Monday, December 3, 2012

Music and the Desire for God (CCCC #2)*

For much of the day yesterday, I pondered the second question in the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCCC)—Why does man have a desire for God? Then I attended 5 p.m. mass at our church and instantly knew the answer, or one answer.


Music gives me a desire for God.

Our beautiful parish church in Beverly, Massachusetts, St. Mary Star of the Sea, has a 104-year-old organ. The pipes (some of which are pictured left) may last forever, but the console (keyboard) is well past its sell-by date.

Our organ is like an old man’s mouth in one of my father’s sayings: “The teeth are all right, but the gums have got to go.” So our parish, which collects $9,000-10,000 on a good weekend is trying to raise $250,000 for an organ console. Big project.

Good cause too. Because the Catechism says that God created us in his image and has “written upon our hearts the desire to see Him.” (What a beautiful image!) And nothing moves my heart with a desire to be closer to God than the right church music.

On his Twitter feed yesterday, Cardinal Dolan posted the following message: “God is constantly revealing himself to us. He whispers to us, he doesn’t shout. Advent invites us to listen and and discover His grace and mercy.”

I am not the sort of person who “desires” God passionately all day long, maybe because I don’t hear God shouting; but just as God “is constantly revealing himself to us,” my desire for God is constantly “whispering” inside me. I need to listen carefully for it in my heart—whether I’m listening to a Bach requiem mass or hearing the liturgy, sung or spoken, or reading the lives of the saints. These and other parts of Catholic life and culture remind me that the desire for God is written inside me. Because I am made in His image.

Here’s the entry from the Compendium:

2. Why does man have a desire for God?

God himself, in creating man in his own image, has written upon his heart the desire to see him. Even if this desire is often ignored, God never ceases to draw man to himself . . . This intimate and vital bond with God confers on man his fundamental dignity.

There’s more to write about here—about how we ignore our desire, and how we define dignity. Maybe I’ll cover those topics in another post.   

For now, here’s a video on the organ project, including some beautiful music from our choir loft. (You can listen for free.)

* NOTE: This post is second in a series on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in honor of the new liturgical year and also to do my small bit to evangelize in this Year of Faith declared by Pope Benedict. To guide myself through the CCC, I am using the question-answer format of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (hence CCCC). I am no expert and will try only to make some kind of personal sense of the CCC by relating it to the experience of each passing day.

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