Friday, June 10, 2005

a night at the symphony and a kiss to the whole world

So I went out last night to hear the San Francisco Symphony’s performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, “The Ode To Joy.” I expected to be moved and indeed I was. The music was simply glorious. And the conductor--Michael Tilson Thomas--the soloists, the musicians, the chorus were wonderful.

As the link above indicates, all performances of this symphony are sold out. But amazingly when I called last week to buy 2 tickets, they still had two seats but in the orchestra’s front row. So, I had to take them. I’ve never sat in the front row before, but doing so last night was remarkable. Not only could I see more distinctly the expressions of the artists, but I could also hear the conductor’s puffs, grunts, groans, feet stomps. And I could see more closely the force of his passion in his face, hands, and movements. That was indeed a treat.

As I wrote in a previous post, this symphony features the words from the German poet Friedrich Schiller’s work entitled “Ode to Joy.” His words, sung to the music by Beethoven, express in a very powerful way the aspirations, the hopes, and the dreams of humanity: to be united with each other in an embrace of joy under a loving God. This is every individual’s “holy longing,” to use Goethe’s phrase.

Sitting there I was reminded of that phrase and of what a contemporary spiritual writer, Ron Rolheiser wrote about Goethe’s work called “Holy Longing.” Rolheiser said: “[Goethe] speaks of something he calls ‘holy longing’ and goes on to define it as ‘a desire for higher love-making’, a longing to embrace the world and make love to it as God does this."

Well, perhaps the words “To make love to the whole world” translate in raw fashion what the Church says about “unity” as the goal and aim of the history of salvation: unity with God and with everyone. And last night that goal was beautifully expressed. In last night’s performance these words from Schiller’s Ode were sung:

Be embraced, ye millions!
This kiss to the whole world!
Brothers—beyond the canopy of the stars
Surely a loving Father dwells.

Do you fall headlong, ye millions?
Have you any sense of the Creator, world?
Seek Him above the canopy of the stars!
Surely he dwells beyond the stars!

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