Wednesday, April 29, 2009

FATHERS: Wisdom and the Word

For just as though some musician, having tuned a lyre, and by his art adjusted the high notes to the low, and the intermediate notes to the rest, were to produce a single tune as the result, so also the Wisdom of God (being the Word), handling the universe as a lyre, and adjusting things in the air to things on the earth, and things in the heaven to things in the air, and by combining parts into wholes and moving them by his beck and will produces the universe in its perfect order. (The Function of the Word, Contra Gentes, Athanasius, ca. 298-373 AD.)

The great father of both Eastern and Western churches, Athanasius, describes how it is that the word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, directs the creation, and everything in it to his ends, by comparing this to the work of a master musician who selects the possible sound of his instrument and then plays it in perfect combination of the parts to attain and beautiful score. Most important here is the implication of this truth. Tuning and playing single notes do not make complete sense of the whole piece, they do not reveal its true beauty until the score is fully played. The evangelical Catholic strives to understand that we get to see, hear, and feel is only a piece of the whole composition at best. This is a most valuable comfort when evil seems to be overtaking us.

1 comment:

  1. How exciting it is to realize that Athanasius, not only saw the Word in a musical framework, but that he was allowed to express this idea.
    I was in the church for years before being exposed to this idea.
    I see the centrality of music in the "worship" of the modern church. That God would express His will in our Universe musically is just as bonafide a metaphor as God expressing "His Sovereign Will" from His throne authoritatively.
    The physicist Louis deBroglie in 1924 helped the scientific world to see that it is not only light that expresses itself in a wave/matter duality, but all of what we call "hard" matter as well. And that when expressing itself as waves, all matter is analagous to an infinitude of vibrating notes being played on an infinitude of strings.
    JRR Tolkiens masterwork, The Silmarillion, begins with a Genesis like creation story. In it, the One God, Eru, "sings" a theme, containing all things, all possibilities, past present and future.
    Creation both listens to, and then performs His song, and thereby Eru's will. When Evil raises up discordant themes, the One God takes them and weaves them into a more beautiful song, and thereby creates a more beautiful world.
    In expressing the truth that the Word is in fact, musical, Athanasius comes closer to the true meaning of the Greek word Logos than the 17th century post-Renaissance, pre-Enlightenment English speaking Greek scholars did by translating Logos into the common "word".
    Any Greek scholar will admit, begrudgingly sometimes, that John 1:1 could very well be translated, "In the Beginning was the RATIO"
    All music is, by definition, expressed ratios. Relationships.
    Peter Townsend of the Who, expressed it this way, "There once was a Note, Pure and Easy, playing so free like a Breath, rippling by..."
    Paul too, sees a musical, and therefore axiomatically ratio-nal, AND rhythm-ical (a form of the word ratio) relationship when he states in Ephesians 2:10, "we are his workmanship". The word translated workmanship here is the Greek Poiema, from which we get our English word, poem.
    I Imagine the most beautiful poem. The rhythmic quality of it. Now I imagine the most beautiful song with poetic lyrics.
    Now understand, that the "we" Paul speaks of, are the words of that song, that poem, and our relationship, our ratio-ship, depends on how well we harmonize with the Music of Creation.
    That Music is in fact, the Lord Jesus Christ. This Music, this Ratio, this Note, this Word, "was, is, and is to come".
    What is the will of God? To believe on Him whom God has sent..." John's gospel tells us.
    If there is a place in my life for listening, it is surely a place to hear, not only God's Word, but His Song. So that truly, "thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven."
    That thy Song would be sung, on earth as it is in Heaven.