I’m dabbling once again in John Senior’s modern classic “The Restoration of Christian Culture.” Not even to the first chapter, this reflection on Our Lord’s Parable of the Sower sunk deep into me:
…the work of music in the wide sense, including as well [the] tunes that are sung, art, literature, games, architecture–all so many instruments in the orchestra which plays day and night the music of lovers […] if it is disordered, then the love of Christ will not grow.
I disagree in part. Allow me. I’ve reflected on this book for years…
I would that he might have said, “then it is much more difficult for the love of Christ to grow.” More difficult because we’re always busy, busy, busy. Much of the time needlessly so, I think. We’re distracted. Divided. Disoriented. We’re dreadfully afraid to be alone with our thoughts, or the possibility we might be confronted with an I/Thou encounter that might break us out of our spiritual timidity. And so we are unable to approach anything that resembles peace. At least not the peace which passes all understanding. We’re stuck in the amber of a diabolically conceived dictatorship of noise. We can’t hear our own hearts beating, let along the stars singing.
John said we must rethink priorities. Throughout the book, he gives numerous examples of the priorities we might rethink. At the center of them all is silence, but a pregnant silence, a burgeoning silence. A silence that is present.
Andrew Senior, John’s son, says in the foreword to the 2007 edition, that “silence and prayer will do more to restore Christian culture than noise and action.” He’s feeding us a tidbit of the thought that his father fleshes out in the first chapter, from which this blog takes its name. It is the core of my apostolate called Cellarium. Here is the quote, in full, with my dull ramblings interspersed:
The Blessed Virgin said of her Bridegroom at the instant of the Incarnation, ‘He brought me into the cellar of wine.’ The saints who comment on this passage tell us that each of our souls, like hers, must descend with him into that cellar where he will say, ‘Eat, O my friends, and drink, and be inebriated, my dearly beloved.’
Wine is usually taken at the table, not in the cellar. Eat, O my friends, and drink, and be inebriated. Not in the common room. Not even in moderation. Inebriated. This is the language of desirous love. Of courtship, if you will. The bride and bridegroom imagery which is but a taste of the spiritual reality of the Beloved’s desire for souls. For your soul. For mine. He feels that way about us all of the time, but do we reciprocate? How many minutes per day do we spend with Him, inebriated in the wine cellar?
The saints refer to this as a definite, necessary stage in the spiritual life. Without it, there is no progress toward the Kingdom of Heaven, which is the only goal of the Catholic life, whose only language is music–the etymological root of which means ‘silence,’ as in ‘mute’ and ‘mystery.’
We can’t think of this as simply a duty to be performed. It’s a disposition of the heart. I’d go so far as to say that when we speak of practicing or placing ourselves in the presence of God, it shouldn’t be a simple acknowledgment of fact. Be inebriated. Like lovers are inebriated by each other’s presence.
Music is the voice of silence, and so it follows that to enter with Our Beloved Lord into that prayer of quiet and to pray to Our Blessed Lady that He might lead us there, we must learn to speak that language, too. That is, we must know music and especially the music of words which is poetry. No matter what our expertise, no matter what we are by vocation or trade, we are all lovers. Everyone must be a poet in the ordinary way of salvation.
I can’t make you a poet, or even to understand the importance of the goodness, truth and beauty of the language of love. I can tell you, but you probably already know from experience, that falling in love woke something deep within you that sang, that searched for words to give life to that which is inexpressible. That is music. That is silence. That is poetry.
If you’d like to delve deeper into this line of thinking, I can recommend Anthony Esolen’s brilliant forty page introduction to his recent work, “The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord.” And then, the songs themselves.
Until then, dear friends, remember the Beloved’s desire for you, and sneak off to the cellar of wine to wait for Him there. He won’t tarry long.