It was the Jesuit priests who taught me in seminary who gave me an appreciation of and love for Classical music. Growing up in small-city 1970’s Aotearoa we didn’t think much about music that might be considered serious and long-lasting, timeless even. We were more captivated by what was catchy and popular.
One of the SJ‘s introduced me to George Frideric Handel’s great work covering the life of Jesus, the Messiah oratorio.
This master-work of well over two hours was composed by Handel in an inspired working frenzy of less than a month two hundred and eighty years ago in 1721.
From its first performance in Dublin in 1722 it was overwhelmingly popular and continues to performed across the world especially in these Advent weeks.
It’s on my mind because of today’s first reading which opens Handel’s work with the tenor aria:
Comfort ye my people
Comfort ye my people
Saith your God
And cry unto her
That her warfare
Her warfare is accomplished
That her iniquity is pardoned
The voice of Him
That crieth in the wilderness
Prepare ye the way of the Lord
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God
What a great opening word for a work of art focussing on the life, death and resurrection of our Messiah: comfort.
The entire Messiah work, anticipating Jesus (Old Testament prophecies), the birth and ministry of Jesus, and the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, reminds us of the extraordinary measures God has taken to ensure (in the words of today’s gospel) that not one of us ever feel lost.
And it begins with the heart-felt desire of God, to bring us Comfort.
- Make that your word for today: Comfort. Savour the fact that Jesus who is God-with-us is seeking to bring you deep comfort – not by avoiding or escaping struggle and suffering but by carrying you through this.
- Pray for those who are suffering, and add your own prayer intention at the FFF Prayer Intention page at this link or by clicking on the candles below.
- Look online for pre-Christmas performances of Handel’s Messiah in your own region. I note that in Christchurch there’s St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Christchurch Sunday 12 December 2021 – info at this link.
- Click the image below to savour the entire work. (jump to 4:25, the conclusion of the overture, to hear today’s scripture).
one of my Messiah favourites is not that ‘annoying chorus’, but the soprano aria that follows it. “I know that my redeemer liveth’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Q0qho_hKEg
I must admit Handels Messiah was the last thing on my mind as I put my wet weather gear on this morning in preparation for leaving the comfort of my home and heading to work. That is an incredible piece of music, not to my liking but I can certainly appreciate it. When will we ever embrace other styles or types of music in the same liturgical sense that reflect the yearning of our hearts in the same way? Anyway I’m off to find some stray sheep. Have a great day!
I too was captivated by that word today, and have been thinking and praying for all of those people who are now hugely restricted in their freedom to gather because they don’t have the “passport “.
How frightened and isolated they must be feeling.
Comfort, reach out, search for… that’s what Jesus would be doing!