On technical excellence versus? spirituality

How many times have you heard really sincere, heartfelt music in church that was emotionally and spiritually significant to the one performing it… and it sounded awful. Then you visit a different worship service and the music is glorious, you see the heavens open up! But these guys are paid professionals. Heck, they’re not even from the same denomination and I think the bass player isn’t even a Christian. Anyone confused?

Merton mentions this in passing:

It is important, in the life of prayer, to be able to respond to such flashes of aesthetic intuition. Art and prayer have never been conceived by the Church as enemies, and where the Church has been austere it has only been because she meant to insist on the essential difference between art and entertainment…One can be at the same time a technical expert in chant and a man of prayer, but the moments of prayer and of technical criticism do not usually coincide.

-Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island, Ch.3 Sec. 7

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