11/25/2019

Berlioz’s “Te Deum” & Chateaubriand’s “Genius of Christianity”

"For Chateaubriand, the Christian way of life itself is beautiful, and he examines such topics as country churchyards, priestly vestments, and Corpus Christi processions amid the burst of Spring in a way that blends a Christian conscience with a Romantic awareness of nature; one of his chapters bears the ultra-Romantic title “Harmonies of the Christian Religion with Scenes of Nature and the Passions of the Human Heart.”

A recurrent theme of the book is the essential unity of Christian and classical culture in making up Western civilization. “People are incessantly extolling the institutions of antiquity,” the author laments, “and they will not perceive that the Christian worship is the only relic of that antiquity which has been transmitted to us.” Chateaubriand constantly stresses that Christianity gathered up and assimilated what was best in the classical world and added a supernatural element that the classical world could not have imagined. In doing so, Chateaubriand places ancient Jewish culture on a par with the Greco-Roman; one of the chapters on literature includes an extensive comparison of Homer and the Bible, judging the latter much superior."