AN INNER MUSIC — Living a life in God by Craig Larkin, SM (Fitzbeck Publishing, 2016; available from good bookshops, or the Society of Mary); $35. Reviewed by LYNDSAY FREER. 

inner musicIn this most beautifully presented and illustrated little book, Marist priest Craig Larkin distils the insights of 20 great mystics and saints over the ages. He does so with a clarity that is accessible, homely and relevant to our own daily lives as we strive to understand the
overwhelming mystery of God’s love amidst the clamour and distractions of our day to day living.

“There’s music in their soul, and their lives have become a song,” he writes.

He shows us that the transcendental is something beyond the frailty of words, and explains how these great friends of God describe the inexpressible in a mixture of imagery, symbolism and parable.

This is illustrated in a story about Beethoven who, after playing a new sonata for a friend, was asked: “What  does the music mean?” Beethoven returned to the piano, played the whole sonata again and said, “That’s what it means!”

One is reminded that Jesus himself expressed the most profound truths in simple parables of everyday reality.

This little book gives a brief account of the life and times of 20 spiritual writers through the ages, from the psalmist of the Old Testament and includes St Augustine, Dante, Julian of Norwich and St Teresa of Avila through to Caryll Houselander, who died in 1958. There is a brief excerpt from the writings of each one, followed by the author’s own reflections and insights.

Being true to ourselves is a constant theme — being who we are as created and loved by God — and to become whole in that knowledge. There is a passage from Zorba the Greek in which Zorba says:

“The same thing’s happening to you as happened to the crow.”

“What happened to the crow, Zorba?”

“Well, you see, he used to walk respectably, properly, well, like a crow. But one day he got it into his head to try to strut about like a pigeon. But from that time on, the poor fellow couldn’t for the life of him recall his own way of walking. He was all mixed up, don’t you see? He just hobbled about.”

So much of the wisdom encapsulated in the imagery of these writings is being given to us today by Pope Francis, who said recently when speaking of God’s inexplicable love:

“I don’t think a theologian exists who can explain this: It is impossible to explain. We can only think about it, we can feel, we can cry with joy. . . . I must believe that the Lord can change me, that he has the power to do so. To have faith is to make space for God’s love . . . for the power of one who loves me, who is in love with me and who wants to rejoice with me.”

Craig Larkin has clarified some of those truths that theology of itself can’t explain, with a wisdom born of his deep understanding of the intangible emotions evoked by music and art and the power of love. It is a book that I will treasure and keep always as a source of
guidance and inspiration.

Lyndsay Freer is responsible for media and communications for Auckland diocese and the Society of Mary. She has a musical background, having studied singing with the late Dame Sr Mary Leo.

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