All True Beauty...

Fr. John Shimchick / THEME ARTICLE / Reprinted from: Jacob's Well, Fall 1997 / Winter 1998

All true beauty has the power to draw the soul ... Alleluia!

In the wondrous blending of sounds
it is Your call we hear.
In the harmony of many voices:
in the sublime beauty of music:
In the glory of the works of great composers:
You lead us to the threshold of paradise to come,
and to the choir of angels.
All true beauty has the power to draw the soul
towards You and to make it sing in ecstasy:
Alleluia! (Ode 7)

Usually we just assume that our liturgical hymns were written by someone, known or anonymous, who lived a long time ago. But one of the treasures of Orthodox hymnography, the Akathist entitled “Glory to God for All Things,” was composed by Protopresbyter Gregory Petrov in prison camp shortly before his death in 1940. His work is a comprehensive celebration of God’s glory as found throughout a broad examination of life and in the smallest things and most mundane circumstances. It is a celebration as understood perhaps best by one from whom all beauty was seemingly denied.

We have tried to develop this theme of All True Beauty with equally broad strokes. Nancy Forest-Flier examines the expression found in several Russian writers that, “Beauty will save the world.” Dr. Paul Barnes, an Orthodox concert pianist, shares his experience of music’s transforming beauty. Fr. Joseph Frawley discusses spiritual beauty as seen in iconography. Finally, the beauty of holiness, as portrayed in the lives of two remarkable women, is offered as a model for loving the difficult people in one’s life.

Within our Diocese we review our Diocesan Assembly, celebrate the 90th anniversary of SS Peter and Paul Church, Jersey City, the 50th anniversary to the priesthood of Fr. Paul Shafran, and share a variety of activities (especially in the areas of youth and liturgical music) and reviews.

Among our Special Features are articles on Orthodox couples and adoption, The Voice of Orthodoxy (a radio show which continues to offer religious programming to Russia), and a study of the child artistic prodigy, Alexandra Nechita (a twelve year old Romanian Orthodox girl who is called by some, the “Mozart of the Art World.”) Fr. Alexander Garklavs presents some thoughts on preparing a parish mission statement. Elizabeth Theokritoff summarizes the environmental symposium, “Caring for God’s Creation,” which was held in Santa Barbara, California and attended by His All Holiness Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW.

For some, as noted by Fr. Alexander Schmemann, beauty will never seem “necessary,” “functional,” or “useful.” But at the same time, there can be something beyond beauty itself, something that enables it to be true and real, that allows it to reveal specifically the love for God’s Kingdom. In Fr. Alexander’s words, “As long as Christians will love the Kingdom of God, and not only discuss it, they will ‘represent’ it and signify it, in art and beauty.”

And they will sing in ecstasy: Alleluia!

Articles from this issue:

Fr. John Shimchick is the pastor of Church of the Holy Cross, Medford, NJ
and editor of Jacob's Well, the Newspaper of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey, Orthodox Church in America.

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