Reflecting on the content of an orchestral and choral program, Pope Benedict said that one particular piece gave voice to the witness of faith through martyrdom. And this, he explained, represents the greatest masterpiece of all, an act of authentic love.
A concert was offered for the Pope at the Vatican on Friday evening at Paul VI Hall by Italian energy company ENI, which led restoration efforts to renew the facade of St. Peter's Basilica for the Jubilee Year in 2000. More recently, they have been leading similar restoration efforts for the colonnade of St. Peter's Square.
The National Academy of St. Cecilia's orchestra and choir performed works by Ludwig von Beethoven, Franz Josef Haydn and Arvo Pärt, a modern Estonian composer of sacred music, during the program. Concluding the evening, the Holy Father pointed out some of the differences between the composers' works.
The pieces by two former composers represent art's universal dimension, "a way to conceive of man in his place in the world," he observed, while Arvo Pärt's piece showed another reality "not of the natural world." Pärt's work, "Cecilia, Roman virgin," said the Holy Father, "gives voice to the witness of the faith in Christ, which in a word says 'martyrdom'."
The text coupled with the key of the interpretation "seems to represent the place and the task of the faith in the universe," he said. It appears to show that "in the middle of the vital forces of nature, that surround man and are also within him, faith is a different force, that responds to a profound word, which 'came from silence,' as St. Ignatius of Antioch would say," explained the Pope.
Extrapolating the lesson to a greater scope, Benedict XVI said, that the "world of faith needs a great interior silence, to listen to and obey a voice that is beyond the visible and tangible."
It is a voice also present in natural phenomena, he added, as the "power that created and governs the universe." But, as St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, whose feast day was celebrated on Friday, teaches, he said, "to recognize it, we need a humble and obedient heart."
"Faith," he concluded, "follows this profound voice there where art itself alone cannot reach: it follows it on the way of bearing witness, of offering oneself for love, as Cecilia did. So the most beautiful work of art, the masterpiece of the human being is his every act of authentic love, from the littlest - in daily martyrdom - up to extreme sacrifice.
"Here," said the Pope, "life itself makes a song: an anticipation of that symphony that we will sing together in Paradise."
A beautiful moment during the concert came after the moving performance of Pärt's work, when the 75-year old composer was able to greet the Holy Father personally. He was also escorted to the stage to take a bow together with the musicians and singers.