Monday, October 10, 2011

The theology of a color

One of my great friends and a fellow composer, Carolyn Pirtle, makes no apologies for her ardent love of the hymn "For the Beauty of the Earth". There is much to admire about it: the celebration of earth and sky and hours and human relations, all find their place in that for which we must simply accept as gift.

These are good days to be tuned to the beauty of the earth, especially on a campus with the inherent loveliness of Notre Dame. It seems that around every corner lately, there is some breathtaking, golden view leaping into the eye of the beholder:

In one of my favorite contemporary novels, "The Color Purple," the heroine makes a statement that has stuck with me for many a year. She says, "I think it must piss God off when we pass by the color purple and don't thank him for makin' it".

I'd say amen to that. Or any other color out there, too - especially now, during the season of red and amber and yellow and gold and cobalt and earthy brown. It is time, even when walking across campus or coming upon a tree that is exuding an optical alleluia, to simply say thanks for the gift.

Every morning when I go to work, I walk the same route: up from Lyons Hall parking lot, through the archway, then along the south side of Howard and Badin Halls. I know the trees well along that route, when they shout out their colors, those that are early and those that are late. One of them, a particularly old and decrepit maple that was half-patched with cement, finally succumbed to the ND landscapers last year. But not before gracing my morning walk with one more season of visual glorification.

Indian summer at Notre Dame is a miracle of visual joy for anyone who cares to see. And the words below, whenever we sing them, give us a way to unlock that Mystery.

For the joy of ear and eye,
For the heart and mind's delight,
For the mystic harmony, linking sense to sound and sight:
Lord of all to you we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

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