The Beauty of Bach and the Conversion of Judith Caboud

In her book Judith Caboud gives the story of her conversion to the Catholic faith. (The book is entitled, Where Time Becomes Space, and the author is listed as Judith Antony). There is a summary of her book on the web here. One factor was the beauty of music, especially Bach. 

As a teenager Judith heard the music of Bach and recounts that “on hearing this sound, I burst out crying. I said, ‘What is this music? I never heard such a thing in my life!’ It was the second orchestra suite by Johann Sebastian Bach. [ find a short part of it here on You Tube] After that, every week it was like going to treasure island, that is, a place where I could discover marvelous things. This is why classical music became very important because it took me into another world, and this other world was one of beauty.”

Judith writes: “That beautiful music of Bach was an intimation of heaven. It came from somewhere, from someone; so there was something else.” (p. 26, Where Time Becomes Space)

Pope Benedict XVI said in a speech the following:

The encounter with the beautiful can become the wound of the arrow that strikes the heart and in this way opens our eyes, so that later, from this experience, we take the criteria for judgment and can correctly evaluate the arguments. For me an unforgettable experience was the Bach concert that Leonard Bernstein conducted in Munich after the sudden death of Karl Richter. I was sitting next to the Lutheran Bishop Hanselmann. When the last note of one of the great Thomas-Kantor-Cantatas triumphantly faded away, we looked at each other spontaneously and right then we said: “Anyone who has heard this, knows that the faith is true.” The music had such an extraordinary force of reality that we realized, no longer by deduction, but by the impact on our hearts, that it could not have originated from nothingness, but could only have come to be through the power of the Truth that became real in the composer’s inspiration. [Message to Communion and Liberation, August 2002, Rimini, Italy, made available May 2, 2005, Zenit)

It has been reported that the precise music Pope Benedict heard was: the choral “Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden” (St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244), followed by the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major (BWV 1048), the cantata No. 140 “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme” (BWV 140) and the Magnificat in D major (BWV 243) in second part. (you tube s provided; additional parts of the Magnificat are found to the right of the screen of the first part)

Judith Cabaud traveled to France and met a young man who showed her many of the beautiful places in Paris. She said “I was not ready to see the connection between beauty and absolute reality.” (p. 80)

 She continued her studies in Paris and took in much of the French culture and history; she reports that she had a mistrust of politics and feared collectivism; she thought religion was “another complicated aspect of that same collectivization that crushes the individual with a system of constraint.” (p. 92) And yet she had a dream in which she saw “a white cross stood gleaming and brilliant in front of me. It was immovable and persistent. I awoke a little frightened.”

It took the study of Pascal to bring Judith to see the light of faith. (To be continued)


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