Sunday, December 14, 2008

Rejoice Again I Say Rejoice

Brothers & Sisters rejoice! The theme that runs through the Liturgy of the Word today on the Third Sunday of Advent is rejoice. The Prophet Isaiah in the first reading says " I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul". We echo those feelings again in the Responsorial Psalm. Paul's letter to the Thessalonians begins "Brothers & Sisters: Rejoice always." Finally in the Gospel of John, John the Baptist responds to those desiring to know who he is that"I baptize you with water, but there is one among you who you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to unite", announcing to them to get ready for someone very special! Sometimes we can't contain our joy especially when we are awaiting something special. Have you ever had a "special occasion" or event that was in the not too distant future that you counted the days until it arrived? Perhaps it was a birthday, a vacation, a trip to see a loved one, awaiting a soldier returning home. You are intoxicated by the joy of what is to come and it can't help but infiltrate your thoughts not matter what what you do. That is message today as we await the greatest event in human history. The Incarnate, the Word becomes flesh, Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Wait, we me must but that doesn't mean we can't take a peek into the Manger and hear the Angels singing "Gloria in excelsis Deo" . The joy, the wonder and the splendor are all there in that tiny manger. I recently wrote a letter to the editor complaining that Christmas had been hijacked by the secular world. I was worried that my message would be misunderstood or discarded for being a "humbug". There is joy in the shopping expeditions, the gatherings at the restaurants, picking out the right present for that special somebody, the office Christmas party, and sometimes just spending time out with family and friends. My point is that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ. Can we swing the pendulum back in that direction? Can we stop running over people at Walmart? Changing gears.....Another joy that I have this time of the year is listening to Handel's Messiah. I believe that great art reveals the wisdom and wonder of the Creator. Handel's Messiah can lift my soul to places never before felt. It is a masterpiece. Here are a few items taken From Roy Greenhill's page on Handel's Messiah As Handel was described by his servants:

"He was praying, or he was weeping, or he was staring into eternity" -late summer, 1741

Ludwig Von Beethoven (1770-1827), in his own hand, copied every word and note of the Messiah, so much did he desire to absorb every detail and nuance. It is my desire that you have the matchless experience of reading the Holy Scriptures of the libretto, aloud to yourself, and then to someone else. You will enter into an intimate fellowship with Handel and Beethoven. And then, hearing, or participating in, the great performances of this saga of redemption will bring new thrills for your spirit. Beethoven was reputed to have first picked up Handel's Messiah with these words, "Here is a different fellow" and proceeded to play the most interesting looking passages. On another occasion he is said to have remarked, "Handel is the greatest composer that ever lived", and spoke of the oratorio as having "sublimity of language". The music of Messiah so permeated Beethoven's being that on his deathbed he is reputed to have quoted from The Messiah stating that if there were a physician that could help him "His name shall be called Wonderful".

Handel, upon reading these Scriptures from the Old and New Testaments (compiled by a friend) (August, 1741) was overcome by their power. The music began dancing and exploding within him. He immediately shut himself in and worked night and day, often forgetting to eat. The servants could, from time to time, hear his sobs as he labored over the inspired text. He finished the original libretto and score in twenty-four days. A complete musical performance requires nearly three hours; the Scripture texts, thirty minutes. Read these as Handel did and you will experience God and eternity.

Rejoice, the time draws near, and relax put on Handel's Messiah "For Unto Us A Child is Born"

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