Peggy Rosenthal, the author of the wonderful book, The Poets' Jesus, has a suggestive reflection about her own journey to faith. She credits a summer spent with Dante as planting seeds that eventualy bore fruit in the waters of baptism. But Dante was not the only sower. She writes:

I suspect that my immersion in the Divine Comedy did indeed “plant seeds” within me.

So did other works of art. I recall listening to Bach’s B Minor Mass with a subtle longing. The Kyrie, especially, sounded to me like a sustained ache for something I did not have.

One day I was driving to the mall and Vivaldi’s Gloria came on the radio. I pulled over into a parking lot, enthralled, hearing a joy that I longed to share.

Visiting the art museum in our new city, I stood in front of the medieval paintings of the Holy Family and let myself be drawn into them. I wasn’t just noticing the color techniques and the play with perspective that I’d been taught in my college Art 101 class. I was seeing a vision of love.

And, of course, these same works of art continue to nourish the faith once planted, to focus once again that "vison of love" that enthralls. Less than a week ago I had the grace of approaching the Cathedral of Chartres with two friends. We had been conversing together, but as the facade and towers loomed before us, we fell into an awed silence that went much deeper than our words, yet linked us even more intimately.

It was as though we were caught up in a communion in which stone and glass, flesh and bone, intellect and will were not fused but united in harmony and communion.

Seeds and even sacraments point beyond themselves to the One who sows with prodigal generosity. No wonder Bach affixes at the end of all his works: Soli Deo Gloria!

Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is a longtime Commonweal contributor.

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