I suppose when you love someone many things remind you of her. Well, I love the Church and I often see signs of her everywhere. Yes, even in a Bach Fugue. In this case I am reminded of the Church more as the Body of Christ, than the Bride of Christ. Yet in Him both are one, for a man clings to his wife and they become one (cf Gen 2:24 inter al).
In the video below an organist plays Bach’s Fugue in C Major (BMV 564). Like any musical fugue, the organist begins by announcing the theme, playing it with his right hand. Soon enough the left hand answers and eventually the feet play the theme in the pedal. The fugue then takes the theme through a series of math-like progressions. But always the basic theme is being developed.
Now consider that the organist is Christ, the head of the body, and that the organ is the the Body of Christ. The organ, like a body has many parts and makes many different sounds. There are diapasons, the reeds, the flutes and the string pipes. The reeds are made up of various sounds like the trumpet, oboe, and vox humana. The string pipes make different sounds too such as viola, salicional, dulciana and so forth. The Flutes too come in many varieties as do the diapasons. And there are wonderful “mixtures” that give brightness and the deep low notes of the pedal sometimes as low as the 32′ contra Bombarde that makes the whole building shake. Yes, this too is an image of the Church. And Christ is able to make beautiful music with this wonderful variety.
And how does he make this music? Just like with a fugue, he announces the basic fugal theme that underlies every other aspect of the song. And this theme is the truth of the Gospel. And every voice of the Church takes up that theme and sings it out, but it is Christ who plays. And he develops and enriches the theme in a kind of “development of doctrine” that he leads the Church to proclaim with ever greater intricacy. But always there is the basic theme, the fundamental truth.
Yes, here too is an image of the Church in a fugue and in virtuoso organist making beautiful music through unity with a wondrous instrument.
4 Replies to “An Image for the Church in a Bach Fugue”
God is a mystery, so every attempt to analogize Him or view Him in anthropomorphic terms is incomplete, if not a bit misleading if taken too far.
The Church — myself included — have often used the “Christ is the Head” imagery, but I wonder if we run the danger of creating an erroneous dicotomy between the Head and the Body, as if they were separate things.
It really struck me watching this organist play that the music is so complex and the diverse notes coming so quickly, in at least four simultaneous parts, that the organist did not have time to think about what notes to play. Indeed, it seems likely that his head played only a minor role. Rather, the eyes saw the notes on the page and, without further imput from the brain, and more than just reflex, the fingers, hands, and feet acted on their own. Which is to say, the body itself has the capacity for “thought.” That is, there is no division between “the head,” which thinks and decides, and “the body,” which acts; rather, they are a unified whole.
With respect to Christ, He infuses the whole of the Body. While we humans might not be “the Head,” but instead inhabit the Body, still the whole of Christ is in the Body. I suppose there is a Eucharistic aspect to such a thought as well, that He is indivisible, each separated part of the Host being the whole Jesus, and all of them combined being only One Body.
Just some musings here late at night.
p.s. I know the Holy Father is partial to Mozart, but it is Bach that is reflective of the majesty of the universe.
By the way, Monsignor, did you ever go get and watch Slaughterhouse Five, which has an excellent Bach soundtrack?
(trailer at link)
A wonderfully beautiful comparison! Reminds me of Rerum Novarum: “/…/ capital cannot do without labor, nor labor without capital. Mutual agreement results in the beauty of good order”. Let us not forget that social order, musical beauty, the beauty of saints… are all a reflection of the supreme Beauty, God.
Bless you Monsignor for this “respite” from the mundane lives most of us lead…or rather think we do until we
are exposed to such magestic beauty as the gift music. Deo Gratias! …for Bach, for the invention of this magnificent instrument, the talented organist, and the opportunity to share in this lovely moment of music appreciation.
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