There’s a great scene in the film Shawshank Redemption, one of the best prison movies of all time, in which a prisoner, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), plays “Duettino – Sull’aria” from the opera “The Marriage of Figaro” over the prison P.A. system. You can watch the clip from the movie here, or just listen to the song below:
What I found so striking was actually the voiceover by the narrator, Morgan Freeman, who played Andy’s friend “Red.” He said of the song, and its effects on the prisoners hearing it:
I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.
That’s all that needs to be said of the Liturgy. It’s the reason that it matters what the music’s like at Mass. We want — we need, even — to foster the kind of music that doesn’t just lift men out of their physical prisons, but out of their spiritual prisons; the music which soars all the way to Heaven. As Dostoyevsky once promised, “Beauty will save the world.”