The Sacramental Journey: a Musical Mystery

Dear reader: this writing is in tutor/student dialogue format for more entertaining discourse. Enjoy!

Music is the Transcendent Language of the Liturgy

TUTOR: OK, student, to get back on the bandwagon, we remind ourselves that we are progressively showing that music is revelatory, at least objectively.

STUDENT: Yes, and it has been an awesome ride so far!

TUTOR: Yes, it has, and it is only going to get better! Toward that end, we once again remind ourselves that countless saints have testified that the Mass contains the whole faith implicitly. And there is no denying that the ultimate language of the Mass is music, seeing as Scripture persistently testifies that the angels and holy ones never cease to not merely SAY but to SING to God their worship and praise of Him.

STUDENT: Yes. For example, in a liturgical snippet of Apocalypse, the angels sing Holy, Holy, Holy, which is a reference to what we sing at Mass just before the Eucharistic prayer!

TUTOR: Yes, exactly! And, moreover, whereas Latin and some Eastern tongues are marvelously poetic expressions of how to communicate in the liturgy, the ultimate transcendence of human communication is music, since immediately, if one hears an instrumental melody, the listener can already interpret some implicit meaning from the emotions, timing, and such, whereas if one hears Latin or Lithuanian or Aramaic, one will probably not understand unless one is native to that land or has studied that language. Hence, clearly, as we saw in that first essay, music truly is the ultimate transcendent communication medium. Therefore, if the liturgy perfectly communicates the essentials of our faith implicitly, and if music is the corresponding language of the liturgy, then music should, in some sense, reveal the mysteries of faith.

STUDENT: Yes, and we have progressively been showing this through the lessons. More particularly, this has been demonstrated wonderfully in everything we have done so far. Toward that end, maybe you could review what we have worked on.

 

Western Music is Not Relative

TUTOR: Sure. Firstly, we showed that music is not entirely relative: that even though different cultures may divide the music period differently than the West, or hear different things in our music than we do, nevertheless, if we use natural law and harmonics, the Western scale of 12 notes follows as the simplest natural and objective music that exists. Hence, music is not arbitrary but rigorous and logical.

Moreover, we have begun to establish that this same natural music contains some mind-blowing analogies of Catholic mystery and doctrine that cannot be denied objectively but only questioned about whether God intended them or not.



The Greater Ages in Music

STUDENT: I agree. I will chime in on the first analogy: in the second lesson, we showed that the Greater Ages of the World, both in the joys and sorrows, follow a simple musical scale, namely, from the base note of the key all the way up [or down] to the octave inclusive. There, we saw that the octave was an awesome metaphor: that just as the first and last notes of the scale are effectively the “same” note, only one octave higher or lower, so the first and last phases of human history, whether in joy or sorrow, have basically identical characteristics; how? Well, in this: namely, that the world in the beginning is totally wicked, sparing a remnant [Noah and his family], and the world at the end is totally wicked [the great apostasy] sparing a remnant [small portion of Gentiles and most Jews]. Too, the world at the beginning is destroyed by water, and the world at the end, by fire; finally, the first world is starting to be redeemed, whereas at the end, it is being utterly redeemed.


The Trajectory of the Greater Ages

TUTOR: Excellent, and do you remember the third lesson?

STUDENT: Yes. In that third lesson, we saw that the development of the 12 notes of Western music through the aforementioned “fifths of fifths” yielded a powerful meaning: the scale tends to alternate between a NT event and its associated OT prefigurement, sparing an excursion into the refined notes, or sharps/flats, toward the end. Also, we saw that those excursions ended up revealing the timing of the world’s consideration of the refined theology of the Church and its rejection thereof.

TUTOR: Good. Now we are ready to tackle some deeper theology, and in this segment, the sacramental scale.


The Possible Scales

STUDENT: Good, but I have to ask, how are we going to do this, since, in the second essay, we discussed the notion that the scales we work with can only be base or foundational, in order to be candidates for objective revelation, seeing as anything else would be subjective and eisegetical? More specifically, foundational would mean it is a very simple, complete, unique, unidirectional, and resolving scale. That meant that all the pure notes of the key were there, that there were no repeats [sparing the octave at the end], that it stays in one direction for the whole scale [no backing up], that it doesn’t skip any notes in the pure key [no gaps], and that it resolves, meaning, when it ends, we have a sense of finality, or again, “resolution”, which of course meant that the final note would need to be the base key note (because the first note is also the base key).


Consistent Scales

TUTOR: That is a very good observation, and from preliminary consideration, one could make the case that no scales are left after these greater ages scales, or, that is, ascending joy and descending sorrow, since we already have in the greater ages scales, joy up to joy, base note, and sorrow down to sorrow, base note. Joy and sorrow are the only options.

STUDENT: Right, I was thinking the same thing, so how can we get any more foundational scales?

TUTOR: Yes, the solution is this: we have not noticed DIRECTION, for in these first cases of the greater ages, we have chosen directions that are “consistent” with the emotion.

STUDENT: Ok, what is meant by “consistent”?

TUTOR: Yes, consistent meant, in these greater ages cases, that joy ascended, and sorrow, descended. These scales were indeed consistent, since we certainly think of joy as getting better, or higher and higher, whereas, similarly, we think of sorrow as getting worse and worse, or going down into the dumps.

But so then clearly, there are two possible directions, ascending or descending, and since we also have our two possible emotions, joy or sorrow, or major and minor, consequently, not merely two foundational scales are possible, but four [2 characteristics each with 2 possibilities means, by combinatorics,, 2 x 2 possiblities]. Obviously, we have exhausted two of them, clearly the consistent scales.


Inconsistent, or Ironic, Scales

STUDENT: OK, I think I am catching on: consistent is, in other words, where the direction is correlated to the emotion, so that, inconsistent, or ironic, would be a contrast between emotion and direction. Let me guess it will be: instead of ascending joy, it would be descending joy, and instead of descending sorrow, it would be ascending sorrow.

TUTOR: Very good! And since these are more complex, we would expect them to reveal more complex mysteries about the faith.

STUDENT: OK, but where might one find the more complex mysteries?

TUTOR: Well, quite appropriately, the greater specificities of the faith are revealed in none other than the Catholic religion itself! Moreover, that same religion has two dimensions, intellect and will.

STUDENT: Yes, I get it now: Intellect is for the truth, and the will is for grace—the sacraments. Hence, in some sense, one of the two ironic scales would need to reveal the doctrines of truth, and the other ironic scale would need to reveal the sacraments. But which is which?

TUTOR: Yes! Let us probe it!


Doctrinal Development: Ascending Sorrow

The solution is actually immediate.

Firstly, consider the doctrinal development of the church. In this doctrinal development, she ascends in her knowledge and love of God in the mysteries and dogmas of the Holy One. But it is a sad scale since, at each step of the doctrinal development, the world around her rejects her teachings, as in the schisms, heresies, infidelity and apostasies. So clearly the mystery of truth is ascending sorrow. See also, the angel with the scroll, Apocalypse 10: the scroll is sweet as honey to taste, but bitter in the belly.

STUDENT: I like it. Let me see if I can tackle the other one.

TUTOR: Go for it!

 

The Sacramental Journey, Descending Joy

The Joy of the Sacraments

STUDENT: Ok, this leaves, by default, descending joy to be the sacramental journey. What a pleasant and appropriate surprise; this fits perfectly! I can see how just by thinking about it. How? Because, firstly, to receive the sacraments in one's life, one gets great joy, for God comes down in beautiful rituals and there deposits grace into our soul. Imagine how wonderful it was to our parents when we were baptized; how beautiful it was when we got our First Holy Communion; when we confessed the first time and felt ourselves clean as we left the chamber as a young child; when we were confirmed and made an adult member of the church, anointed by the holy hands of the bishop, as our parents and loved ones looked on in great pride that we were personally choosing to follow Jesus and His Church in the forth-going journey of life, resolved to fight against the temptations of youth and the world that would seek to derail our faith in every college class, in every obnoxious dorm room companion, and so forth; when we got married, choosing to love another beloved friend and person for our whole life, in good times and bad, so help us God, to bring new priceless life into the world, to help each other and our beloved children get to heaven; what an amazing day to begin our life and vocation; and when we have been sick and healed spiritually, consoled in our suffering. These are great joys, undeniably! Yes, all that is clearly joy, wonderful happiness!

TUTOR: You have totally nailed it! Now, how about the descent part?

 

The Physical Descent toward Death

STUDENT: Yeah, I am not sure about that. You are gonna have to help me on that one!

TUTOR: You got it! So what is the descent? Well, think about it: everything we just discussed is spiritual in nature. This leaves the physical, and, behold, it has been said in a medical sense that once we are born, we are already beginning to die; yes, it's true. In fact, once we get beyond middle age, we are descending towards frailty, sickness, and death! How beautiful is that! And so all the scales are covered, and totally appropriate.


The Musical Scale of the Sacramental Life

So now, in this essay we shall probe even more profundity in the sacraments and how they relate to Heaven and Hell. Read on for deeper wonderful analogies.

STUDENT: This is great. I am pumped! Let us go forward!

TUTOR: You bet! To begin, we should first note that our sacramental scale will actually have nine steps and not merely seven.

STUDENT: Nine? That is not right, there are only seven sacraments, not nine!

TUTOR: Right, BUT, the whole of a person’s life begins and ends, respectively, with the natural events of birth and death. These are essential to a person’s walk with God in life.

STUDENT: Ah, yes, I agree. Lead on.

 

Which Version of Sacramental Order?

TUTOR: OK, secondly, we can ask, what order of the sacraments should we use? Answer, Rome’s order.

STUDENT: Wait. Rome, you say? Isn’t that disrespectful of the East, who do all three sacraments of initiation at birth? The Catholic Church, in fact, is not the Roman Catholic Church, but just the Catholic Church, since there are more than 20 other rites than Rome.

TUTOR: True, but some order must be chosen, seeing as they do not agree, as you pointed out. For persons not familiar with the Eastern Rites, we note that they give the babe baptism, confirmation, and eucharist all at once and don’t wait until later as with the West, who, as we know, gives only baptism at birth, then later confession, then eucharist, and finally confirmation at the threshold of puberty. Ok, well, some order has to be chosen by God since they are not reconcilable. Which one do you think God would build into music?

STUDENT: Well, like it or not, I would say “God prefers Peter.” For Jesus, at the time of Caesarae Philipi, did not say to all the Apostles, I have prayed for you. Rather, He “[prayed] for Peter, that Satan not sift [him] like wheat.” In one of Paul’s letters, he says, “Cephas, and the other Apostles.” Peter is special, since he has the charism to hold the faith together, even by himself apart from the other bishops. Indeed, Joseph was favored by his father with the special, multi-colored coat. Peter wears that special coat before the Father of fathers. And hence, God “prefers” Peter’s order of the Sacred Mysteries.

TUTOR: That is correct. Hence, if music were to reveal the mystery of the sacraments, the Western order would be used. Toward that end, here is the delineation:

 

  1. Natural birth
  2. Baptism
  3. Confession
  4. Eucharist
  5. Confirmation
  6. Marriage
  7. Holy Orders
  8. Anointing
  9. Death

 


The Analogy of the Piano

STUDENT: Ok, but what musical instrument will you use to illustrate this? Let me guess, the piano.

TUTOR: Yes! This is because it the best way to illustrate our theology. Also, the key of C works best, which we will discuss momentarily: Toward that end, the scale becomes the simplest, using no black keys [sharps or flats], all pure white keys: CBAGFEDCB, or C descending down to the octave C, pure note by pure note.

With the notes:

 

  1. C: Natural birth
  2. B: Baptism
  3. A: Confession
  4. G: Eucharist
  5. F: Confirmation
  6. E: Marriage
  7. D: Holy Orders
  8. C: Anointing
  9. B: Death


The Key of C is Objective and Not Relative

STUDENT: OK, but why is the key of C on the piano the best way to illustrate our theology?

TUTOR: Well, this is so because, as just hinted at, the pure notes are the white keys, and the sharps or flats are the black keys. Secondly, we need to interject: in our greater ages article, the sharps and flats, or derivatively, the black keys, were not used. They were not referenced or considered. What about that?

STUDENT: Yes, I would like to know about that.

TUTOR: Well, firstly, the sharps and flats relative to a key can be referred to as “refined” notes.

STUDENT: OK, what do you mean by a refined note?

TUTOR: Well, let us digress:


First, we need to establish what a pure scale is. A pure scale is one that we have already dealt with: only consider the pure notes of the key, meaning, up to 8 notes when we do the octave. Pure can be likened to this: do re mi…. Remember when we discussed how the do re mi is a perfect scale with nothing sharp or flat.

STUDENT: Yes, every thing fits and is pure and beautiful [or applicably sad in the minor case]. And the greater ages therein were either purely light or purely darkness, relatively speaking.

TUTOR: Right. Toward that end, if we injected anywhere into this scale a sharp [or flat], it would sound off. Only by using these refined notes carefully and with experience and intelligence do they enhance music. Remember the Millennial pop vs Star Wars music discussion we had?

STUDENT: Yes, I remember that. Millennial pop music is brain dead and stays in the same key with a possible six basic chord progressions, whereas Star Wars uses the refined notes in abundance in astonishingly intelligent and creative ways.

TUTOR: Yes, and so a “refined” scale is one that is not fully pure, which is to say, that takes into consideration the sharps or flats relative to the key, or, that is, that sees theological meaning in the timing and/or nature of such notes, than simply looking at the greater ages with the mere pure notes.

Subsequently, in our sacramental scale, we will definitely take into consideration these sharps, or flats, and the meaning will be incredible.

STUDENT: Ok, but I have an objection: couldn’t you say that the black keys as the sharps and the white keys as pure in the key of C is just arbitrary, since in any other key, some black keys, or at least one, will be pure, and at least one white key will be a flat.

TUTOR: Yes, this is true, however, if we tuned the piano up or down to the new key—meaning, so that the base note of the new key is at the former C key—then the black/white relationship would still hold. In fact, far from mere relativism, the piano, in its very layout of the black and white keys, is expressing a law of the timing of sharps in the transgression of a pure scale: when the base note of the key is considered to be at the white key just behind the first of the two-black-key block, then the timing of the flats is always in the precise place as the blacks. It is a law of music, and consequently, our use of the key of C is not arbitrary but rigorous, while at the same time being the most illustrative form on the instrument.

 

The Refined Notes, the Imperfect Notes: Priests

STUDENT: OK, great, that makes sense. So what can we get out of this?

TUTOR: Yes, to start, let us move on to a deeper analysis of the scale. Firstly, obviously there is a one-to-one correspondence between the sacramental steps and the nine note scale. Yet, the next thing is this: the black keys are obviously “imperfect” notes, since they don’t “fit” anywhere in the pure key. In short, the blacks serve this purpose: of the nine sacramental steps, exactly five of them are steps that require a priest to get to, meaning, of the seven sacraments, five absolutely require a priest [and in one case a bishop] to receive. And note, again, in every complete octave scale, there are five black keys, no more, no less.

STUDENT: Ok, first of all, remind me what these five sacraments are.

TUTOR: Sure, the five sacraments that require the priests are, in Roman order, confession, eucharist, confirmation, holy orders, anointing.

STUDENT: Ok, review for us once again why a priest is absolutely necessary for these sacraments.

TUTOR: Sure: in short, these five sacraments absolutely require a priest, and in one case, a bishop. The Sacrament of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick: both entail the forgiveness of sins. The ministry of reconciliation emanates from the Apostolic offices alone, so that only bishops and priests can forgive sins. In Confirmation: the fullness of spiritual gifts to enable mature perseverance in grace clearly would require that some fullness of truth and grace is manifest in the community, hence, only where the stability of apostolic succession and Tradition exists could this sacrament exist. Holy Orders, of course, exists if, and only if, valid Apostolic Succession exists, and priests do not exist without Apostolic Succession. The Eucharist: only a priest can transform bread and wine into the Second Person of the Godhead. “Do this in remembrance of Me.”

STUDENT: Ok, but I would like to inquire about the other two that you say don’t need a priest: baptism and marriage: that doesn’t make sense, since every baptism and marriage I have ever seen had a priest.

TUTOR: True, but those are consequence of normality. Protestants have valid baptism in general, and so when a minister baptizes, it is valid. The Church defined that in early history. As for marriage, any two validly baptized man and woman, even if they are both Protestant, if they are free to marry, intend the vows, and such, and consummate, contract a valid sacrament of marriage. (marriages in which either spouse is of Apostolic Christianity, will require the presence of a true deacon or priest). Hence, the one who marries them is a Protestant minister, who is never a priest, and it is still a sacrament.

STUDENT: Wait a minute! Protestants don’t even usually believe that marriage is a sacrament.

TUTOR: True, but it is, and they have it, cuz God doesn’t care about their ignorance; He gives them the grace anyway, cuz they need it!

STUDENT: Actually, that is pretty excellent and quite radical. God saves us despite our own folly!

TUTOR: Yes, exactly. Ok, now where were we?

STUDENT: We were going to talk about what imperfect notes have to do with priests!

 

Priests are Sinners

TUTOR: Oh yes! Because PRIESTS ARE IMPERFECT MORTALS! They sin and fall short. And God has willed to mediate His grace primarily through sinful men.

STUDENT: Why on earth would God do that? It doesn’t make sense! Preachers and priests should be shiny and squeaky clean, like angels.


TUTOR: If only that were true. He wants to teach us humility. It would be easy to always receive Eucharist from saints. It takes patience, long-suffering, and meekness to receive grace from a man who may not even be as holy as you are.

STUDENT: But shouldn’t a priest’s ability to give grace cease to exist if he sins seriously?

TUTOR: Absolutely not! That was an old heresy called Donatism. The Donatists were angry that some clergy apostatized at the time of the Roman persecutions. They wanted such men removed from office, and believed that their efficacy as mediators of grace ceased when they fell from grace.

STUDENT: So what did the Church do about that?

TUTOR: They declared Donatus a heretic. Effectively, even back then—long before the moral corruption of the hierarchy in the late Middle Ages antecedent to the great Protestant rebellion, which was largely based on that moral corruption—the Church had to deal with wayward clergy. Their conclusion was, the efficacy of a priest is not contingent on his personal character but upon his office. Hence, their solution with some of these men that apostatized was to relegate them to some penance and readmit them later to practice.

STUDENT: So let me get this straight: you are saying, in other words, that if a priest is in mortal sin, he can still confect the eucharist validly and forgive you your sins in the confessional.

TUTOR: Absolutely, and the reason is that Jesus does not want us to be kept from His love and grace because of any possible wickedness of His shepherds. He loves us that much.

STUDENT: Now that I think about it, that is radical and most excellent!

TUTOR: By the way, did you see that a new Bill and Ted adventure is out soon in the theaters.

STUDENT: Awesomeness! Waynes World!

TUTOR: No, that is Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey. We need Keanu Reeves.

STUDENT: I know, I was just sprucing things up!

TUTOR: Ok, on to business.

STUDENT: Ok, but why the hell did we do all this to begin with?

