melodist

~from Asia News. Lovely discourse on faith, art and beauty. Please note what the Pope says about chant and great music, indeed on Christian culture as being alive and not a thing of the past.
If faith is alive, Christian culture is not just a “thing of the past” but becomes a living and breathing experience. Hence “icons today speak to human hearts” and cathedrals are not just ancient art but are instead “places where we can meet God and one another”. The same is true for great music, whether Gregorian or Mozart.

In talking about Saint Romanus the Melodist, a 6th century Father of the Church and a major Byzantine religious poet, Benedict XVI told the 15,000 people who attended today’s general audience that Christian culture remains topical. He told the faithful who were divided between the Paul VI Hall and St Peter’s Basilica because of the rain that has been falling on Rome for days that the Melodist owes his name to the homilies he versified and which were said as songs.

According to tradition, it was Our Lady herself who sparked his vocation on a Christmas Eve when She commanded him to eat a scroll and the next day he improvised his first hymn dedicated to the Nativity.

His way of being “close to the people” is reflected a “lively and very personal way of talking about Jesus, “light against darkness”, “bridge that does not burn”, “inextinguishable lantern”.

The “strength and conviction of his preaching are based on the great coherence of his words and life.” And his theology does not address the great issues of his times for it is “simple and yet fundamental”. Above all, it “is close to popular piety, knowledgeable about the Christian heart.”

“Faith is love and so creates poetry and music. Faith is joy and so creates beauty. Romanus the Melodist is one of those poets; he is a theologian composer, one of the characteristic authors of liturgical hymns, a prominent witness of the religious sentiments of his age, creativity of theological thought.”

“This great poet and composer reminds us of all of the wealth of Christian culture which was born of faith” and “hearts”. This “cultural heritage remains alive” and active “if faith remains alive.”

“Icons today speak to human hearts” and “cathedrals are not medieval monuments, but places where we can meet God and one another.”

“Great music, Gregorian chants, Bach, Mozart, are not things of the past. They exist with the vitality of our liturgy and our faith. If faith is alive, Christian culture does not become a thing of the past” but becomes a living and breathing experience.
For musicians, this is the thing that we do, to bring alive the faith through do so in a way that doesn't focus on us, but gives the glory to God through our instruments and voices. I have to remember this whenever I'm practicing particularly difficult passages. The lessons in perseverence are a journey in themselves...opportunities for humility always.

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