Thursday, May 15, 2008

On Pipe Organs and Pseudo-Dionysius

From B-16's allocution of yesterday:

It is interesting that this Pseudo-Dionysius has dared to use just this thought [of a deified cosmos] to show the truth of Christ; to transform this polytheistic universe into a cosmos created by God, into the harmony of the cosmos of God where all the forces are praise of God, and to show this great harmony, this symphony of the universe ranging from seraphs, the angels and archangels, to man and all creatures which together reflect the beauty of God and are praise to God. Thus he transformed the polytheistic image into a praise of the Creator and of his creature. We can in this way discover the essential characteristics of his thought: it is first and foremost a cosmic praise. The whole creation speaks of God and is a praise of God. The creature being a praise of God, the theology of Pseudo-Dionysius becomes a liturgical theology: God is found above all in praising Him, not only reflecting; and the liturgy is not something constructed by us, something invented to produce a religious experience during a certain period of time; it is singing with the choir of creatures and entering into the cosmic reality itself. And so the liturgy, apparently only ecclesiastical, becomes wide and large, becomes the union of ourselves with the language of all creatures. He [Pseudo-Dionysius] says: one cannot talk about God in an abstract way; talking about God is always - he uses the Greek word - a "hymnein", a singing for God with the great song of the creatures, which is reflected and concretized in the liturgical praise.

This happens to be the theology behind the liturgical use of the pipe organ, as well. The "King of Instruments" is capable, through its variegated colors and sounds, of replicating 'the choir of creatures' and 'their language[s]' in praise of God. It is not merely incidental that the pipe organ sounds by virtue of wind (pneumos)--a symbol of the Holy Spirit.

In other words, the pipe organ is not something developed for entertainment in whorehouses, as a certain ex-Archbishop of Milwaukee was fond of saying...

No comments: