The most tangible expression of its availability is, of course, the Incarnation. But what on this earth connects us to that reality? After all, as Dallas Willard said, God is Spirit, or “unbodily personal power.” One of my favorite CS Lewis essays is a letter Lewis wrote to Owen Barfield in which he brilliantly unpacks how this creative process works.
Truth is best communicated with “imaginative skill and imaginative intent.” In fact, Lewis goes on in another of my favorite essays, Bluspels and Flalansferes, to say that imagination is the “organ of meaning.” (Imagination, mind you, is not to be confused or conflated with Imaginary). But how? In The Good Serves the Better and Both the Best, a brilliantly laid out essay into Lewis’s idea of the imagination as the organ of meaning, Dr. Michael Ward writes that “to employ the imagination is to graduate from sight to insight … things must rise up out of the swamp of nonsense into the realm of meaning if the imagination is to get any handle on them.” After meaning is discerned and distilled, “we can judge whether their meanings are true or false.” Music then, in my experience, is a transport mechanism of the imagination gaining access to roads otherwise impassable. When I cannot feel, I turn to music. When I cannot think, I turn to music. When I cannot cry, I turn to music. When I cannot see beauty, I turn to music.
Duke Divinity School professor, Jeremy Begbie says Music shapes us as it can “scoop into the darker depths of life without losing its sense of direction and purpose.”
It serves to reiterate Lewis’ belief that imagination is the organ of meaning and the additional reality that meaning transported by music gives a temporal continuity and insight between now and eternity.
Listen to this piece by composer Frank La Rocca three times. On the first listening, just listen and be transported.
Before listening again, meditate on the translation:
O great mystery,
and wondrous sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord
lying in their manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear the Lord Jesus Christ.
As the music will have taken you to a place where the text can be easily delivered and digested, follow along with the text in an effort to absorb more of its meaning.
Before the third listening, click on the lecture the composer himself gave at Notre Dame and see what imaginative skill looks like from the ground up. It can be found HERE.
The third listening will astound you.
Truth is available, music is a means of transport which teaches us as we travel along with it or even better, as we travel along in it.
Kate resides in Newport Beach, CA. After pursuing a music degree at Trinity University and Indiana University she currently studies at HBU in the Master of Arts in Apologetics program. She is a full time homeschooling mother of four, two of whom have graduated to college (Cornell and LMU). She is also a professional singer performing regularly with the Pacific Symphony and Pacific Chorale. Kate gives regular recitals in Art Song and Opera and conducts the St Matthew’s Choristers at St Matthews Anglican Church in Newport Beach where they study Latin, Liturgy and Music. Her newest projects are the establishing of The Children’s Conservatory at St Matthew’s Montessori school and… as a contributing writer to Literary Life!