Saturday, November 26, 2016

Advent and Handel’s Messiah

Hear the Christmas carols on the radio stations? Indeed we are in the season of Advent again. The 3rd Sunday of Advent reflects on the following readings: Isaiah 35:1-6,10; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11.

“Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you” (Isaiah 35:4, 1st reading).

“Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:8, 2nd reading).

“Go and tell…what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them” (Matthew 11:4-5, gospel reading).

Listening to the above-mentioned Mass readings is like listening to Handel’s Messiah: Ev’ry Valley Shall Be Exalted…O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings To Zion…Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter Of Zion…Then Shall The Eyes Of The Blind Be Open’d…Hallelujah…Amen!

The readings and the oratorical lyrics bring hope and anticipation, comfort your heart with healing and affirmation, stir your mind with joy and exultation.

Upon a young parishioner’s recommendation, who was a member of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, my wife and I attended a Toronto Symphony Orchestra/Toronto Mendelssohn Choir concert on Handel’s Messiah during the Christmas season several years ago. The unbelievable experience began as soon as we stepped into the concourse of the Roy Thomson Hall. From the pedestrians milling around in the downtown streets to a sold-out crowd of two thousand plus concert-goers, from a secular society that got annoyed at the slightest hint of religiosity to a church-like congregation of people who were unabashedly determined to share their common adoration for Christ, from an increasingly narcissistic world that valued only personal obsessions to a community of art and music that came to admire the out-of-the-world talents of one of the most polished and brilliant musical composers and oratorios writers ever lived - the difference was day and night, and the contrast stark.

The sterling performance of Hallelujah brought the whole house of 2000 plus people to their feet, who, following the long-standing royal protocol, stood and rejoiced in great jubilation. The powerful experience prompted us to return to attend the concert year after year for 5 years in a row. On this third Sunday of Advent, my heart is once again stirring with joy and passion, itching to experience once again the hope, the joy, the agony, and the exultation of Handel’s Messiah.

1 comment:

  1. That the Handel Messiah is "out-of-the-world" is no exaggeration. Handel composed Messiah in a short period of about 24 days during the summer of 1741.
    Every conductor/orchestra combination has their own delivery of this masterpiece, I suppose based on their own personal understanding of Handel's inspiration.
    I remember once listening to, on CD, Sir George Solti's delivery with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, when the Chorus sang the word "iniquity", I came to understand intellectually, and spiritually, the meaning of the word, and felt the gravity of sin......almost an out of body experience!!!
    That was a borrowed CD, and I subsequently went out and bought one (probably not the exact same performance), just not the my regret.

    Tony Chow