Many of us are extremely sensitive to the beauty of music. I can recall listening to certain pieces of music with so much joy that I’d think: I could die happily if this were played for me on my death bed! “Sensitive” doesn’t quite cover that!
People who are visually attuned have the same feeling when they experience the uncountable beauties, sounds and fragrances of nature: the moonlit sky, sunrises, flowers, waterfalls.
So I was surprised and delighted when my spiritual director told me that such moments of – well really, ecstasy – draw us into a prayer that is truly spiritual and that offers us an experience of God and of heaven.
The composer Franz Schubert understood and expressed this when he set his friend’s poem to one of his loveliest songs, “To Music” (An die Musik).
“Oh sacred Art, … you have transported me into a better world!”
Such soul-deep experiences of beauty, approached through our senses, become deep experiences of God-in-us and of God-in-the-world.
Going even beyond this, St. Augustine ecstatically wrote of God’s Beauty that surpassed his senses, reaching into his very soul, not through any of his senses, but directly into the depths of his spirit:
You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.
You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness.
You breathed your fragrance on me;
I drew in breath and now I pant for you.
I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.
You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
This dazzling perception surpassed any knowledge provided by his bodily senses. There was no material sight, sound, fragrance, or touch that Augustine perceived, but only the overwhelming spiritual vision of God’s Beauty. For there is a palpable sense of Beauty in just thinking of God without seeing or hearing any outside stimulus.
If we are not yet ready for Augustine’s mystical revelation, we must nevertheless take time to appreciate the beauty accessible through our senses, for these are the stepping stones that lead us to the inmost temple of our soul where God is found.
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Take a moment to listen to a beautiful rendition of An die Musik by the late Arleen Auger.