When I was a freshmen in High School I had largely lost my faith. I was not an atheist, more of an agnostic. If God existed, I didn’t care. I was in a rather angry stage of my life. And frankly there were some things that I had every right to be angry about, things I need not discuss here.
I still went to Church, commanded there by my mother who did not care to discuss my many reasons for not going (thanks be to God that she did not cave in to my demands).
So there I sat in Church, bored out of my mind. I don’t remember that the priest had much to say and if he did I wasn’t in the mood to listen. But one Sunday, a small choir appeared. It was a choir of High School students. I don’t remember what they sang, I just remember that the girls in that choir were awfully pretty. Later that week in Religious Education (we called it CCD in those days), a man came into class and invited us to sign up for the new choir. “Is that the choir that sang last Sunday?”, I asked. “Indeed it was.” he said. “Sign me up,” I said. I remember that my mother laughed a bit because, of all the gifts I had manifested growing up, singing was not one of them.
But there it was. Beauty had hooked me. I will not promise you there was not lust admixed in my attraction. I will simply say that beauty drew me. And through that beauty the Lord would restore me to the truth. The Lord had my attention and my presence through that beauty and now the truth would gently permeate my unbelieving soul.
As luck would have it we sang a lot of traditional music in that choir. We weren’t the typical youth choir which sang a steady diet of folk music. I had never liked folk music, sacred or secular. It just didn’t impress me (just my personal opinion, I don’t say you have to agree). But the classical compositions of Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Marcello, and the like impressed me. Here too, (remember I was a teenager) it was related to girls 🙂 You see, folk music, at least the Church stuff, has very little of a bass line to sing. But classical music used a lot of counter-point and hence the basses were kept busy and we got to sing a lot of low notes! Are you getting the picture? Young teenager me, wanted to impress the girls in the choir with my deep voice. Classical music gave me the opportunity to do that. Hence, my preference for the classical, simple as that.
But here too beauty was on the way. It was not as quickly appreciated as the beauty of the young ladies. It was a slowly discovered beauty. At first the music was just fun to sing, but slowly its beauty infused my soul. And as it’s beauty attracted me, the message of faith contained in that sacred music also became attractive. We would study not just the notes but also the words. I remember once singing a section of a Beethoven Credo (by then I was in my first year of college and we were preparing for a concert). The choir director explained that the steady beating of the bass notes was to represent the hammer blows of Christ being nailed to the cross as we sang “crucifixus etiam pro nobis.” (and he was also crucified for us). It was powerful to sing those notes. So the message began to sink in.
I need not say much more. My point is that God used beauty to draw me: the immediate beauty of the girls in the Choir, and the discovered beauty of the music. But it was through these beauties that I discovered the beauty of Truth. I joined the choir to meet my bride. In the end I did meet my bride. For it was through my deepening involvement with the Church through music that I discovered my Bride was the Church herself. My bride is beautiful and she is true.
This video is an excerpt from the film The Mission. Fr. Gabriel has gone deep into the rain forest were an untrusting and often violent people fear his arrival and hide preparing to stalk and kill him. But he takes out his oboe and plays a beautiful song (my first girlfriend played the oboe). The beauty draws them out of hiding and helps them accept him into their village. Beauty opened the door for truth and Fr. Gabriel begins to preach Christ.