Faith Becoming Music:Insights of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (1970-2000)
Rev. Virgil C. Funk
NAAL Music SeminarSaturday, January 9, 2010 (10:30 11:15)Discussion (11:15- 11:30)
“Faith becoming music is part of the process of the Word becoming Flesh.”
Joseph Ratzinger was never a pastoral musician. His unique insights come from his viewpoint of a theologian, linking the experience of music to the reflective thought and beliefs of a theologian. Hiswritings reflect his musical experiences and his theological reflections. But upon examination, hiswritings reflect his faith (the Church’s faith) in revelation, in the Paschal mystery made present, and therole that music plays in the revelation of God.
Music as experience, first
Music, you probably will agree, is an experience. Music exists when it is executed; and, preciselyfor that reason, to write or speak about it is a challenge. Music as an experience acquires its significanceby association: first, by personal association with the individual experience. But music also gainssignificance through association with the culture in which it executed. These cultural associations may benational identities (as “God Bless America”), sub-cultural social movement associations (“We shallovercome”), or sub-cultural religious associations (“Holy God, We Praise Thy Name”), among otherpossibilities for association. And these cultural associations, held in common by some members of thecommunity, provide, if not a universal objective significance to music, a communal significance, beyondthat which an individual perceives. Experience of music is significant of its association and itssignification.Music exists as an experience with individual and communal associations which provideindividual and communal significations. Ratzinger’s articles examine the religious associations of theexperiences of music.
PART I. Insights on Music
Music in Ratzinger’s experience
Ratzinger’s experience of music is, therefore, important to his musical ear, just as mine and yoursare to our ears.In June 1945, after two years of drafted service in the German army, eighteen-year-old JosephRatzinger returned to his home. His two year older brother, Georg, does not return until July. Writingabout the return 50 years later in his autobiography, Ratzinger states:“Yet something was still missing to make our joy complete. Since the beginning of April there had been no news from my brother. And so a quiet sorrow hung over our house.What an explosion of delight, then, when one hot July day, we suddenly heard steps and the onewe had missed for so long suddenly stood there in our midst, with a brown tan from the Italiansun. Full of thanksgiving at his deliverance, he now sat down at the piano and intoned the hymn“Grosser Gott, wir loben dich” (“Holy God, We Praise Thy Name.”) Ratzinger,
Ratzinger describes a formative musical experience, preceded by sorrow and loss, experienced insilence, now relieved in joy, and expressed in music.The echo of this experience returns when Ratzinger reflects on music in 1996, after 51 years of theological study: