A glimpse of glory

It is Sunday morning and my soul is, once again, soaring on the intricacies of the music of Bach.

It’s a weekly tradition for me. I rise early and recap the week in thankfulness while listening to Bach’s work. In general, I am not a classical music devotee, but his compositions have long captivated me.

The pleasure comes from the masterful interlocking of the pieces, like the gears of an antique clock or the balance of an equation. Henri Poincaré, a French mathematician, wrote of his pursuit of “mathematical beauty, of the harmony of number, of forms, of geometric elegance.” Not being adept at math, I come the closest to that experience in the elegance of Bach’s complex melodies.

I have first-hand knowledge of that complexity. Actually, both-hand knowledge. In my youth, I played a few of his inventions quite well. Now, I still dabble at them – clumsy fingers stumbling along the familiar runs and trills. For even in my inarticulate readings of his work, I am entering into the genius of his craft, like taking up a brush to crudely copy the strokes of a Rembrandt.

As an artist who seeks to embody my faith in my work, I can find no greater role model than Bach. Every one of his pieces was dedicated to God: Sole Deo Gloria – to the glory of God alone. In a world full of disconnections, Bach gives us a view into a universe where all the pieces fit the way God intended. Philosopher Alain de Botton, an avowed atheist, said of him, “"What I appreciate in Bach is his ability to suggest to me what a belief in God feels like. His music seems to me to be about devotion to a perfect ideal — something purer, better, higher..."

That’s why I love his music. And why it is such a great addition to an observance of the Lord’s Day. For just a few enraptured moments, I get a glimpse of what the world looked like when God stepped back and called it “very good.”

Lord of harmony, maker of melody, how I thank you for the work of your brilliant child, Bach. Thank you for gifting him with the capacity to communicate beauty in order. Through your inspiration, he continues to fill our ears with harmony, focus our minds on excellence and raise our eyes to your glory. Help us, in our own small ways, to similarly show the world how great you are.

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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