Beauty and Saving the World

July 16, 2014 / Jean Hoefling

This is an excerpt of the article originally published by Relief Journal, a Christian online publication. Click the link below for full article.

Fire Leaves

Beauty will save the world. – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

In the Orthodox Church, from Easter to the Ascension, an ethereal hymn is sung while the faithful partake of Eucharist. The brief lyrics implore all who will, to receive the Body of Christ, drink of the Fountain of Immortality. Assuming this transformation of bread and wine into God-flesh and fluid to be mystically true, one can only wonder why an earthquake doesn’t rupture the flooring or angels crack the rafters wide as we small and salvaged ones string forward like ducks to water to ingest Life itself. I’m reduced to a whisper as I sing, as the beauty, the “high art” of this hymn enmeshed with Eucharist, incrementally saves me.

My composer friend Don Newby explains that technically, the musical setting of this hymn feels the way it does on the human psyche partly because its composer has introduced suspensions—non-chord tones—into the line of music at strategic places to create tension, which is then each time given over to release. To the emotions and unconscious mind, these suspensions and subsequent releases feel familiar, mirroring human experience with its constant tensions and releases, dejection and joy, wretchedness and nobility. The music reflects life’s troubled splendor.

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