Saturday, June 19, 2010

Church Music from the Future

I was reading an article on the Antiochian Web site entitled, "Authentic Church Music." One thing that struck me was the following:
Our Patriarch Ignatius IV commenting in his book The Resurrection and Modern Man on the Apocalyptic verse "Behold, I make all things new" emphasizes that God comes into the world from the future.[1] So, too, should our music, and iconography be made new from generation to generation, not in the sense of radical innovation or novelty, but new according to the renewal of the Holy Spirit in the Church. We must trust that the Holy Spirit will reveal the mind of the Church in every generation and in every nation as the faithful apply the great commission not only to the spread of the Orthodox faith in thought, word and deed, but also in Christian art.

Here Fr. John Finley refers to the eschatological nature of the Church and that which makes the Church truly Catholic. If the Church and everything about her as sacrament of the kingdom is determined by the in-breaking of the future reign, the eschatological kingdom, establishing it's rule in all the here-and-nows of history (through the cross, through the Eucharist), then her music must also be included.

Having come once from a Contemporary Worship / baby-boomer surfer party themed background, it is refreshing to find this belief, this expectation, this self-awareness. It is the eschatological outlook and self-understanding of the Church that drew me to her in the first place (there may be other things, but they all coalesce into this matrix). That liturgical music should so naturally find its home in this eschatological self-understanding brings me a comfort I've never known. Why? Because it is one of many things I've searched for without being able ever to describe it with words.

Some accused converts like me of becoming Orthodox just for smells and bells. No, I became Orthodox because I wanted to be a part of that eschatological in-breaking of Christ's kingdom that I saw so clearly in Holy Orthodoxy. I went and I saw and I believed (and I read Scripture and believed with certainty!) Did the music charm me? No. The theology behind the music and everything else did, because it is true, it is the shining brilliance of knowing the One who is True and Truth Himself through His cross and resurrection.

I know that there are many others out there like I used to be, people who are still Lutheran that are looking for this culture of the eschatological kingdom that breaks in to here-and-now as they battle it out against the threat of the spiritual erosion of the world's anti-sanctification into what should be holy ground. I can only pray they will one day see what my foolish heart was undeservedly blessed to see.

Here is some more from Fr. John Finley:
Just as an authentic icon makes visible for us, the invisible Kingdom of God, so too, authentic Church music makes audible for us the inaudible song of the angels around the throne of God.

And just as an icon of Christ or the Theotokos differs in style from nation to nation, and from one century to the next, so too, a musical setting of a hymn to Christ or to His mother differs in style from nation to nation and from one century to the next.

Because we respect the tradition of the Church, and because we know that no culture or no era stands in isolation from another in Church History, we seek to develop Church art in a living continuity with the past, realizing however, that the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church to which we are united, is not simply the Church of the past, but also of the present and of the future.

Read the entire article...

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