TUTOR: Because, mon frere, there were five sacraments that require the priesthood without exception and there are exactly only five flats/sharps in an octave, no more, no less.

STUDENT: And?

 

The Five Notes and the Five Sacraments: a Perfect Correlation

TUTOR: AAAND!!! … the five flats of our scale occur EXACTLY BEHIND EVERY PURE NOTE THAT IS A SACRAMENT THAT REQUIRES A PRIEST, no more no less! And that would be amazing if only because it implies that one must “pass through the medium” of a black key, to get to the pure white key that is a sacrament that requires a priest. In other words, it would mean that God MEDIATES grace through the priest, an imperfect sinner, Just as God provides an imperfect medium to get to the note of that sacrament.

STUDENT: No way!!!!

TUTOR: Yes way!

STUDENT: PROVE IT!

TUTOR: Ok, I will. Firstly, note that the piano has a repeating pattern: it has groups of black keys that repeat over and over. More specifically, the black key blocks are only two types: a three-block or a two-block; so as you go down, for example, like our sacrament scale, the piano has this:


B-B-B

w-w

B-B

w-w

B-B-B

w-w

...and so forth,

where w-w is a gap of two consecutive white keys with no black key between them, and B-B-B is a black key section of three blacks (and similarly 2 for B-B). For the record also, the black key blocks are not literally the black keys immediately scrunched together but have single white keys between them.

STUDENT: Ok, so continue from here.

TUTOR: Yes, first, let us take a higher level view. In actuality, our scale starts with C, and as inferred earlier, the C key is the white key just to the left side of a 2-block (any 2 block will do since they only differ by octave). Consequently, remembering that we are descending the keyboard, C is in a gap [w-w], meaning, the key just to the left of it (which is, of course, the next key of our scale) is white, too, B. From there, a three block starts, then another gap, then a two block, then a final gap. In other words, the layout is:

w-w

B-B-B

w-w

B-B

w-w

STUDENT: Ok, now what?

TUTOR: Yes, so the issue is, clearly, and firstly, when we have a gap, or, again, two consecutive white keys, it must mean that the second white key, that is [since we are descending], the left white key, is a sacrament of sacramental step that does NOT require a priest, since it has no preceding black key to pass through to get to it. From here, if we look at the higher level of notes in our scale and seek to determine what the sacramental steps are for these gaps, we get the following:

 

C, Natural birth

B, Baptism

 

F Confirmation

E Marriage


C [lower octave], Anointing

B [lower octave], Death


Bingo, in all three cases, the second note in the gap DOES NOT REQUIRE a priest!

For,

 

Baptism: Baptism does not require a priest, the baptism of heretics is valid

Marriage: Marriage does not require a priest

Death: Death is not a sacrament but a natural event, and so requires no priest whatsoever.


STUDENT: Radically excellent! Let me guess, all the other notes that are after a black key need a priest!

TUTOR: Yes! You want to try?

STUDENT: Sure! Here we go. The layout implies that since we have a three block of blacks, then a two block, that the sacraments that require a priest, are first three in a row, then a skip, then two in a row. The gaps have been explained, so we just have to get situated.

To begin, Baptism got us off running, then the three block started. What three sacraments follow Baptism?

A: Confession

G: Eucharist

F: Confirmation

Yes! All of these require priests!

Next, we skip Marriage, which we already saw doesn’t need a priest.

After Marriage, we have a two block of blacks, and the next two sacraments are:

D: Holy Orders

C: [lower octave]: Anointing

Yes! Those also require priests.

Finally, we have death, and that doesn’t require a priest.

This is completely radical!

TUTOR: Yes it is! I in fact cannot see how this is an accident. This must be divinely inspired.

STUDENT: It is hard to deny it. This is so amazing, that I cannot fathom anything else could come from this.

TUTOR: Whoa. Speak not too soon. A whole other dimension awaits but it must wait for the next lesson, since this has been very long! Class dismissed!




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