“Faith Comes Through Hearing”

The preliminary working document (Instrumentum laboris) for the Bishops’ Synod on the New Evangelization does not mention either music or singing. Beauty is mentioned less than a dozen times, primarily in paragraph 157:

Some responses refer to the subjects of art and beauty as places for the transmission of the faith and, therefore, are to be addressed in this chapter dedicated to the relationship between faith and knowledge. Many possible reasons are given to support this request, especially those coming from the Eastern Catholic Churches who have a strong tradition in this area. They have been able to maintain a very close relation between faith and beauty. In these traditions, the relation between faith and beauty is not simply a matter of aesthetics, but is rather seen as a fundamental resource in bearing witness to the faith and developing a knowledge which is truly a “holistic” service to a person’s every human need.  

The knowledge coming from beauty, as in the liturgy, is able to take on a visible reality in its originally-intended role as a manifestation of the universal communion to which humanity and every person is called by God. Therefore, human knowledge needs again to be wedded to divine knowledge, in other words, human knowledge is to adopt the same outlook which God the Father has towards creation and, through the Holy Spirit and the Son, to see God the Father in creation.  

This fundamental role of beauty urgently needs to be restored in Christianity. In this regard, the new evangelization has an important role to play. The Church recognizes that human beings cannot exist without beauty. For Christians, beauty is found within the Paschal Mystery, in the transparency of the reality of Christ.

I am reminded of St. Augustine’s accounts of his own conversions in his Confessions, the initial conversion inspired by the singing of the Church in Milan, and the deeper conversion inspired by the singing of the small child, who sang “Take and Read!”

Preliminary documents famously do not always entirely determine the scope of these sacred deliberations, and one would hope that the final documents of the Synod would better reflect the power of music and singing to change the human heart.