Editor’s note: we have embedded several videos of the sacred music performances discussed in the following text, but space prevents us from including them all. We encourage you to follow the links as well so you don’t miss out on any of these beautiful pieces of music.
Throughout the desert of Lent, souls seek conversion along the Way of the Cross through abstaining from certain foods, images, and noise so that they may grow closer to their Creator and hear His voice in the silence. Such disciplines engage all five of the human senses. Guido d’Arezzo, an 11th century monk and musician, wrote that sounds, sights, tastes, and smells influence the wellbeing of both heart and body because “through the windows of the body… things enter wondrously into the recesses of the heart.” How, then, can the medium of sound, which enters “the recesses of the heart,” foster interior silence? Does this mean that we should abstain from listening to music during Lent, and replace it with spiritual reading and silent prayer? But even the Church herself does not abstain from music altogether in her Lenten liturgy, only certain kinds of music, such as the organ. On Good Friday, when the altars are stripped, the flowers closeted away, and the statues veiled, there is still deeply poignant music. For “silence is not an absence,” writes Cardinal Sarah, “On the contrary, it is a manifestation of a presence, the most intense of all presences… For silence is where God dwells. He drapes Himself in silence.” In what way, then, can we draw closer to God by using the gift of music in our personal Lenten devotions in the home?
As the Church adapts the aesthetic to fit the liturgical season, so can we adjust our Lenten listening habits so that our path along the Via Crucis need not veer off from the Via Pulchritudinis. Benedict XVI wrote elegantly of this paradoxical convergence of these paths in some of his Wednesday audiences. He pointed out that knowledge obtained through books is a second-hand kind of knowledge. “True knowledge,” explains Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “is being struck by the arrow of Beauty that wounds man, moved by reality.”