Tuesday, February 26, 2019


Beauty has a close relationship with truth, a relationship that should be studied, emphasized and recovered to understand something more of the magnitude of art. Truth is at the origin of aesthetic liking and it could almost be said that art is primarily a profound, especially profound, understanding that uses other languages ​​to express intimate aspects of reality and our understanding of reality. The Christian poet, while singing the truth of faith, speaks of God and man with words, melodies and rhythms. On the other hand, the celebration of the liturgy requires, with a need that we could call structural, beauty. In fact, the unfathomable beauty of God's love takes "form" in the Mystery of the Incarnate Word. And it finds its sacramental manifestation in the liturgy of the Church. In this way, the celebration expresses the ultimate truth of everything that happens in it: the presence of the glory of God sacramentally given in communion to men. A trope of the first Byzantine Vespers of the Transfiguration sings Christ, sacrament of the beauty of the Father, with these words: Christ Jesus, visibility of the beauty of God, has seen the splendor of divinity in the sensitive experience of humanity.


If the Mystery of Christ, as object of reflection, generates rigorous theological discourse, as object of affection, it provokes prayer, song, image, poetry. Faith is love and creates poetry; Faith is joy and generates beauty. Faith is intimately lyrical and musical. It is in Ephrem, in Romanos the Melodist, in Ambrose ... and in so many other thinkers of the East and the West Christian who expressed theology in poetry. The lyric of faith – Ambrose’s' song vox - and the music of faith - Augustine's pious music - are epiphany of a Church that, while celebrating the divine Mysteries, wishes to conform its life to the perennial song of the celestial liturgy. No wonder, then, that many Christian generations have already sang the hymns of the holy liturgy. These hymns have served as a vehicle for expressing the love of the Trinity on the lips of the Saints. They thought, weighed, loved their verses, and from that came a thousand experiences of contemplation that marked the path of the spirituality of the Church of Christ.

1.1. The "lyrical form" of faith

The hymns of the Divine Office translate in notes and melodies the spirit of the liturgy oriented to the worship of the celebrated Mystery. When the high-medieval authors composed and sang hymns, they were conscious of being personified angelic voices. That is why they could only participate in what they emulated and, thus, this trip in the name of another ends up designating the traveler himself. The prayers did not conceal their inadequate and babbling voice with shame; they were not replaced by the angelic voices in the manner of a ventriloquist, but simply stated that they celebrated in conspectu Dei. Sensitive to the value of the great tradition of the Church, the restoration of the liturgy, which emerged from the Second Vatican Council, placed the hymn at the beginning of the Office in all of its Hours. Previously, the anthem occupied a position almost at the end of the office. It was after the psalms and the reading of the capitula , opening the eucological section (hymn, prayers, concluding prayer). For some, this was the best situation; Now is not the time to explain the reasons. However, the decision to place it at the beginning of the celebration prevailed, as a song that would give the tone to the praying assembly. If Israel was the people who knew how to pray, now the Church, the new Israel of God, is also a teacher of prayer, and from that condition, her behavior translates into beginning the prayer with a lyric text.

Placing a lyrical piece at the beginning of the liturgical prayer is a way of expressing the Church's awareness of singing with the Angels and with the depth of the waiting universe, thus redeeming history and the cosmos. Therefore, in the celebration of the liturgy of the Hours, poetry and music, assumed a structurally constituent element of the symbolic code, became a mediation on the presence of the Mystery. The hymns of the Office, made of music and poetry, live in the bosom of the Church, a sanctuary of true faith and doxology. Both dimensions are closely related, fbecause the Church is the place where the Holy Trinity is glorified through authentic doxology.

With the arrival of St. Ambrose († 397) to the episcopal chair of Milan, the newly composed hymns of the Ambrosian Church make it possible to pray liturgically with lyric texts.  Until then, the faithful of the Christian West knew only prose texts. Hymns are, to a certain extent, a particular case of a general law: the nobility embedded in the Christian spirit is revealed in the fact that it cannot be separated from the desire to give beautiful form to what is believed, celebrated and lived in the Church.

Hymns are not psalms. Both are poetry and poetry to sing, but the difference between them lies, above all, in that hymns are not inspired texts, but products of human ingenuity. The hymn is a poetic expression of praise. The hymns lyrically translate admiration for Christ's redemptive work, confess faith in him, adhere to him, and narrate with poetic images the history or values ​​of a martyr or a particular cycle of the liturgical year.

Not all poetry is a hymn, but every hymn is poetry: it is characterized by its rhythm, by its figures, by the meter of its verses, by the lyrical language. The hymn makes us sing Christmas, the Cross, the Ascension ... with poetic images and not with didactic prose. There are ways and ways to say that Jesus has risen, or that Mary is the mother of the Lord, or that in Lent we are moving towards the novelty of Easter ... A hymn is made of admiration, poetry, music, intensity of feelings, Images, rhythm. The hymnological has the advantage over the other eucological elements of the special communicative force of poetic language. This force is closely related to two factors: first, that the lyric is not restricted by the meshes of logical rigor; Second, its markedly synthetic quality.

The medieval hymnographers introduced in the cult, with exquisite taste, of all the imagery of the Song of Songs, so to sing the joys of the Church, with Mary and every Christian soul. In the Middle Ages of the West it was possible to maintain in the cult the biblical spirit, and all the variety of oriental colors. That the hymnody is essentially poetic in character, it responds in large part to the fact that it is composed of spirits modeled on Scripture and the Fathers. Its modes of expression are figurative. Their words are valued not so much by what they say as by what they suggest, by what they refer to. Its power of evocation surpasses its precision. Every word in a stanza is like a note that stirs up harmonics. All the delicacy of liturgical poetry comes from the free and harmonious use it makes of sacred words. The courage to relate two texts of which one enlightens the other can sometimes form a contrast that brightens the light proper to each one; The continuous passage is from a fact to an allegory, from an event to an idea; The succession of stanzas, each of which evokes a different reality, and which are completed in a rich whole, like the facets of a diamond, that allow us to admire its varied reflections ... all this art is that of The great liturgical tradition.

The Christian lives in the midst of the paradoxes of faith: the Immense becomes limited; A Virgin gives birth; He who is life defeats death forever with his death; A human body is seated at the right hand of the Father ... In the face of the impossibility of understanding these and other apparent paradoxes, the hymn sings and wounds the imagination to facilitate enthusiasm in praise. Its lyrical tone facilitates the symbolic transposition and, by stamping that imprint on our minds, "colors" the Hour of the Office in us. Then the evocative poetic force, of which the hymn is always charged, strongly enhances the expressive valence of prayer. Herein lies its merit; This is his original contribution.

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