Monday, June 20, 2011

St. Augustine, on music

The early church fathers walked a delicate balance between regarding music as an appropriate means by which to worship God and regarding music as a sinful temptation. The following is from St. Augustine's Confessions:

"When I remember the tears I shed at the psalmody of Thy church, when I first recovered my faith, and how even now I am moved not by the singing but by what is sung, when it is sung with a clear voice and apt melody, I then acknowledge the great usefulness of this custom. Thus I hesitate between dangerous pleasure and approved wholesomeness, though I am inclined to approve of the use of singing in the church (yet I would not pronounce an irrevocable opinion upon the subject), so that the weaker minds may be stimulated to devout thoughts by the delights of the ear. Yet when I happen to be moved more by the singing that by what is sung, I confess to have sinned grievously, and then I wish I had not heard the singing. See the state I am in! Weep with me, and weep for me, you who can control your inward feelings to good effect. As for those of you who do not react this way, this is not a concern of yours. But Thou, O Lord, my God, listen, behold and see, and have mercy upon me and heal me --- Thou, in whose sight I have become a problem to myself; and this is my weakness."

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