For The Love of God is a 2007 artwork by Damien Hirst. It is a platinum cast of an 18th century human skull encrusted with 8,601 diamonds. The teeth are the original human teeth from the skull which were purchased by the artist. The diamonds are considered flawless and the pear shaped diamond on the forehead is known as the Skull Star Diamond. This artwork is considered a Memento Mori, a reminder of mortality
Messiaen’s commentary for XX. Regard de l’Église d’amour (Gaze of the Church of Love)
“Grace of God compels us to love God as God loves himself; after the cascades of night, the spirals of agony, here are the bells, the glory and the kiss of love … all the passion of our arms around the Invisible…
Form (the development here precedes the exposition):
Development: First theme in nonretrogradable rhythm. Amplified to the left and right; it is interspersed with the strokes of the piano in contrary cascades. Three summons of the Theme of God separated by asymmetrical enlargements. Development of the third melodic theme. First theme with cascades, new asymmetrical enlargement. Pealing of bells forming a dominant pedal and recalling the chords of the preceding pieces.
Exposition: Complete phrase on the Theme of God, in fanfare, in glory. Long coda on the Theme of God – triumph of love and joy, tears of joy.”
The skull may seem a dark reminder of our transient existence. But to the Christian, it reminds us that our earthly bodies are not our home. We belong to the eternal church of love, the bride of Christ.
The diamonds on the skull may cause us to feel a number of strange reactions. However, in redeeming creation, God will make all things new. The bodily resurrection will make our frail earthly selves alive in new ways we could never imagine.
The first half of Messiaen’s piece overwhelms with power and dissonance. The second half brings the assembly of “l’Église d’amour” together with the Theme of God. The cycle closes with an epic pronouncement of joy: as we focus on Christ’s nativity, we refocus our energy on the love so boundlessly shown to us so that we can share it with one another.