Before you read the quote from C.S. Lewis below, I highly recommend that you watch this performance of J.S. Bach’s Fugue in G Minor, commonly called the Little Fugue. Pay attention to how the opening lines of the piece ripple through different registers of the organ one after the other and how that relatively simple melody (I bet you’ll be able to hum it after listening) contains so much potential for creative variation.
What are you noticing as you listen?
The structure of a fugue is very constrained, and yet from within the limits of the form, Bach is able to discover and develop an incredible array of musical surprises. This is what theologian and pianist, Jeremy Begbie, calls the “simultaneous presence of radical openness and radical consistency” that makes Bach’s music so aesthetically and theologically rich. Begbie argues– and Lewis would seem to agree with him– that Bach’s ability to hold openness and consistency together, to commit fully to a given artistic constraint and yet always remain able to surprise us, mirrors (imperfectly of course) God’s own creative energy coursing through the cosmos.
Divine reality is like a fugue. All His acts are different, but they all rhyme or echo to one another. It is this that makes Christianity so difficult to talk about. Fix your mind on any one story or any one doctrine and it becomes at once a magnet to which truth and glory come rushing from all levels of being. Our featureless pantheistic unities and glib rationalist distinctions are alike defeated by the seamless, yet ever-varying texture of reality, the liveness, the elusiveness, the intertwined harmonies of the multidimensional fertility of God. But if this is the difficulty, it is also the one of the firm grounds of our belief. To think that this was a fable, a product of our own brains as they are a product of matter, would be to believe that this vast symphonic splendour had come out of something much smaller and emptier than itself. It is not so. We are nearer the truth in the vision seen by Julian of Norwich, when Christ appeared to her holding in His hand a little thing like a hazel nut and saying, ‘This is all that is created.’ And it seemed to her so small and weak that she wondered how it could hold together at all.
— C.S. Lewis, “Miracles” from God in the Dock