Friday, February 18, 2022

“If An Atheist Listens to This Prayer, the Webs of His Mind Will Be Cleared.”

In the Divine Office this past Sunday, we learned from St Augustine that God “judged it better to make good out of evil things, rather than to not permit evil things to be.” Yesterday, I discovered by happy accident that this even applies to something as awful as reality television. In India, there is a subgenre of reality programming in which people from rural areas who have had little or no experience of Western culture are exposed to it and asked for their reactions. (Judging from the number of examples on YouTube, this genre appears to be quite popular.) The introduction is just as cheesy as such things are wont to be in the West, but don’t be put off: it is truly fascinating to see how quickly these gentlemen, on hearing the Dies Irae in Gregorian chant, come to express deeply Christian sentiments about the meaning of a prayer which they do not understand. (The elderly man on the left is even moved at one point to make the Sign of the Cross.) Perhaps there is a lesson for the Church to be learned from this, that Her divinely-given mission “to make disciples of all nations” has profited nothing by abandoning “that stupendous and incomparable artistic and spiritual thing, the Gregorian chant”, and good music in general.

No less beautiful are their reactions to Greek Orthodox chant. One of them immediately knows without being told, “... this thing is centuries old, and has been going on since time immemorial”, and another says, “it’s pulling my heart from inside. It’s a good prayer, I want it to not end, and (I) keep listening to it forever. This thing is reaching the heart.”

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