Chaplain's Corner + Harmony: What the World Needs Now


by Fr. George Morelli

One of the best ways to reflect on the meaning of harmony is in relationship to music. Historically, the word harmony was derived from the Greek word ἁρμονία (harmonía), which the Oxford English Dictionaryi defines as: "Joint, agreement, concord; the quality of forming a pleasing and consistent whole.", the verb form, can also be considered: "To fit together, to join.” Interestingly, the great composer and musician, Johann Sebastian Bach, connects harmony and Godliness: “Music is an agreeable harmony for the honor of God and the permissible delights of the soul.”ii

Ancient Chinese philosophical tradition points out that harmony must start with what I describe as ‘self-concord’ – in the sense of an inner integration of our ethical and moral principles and actions into a “consistent whole.” From ourselves, this inner harmony can radiate out to all. As the Chinese aphorism states: “If there is beauty in character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.”iii

From the Hindu tradition, but speaking for all mankind, Mahatma Gandhi advises that we should “. . .always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.”iv

King David the psalmist tells us: “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity.” (Ps 132:1). The Roman Catholic Trappist monk Thomas Merton pinpoints the fruit of harmony: “ . . .happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.”

One may consider harmony as a personality trait or disposition to be agreeable. Inherited by some; for others this may require disciplined effort. Agreeableness is, in turn, related to meekness, which is itself a disposition to be patient. Meekness is not usually considered a virtue in worldly terms, but if looked at as a pathway to harmony we can sense its spiritual value. The Eastern Church Father, St. John of the Ladder,v tells us that  “. . .meekness is an unchangeable state of mind, which remains the same in honor and dishonor [and can guide our reactions to] a neighbor when he causes many troubles.” (p. 145) He goes on to say “. . .meekness is the buttress of patience.” (p. 146). By cultivating agreeableness and patience in ourselves, we can work toward bringing harmony into the world.




ENDNOTES

i Oxford English Dictionary. (2012). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press

v Moore, L. (Trans.). (1979). The ladder of divine ascent. Brookline, MA: Holy Transfiguration Monastery.