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Pontiff pays tribute to contemporary composer Arvo Pärt

October 06, 2010

In an address delivered on October 1 following a concert given in his honor, Pope Benedict paid tribute to two of the giants of classical music-- Franz Josef Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven-- and to a lesser-known contemporary composer, Arvo Pärt. The Estonian composer, who has been influenced by Gregorian chant and early polyphony, was born in 1935.

Pärt’s “Cecilia, Vergine Romana,” said Pope Benedict, “wishes to give voice to another reality, which does not belong to the natural world: It gives voice to the testimony of faith in Christ, which in one word is ‘martyrdom.’”

The Pope added:

The text of the saint's martyrdom and the particular style that interprets it in a musical key, seems to represent the place and task of faith in the universe: in the midst of the vital forces of nature, which are around man and also within him, faith is a different force, which responds to a profound word, “arising from the silence,” as St. Ignatius of Antioch would say.

The word of faith needs great interior silence, to hear and obey a voice that goes beyond the visible and tangible. This voice also speaks through the phenomena of nature, because it is the power that has created and governs the universe; but to recognize it, a humble and obedient heart is necessary -- as the saint teaches, whose memorial we celebrate today: Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

Faith follows this profound voice where art on its own cannot reach: it follows it on the path of witness, of selfless giving of oneself out of love, as Cecilia did. Then the most beautiful work of art, the masterpiece of the human being is his every act of genuine love, from the smallest -- in the daily martyrdom -- to the extreme sacrifice. Here life itself becomes a song: an anticipation of this symphony that we will sing together in Paradise.


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