The Human Being as Divine Song

“If, then, the orderly arrangement of the cosmos as a whole is a musical harmony, ‘whose designer and maker is God’ (Heb 11.10), as the apostle says, and man is a miniature cosmos, and this same man has also been made an image of the one who composed the cosmos, what reason knows in the case of the great cosmos, this, in all likelihood, it sees also in the miniature, for the part of the whole is of the same kind in all respects as the whole. For just as in a fragment of insignificant glass it is possible to see the whole circle of the sun reflected in the gleaming part, as in a mirror, as though the smallness of what is gleaming contains it, so also all the music perceived in the universe is seen in the miniature cosmos, I mean in human nature, the music in the part being analogous to that in the whole, since the whole is contained by the part. But even the instrumental equipment of our body, which has been artfully devised by nature for the production of music, proves this. Do you see the flute in the windpipe, the bridge of the lyre in the palate, the music of the lyre that comes from tongue, cheeks, and mouth, as though from strings and a plectrum?

Since, then, everything which is in accord with nature is pleasing to nature, and since the music which is in us has been shown to be in accord with nature, for this reason the great David combined singing with the philosophy concerning the virtues, thereby pouring the sweetness of honey, as it were, over these sublime teachings. In this singing nature reflects on itself in a certain manner, and heals itself. For the proper rhythm of life, which singing seems to me to recommend symbolically, is a cure of nature. For perhaps the very fact that the character of those who live virtuously need not be devoid of the Muses, unharmonious and out of tune, is an encouragement to the more sublime state of life. Neither must the string be drawn taut beyond measure, for that which is well-tuned certainly breaks when it is strained beyond what the string can bear, nor on the contrary must one slacken the tension immoderately through pleasure, for the soul which has become relaxed in such passions becomes deaf and dumb. In all other matters likewise we must tighten and relax the tension at the right time, looking to this, that our way of life in the customs may continue always melodious and rhythmical, being neither immoderately slack nor strained beyond measure.”

St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Inscriptions of the Psalms, Part 1, Chapter 3, Tracts 22-23 as in On the Inscriptions of The Psalms

Properly oriented then, the human being becomes a Divine song. Much as a properly tuned string instrument with a properly taught musician can make a beautiful harmony, so too the human being whose life is properly oriented towards God through the putting away of sin.

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