Let’s continue with more reflections on Beauty in the Liturgy. An experience more recent than the glory of the Hagia Sophia …
The French writer Paul Claudel allured to the internal force of the liturgy in witnessing to his conversion during the singing of the Magnificat during Vespers on Christmas Eve at Notre-Dame de Paris: “It was then that the event happened that has dominated all my life. In an instant, my heart was touched and I believed. I believed with such force, with such relief of all my being, a conviction so powerful, so certain and without any room for doubt, that ever since, all the books, all the arguments, all the hazards of my agitated life have never shaken my faith, nor to tell the truth have they even touched it.” [Cf. P. Claudel, Ma conversion in Contacts et circonstances, Gallimard, 1940, p. 11ss; cf. also in Ecclesia, Lectures chrétiennes, Paris, No 1, avril 1949, p. 53-58]
What a confluence: the feast of the Nativity, of Jesus coming into the world; the setting of one of the most magnificent worship spaces; the text of the Blessed Virgin’s acclamation of praise, of God turning the world’s expectations upside down. The music was probably pretty decent too.
The beauty of the liturgy, an essential moment in the experience of faith and the pathway towards an adult faith, is unable to reduce itself to mere formal beauty. It is first of all the deep beauty of the meeting with the mystery of God, present among (people) through the intermediary work of the Son, “the fairest of the children of (Earth)” (Ps 45, 2) who renews without end His sacrifice of love for us. It expresses the beauty of the communion with Him and with our (sisters and) brothers, the beauty of a harmony which translates into gestures, symbols, words, images and melodies that touch the heart and the spirit and raise marvel and the desire to meet the resurrected Lord, He who is the Door of Beauty.
The use of Psalm 45 is more frequently the second half of that lyric for the feast of the Assumption, an interpretation of the princess on her wedding day attributed to the Blessed Virgin. The first half of that psalm describes the bridegroom, which is of course how we see Jesus.
The full document is here.
Image: the rose window at Notre Dame in Paris, By Zachi Evenor based on File:North rose window of Notre-Dame de Paris, Aug 2010.jpg by Julie Anne Workman – CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60404628