Unwinding Unwisdom

An old and erroneous nugget of unwisdom has it that the English word tedium originates from the Latin Te Deum—the Church’s hymn of thanksgiving, attributed to St. Ambrose of Milan, rehearsing on earth the divine praises we hope one day to sing in heaven.

To those who have difficulty sitting through a sermon or sacred song in this life, the very idea that heaven consists in the never ending praise and worship of God seems incomprehensible, if not downright repugnant.

Though beauty itself is not (merely) in the eye of the beholder, a sufficient explanation for this phenomenon may be found in that member. As recently noted, our choice to peer through clear or obstructed portals determines whether or not we are able to see the beauty of beautiful things.

Naturally enough, those unable to descry the marvelous forest of nature and nature’s God, through the trees blocking their field of vision, readily take refuge in a denial that there could be anything worth looking at out there.

As sinners, most of us are likely to begin with some version of this blindness to the ravishing wonders of the cosmos. One manifestation of this disorder may be boredom in the midst of prayer, especially longish prayers, such as the classic litany of the Blessed Virgin. (The frequent pejorative use of “litany” confirms it.)

I am no master of prayer, but it seems to me that the essential thing here, as elsewhere, is to learn to see with eyes attuned to the love and mercy that characterize our glorious God, and all his works.

One aid to doing so is the arts, by which the more ingenious among us have represented the beauty they discern in the divine sphere.

Take, for instance, this musical setting of the aforementioned litany, by Alessandro Melani (1639-1703):

As Melani reminds us, every word of this prayer is a cry of delight in the saving power of our Creator and Redeemer, who chose to come to us in the womb of a humble virgin, whom he also gave us as a heavenly Mother.

Mother of Divine Grace: Pray for us!

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