The Mysticism of The Russian Easter Overture

From a young age my parents often played classical music in our home. I remember initially being annoyed by it – I preferred music with a strong beat and words. But my parents persisted – they enjoyed it and wanted their kids to develop a taste for it. Therefore classical music was in the background of our family culture. One of my older brothers took an interest in classical music and became quite the expert on it. He would go into his basement bedroom and listen to the great Russian composers for hours. I didn’t understand why, but the music drew me into that cold basement. I found there a respite from the stress and worries above ground. As I grew into a teenager and went to college I listened to classical music often. My favorite piece became the Russian Easter Overture, written by Rimsky Korsakov in 1888 on the theme of Christ’s resurrection. This piece of music has been an inspiration to me at many points in my life.

I am a skeptical person.  From I young age I have questioned just about everything.  I like to know things for myself.  At certain times of my life, I have found myself questioning too much – unsure of the reality or truth of anything, or anyone.  Almost out of habit when I have these feelings grow in my mind I find myself turning on The Russian Easter Overture.  I am not entirely sure why, but this piece has a mystic quality for me – it calms my mind and stirs hope in my soul. Good art has the ability to elevate us above our present doubts and concerns and enables us to apprehend wisdom that the intellect cannot grasp.  

Chesterton elaborates on this need for the mystic experience found in art:

“Mysticism keeps men sane…The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand. The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid.”

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Yesterday I was in the kitchen making Hot Cross Buns, another Easter tradition, and I put on the Russian Easter Overture. I found myself weeping into my dough. The majesty of this music is evidence for me of the reality of beauty and goodness. It makes hope real and life jubilant. I have found many intellectual answers to my doubts but intellectual knowledge is not as convincing for me as the divine assurances found in this piece of music

I am immensely grateful for The Russian Easter overture and what it has meant to me over my 40 years of life. I am thankful that my parents and my older brother nurtured an appreciation of this art in my childhood. As parents, we should bring art into our homes; it can speak to our children’s souls in ways that our teaching can’t. It can also give rest to our own souls as we face the difficulties of parenting. When words fail, when your seeking leaves you lost – I hope you have a Russian Easter Overture you can listen to, to keep you sane.

Procession of the Cross, Illarion Michajlowitsch Prjanischnikow

Resoures on Art:

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