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Augustinian Studies

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published on May 1, 2019

Alex Fogleman

Becoming the Song of Christ
Musical Theology and Transforming Grace in Augustine’s en. Ps. 32

While the connections between exegesis, music, and moral formation are well known, what Augustine’s use of particular metaphors reveals about his theology that more literal renderings do not is less clear. This article explores how Augustine’s use of musical metaphors in en Ps. 32(2) illuminate his understanding of the relationship between grace and human virtue. After first offering a doctrinal description of the rightly ordered will and its Christological foundation, Augustine proceeds to narrate the Christian life as one of various stages of learning to sing the “new song” of Christ. He interprets references to the lyre and psaltery as figures of earthly and heavenly life, and then exegetes the psalm’s language of jubilation as laudatory praise of the ineffable God. The chief contribution of the musical metaphors here are twofold. First, they enable Augustine to display the mysterious process of the will transformed over time. Second, the musical figures help Augustine account for how a human will, encompassed in time, can align with the will of an eternal God whose will is ultimately inexpressible. Augustine’s musical exegesis is able to gesture towards the profound mystery of human life in time and its relation to an eternally un-timed God.

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