The Psaltic Art: Material Grace in Byzantine Music

The Psaltic Art: Material Grace in Byzantine Music



The Living Christ is our Communion, the Fullness of all things. We consume physical things with changed essence, the essence of bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of Christ. In this life we will seldom find pure visions of the kingdom but we can catch glimpses of transformed essence in a radiant face or a brilliant landscape. Just the same, the sound of the hymns we hear in church represent materialized grace. The Church appeals to the soul, to the nous, the Church does not seek to capitulate emotion or things of the physical nature. The Church seeks, as Father Maximos of Simonopetra says, “to prick the heart, to lead us to compunction, to repentance.”

The soul aspires to overcome the physical, the layers of flesh, and find the True Essence of the One who was there at our creation. The One we feel in Communion. Just like the flesh, there is a physical nature to music; people who can sing to a certain frequency can shatter glass; music can change your heart rate. So, like many things we feel in our fallen state its starts on the level of the physical but it cuts through the hardness of the flesh and opens our hearts to God.

Byzantine Music, or as Dr. Grammenos Karanos rightly prefers the Psaltic Art, is at the core of our ecclesiastical experience. It has the power to “prick our hearts” and remind us from Whom we came and to Whom we will return.

With this in mind and heart, the third Boston Byzantine Music Festival will take place this November 13th and 14th. The festival highlights the influence of Byzantine music on modern and contemporary music in the East and West. Free lectures and a workshop related to the concerts will take place.

I would like to express gratitude to Father Maximos of Simonopetra for always dedicating extra time for the betterment of our developing spirituality. Much of the content in this article was facilitated through notes on a lecture he gave.

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About author

Dean Franck

Dean Franck is a first year student in the Master's of Divinity Program at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. He is also a participant of our Digital Disciples Program.