He used to sit, rapt, listening to Mozart’s Fortieth Symphony or Beethoven’s Fifth. I enjoy classical music if I can do something physical while listening to it, something like housework. The Messiah, however, is different.
It has always transported me into a state of bliss. It is surely among the most beautiful pieces of art ever produced.
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I decided to research its composition.
The years immediately preceding the composition and premiere of Messiah were artistically and financially disastrous for George Frederic Handel. In 1737 he suffered a stroke but eventually recovered enough so that his playing was unaffected.
However, the grandiose style of Italian opera for which Handel was best known was dwindling in popularity, so much so that after 1741 he stopped composing opera altogether. Meanwhile, he witnessed the bankruptcy and failure of two of his own opera companies in the 1730s.
Handel was a shrewd and practical composer; he saw the public’s waning interest in the musical form that had been his bread and butter for many years and started composing in a format he hoped the public would prefer, the oratorio.
He had written eight oratorios before the Messiah. Then Charles Jennens, a wealthy merchant gave Handel the libretto for a new oratorio that he fashioned from passages taken from the Old and New Testament dealing with Christ’s life on Earth and his sacrifice of his own life.
Jennens’ text caught Handel’s imagination, so he began working on it at a feverish pace, finishing it in twenty-four days. During that time, he never left his house and barely came out of his room. A servant who brought him his meals said, “He was praying, or he was weeping, or he was staring into eternity.”
Just after writing the “Hallelujah Chorus,” Handel said, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me and the great God Himself.”
The Hallelujah Chorus surely provides among the purest five minutes of pleasure that art can provide. See it burst upon tired shoppers in a random act of beauty and generosity.
“You have as much laughter as you have faith.”
“The dog is the most faithful of animals and would be much esteemed were it not so common. Our Lord God has made His greatest gifts the commonest.”
“Be thou comforted, little dog, Thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail”
“If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.”
“A unjust law, is no law at all.”
Work, work, from morning until late at night. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer. – Martin Luther
Generally, Christ gives people very specific visions and revelations to strengthen them for the next phase of their journeys.
However, Heidi Baker’s wonderful vision of Christ has been both applicable and comforting to me in a very different calling–as a businesswoman and writer.
Here it is, with some background: Heidi has a complete physical, and perhaps emotional breakdown and is “sick and exhausted” after over twenty years of 18 hour days serving the poor, in Indonesia, Hong Kong and then Mozambique.
She goes to the Toronto Airport Fellowship because Rolland has just returned from there, “full of faith and compassion,” having had “a dramatically great time with God.”
In her book, There is Always Enough, she describes being on the floor before the Lord for hours, “unable to move. His presence was so heavy upon me. He demonstrated that he is my only strength. He is my hope. I depend only on him. I can do nothing without him.”
“One night I was groaning in intercession for the children of Mozambique. There were thousands coming toward me and I was crying, “No, Lord, there are too many.”
“Then I had a dramatic, clear vision of Jesus. I was with Him, and thousands and thousands of children surrounded us. I saw his shining face and his intense, burning eyes of love. I also saw his body. It was bruised and broken, and his side was pierced.”
He said, “Look into my eyes. You give them something to eat.” Then he took a piece of his broken body and handed it to me. It became bread in my hands, and I began to give it to the children. It multiplied in my hands.
Then again the Lord said, “Look into my eyes. You give them something to drink.” He gave me a cup of blood and water, which flowed from his side. I knew it was a cup of bitterness and joy. I drank it, and then began to give it to the children to drink. The cup did not go dry. By this point, I was crying uncontrollably. I was completely undone by his fiery eyes of love. I realized what it had cost him to provide such spiritual and physical food for us all.
The Lord spoke to my heart, and said, “There will always be enough, because I died.”
I was refreshed and ready to go back to Mozambique. I expected to see a wave of new, amazing miracles right away. Instead, all hell broke loose.”
Last night, Roy and I watched a PBS DVD on Martin Luther. Excellent.
Portrait of Martin Luther’s parents of Lucas Cranach
Johann Von Staupitz
Big Business–The Catholic Church of Luther’s Day.
Despite the Papal Bull of excommunication, despite the fact that his life would be in danger if he fell into the hands of the Catholic Church, Luther continued with his attacks on it.
“I decided to believe freely and to slave to the authority of no one , whether council, university or pope. I was bound not only to assert the truth but to defend it with my blood and death,” he wrote.
He discovered a new and powerful weapon on his side–the printing press. For movements to spead, their ideas needed to spread.
The printing press invented in Germany by Gutenberg 30 years before the birth of Luther was to Luther’s day what the internet is to our day. It meant that ideas could travel. They could not be stopped.
“German money in violation of nature flies across the Alps.”
Luther was summoned before the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V at the famous Diet of Worms. Cardinal Aleander, representing the Pope, showed Luther a pile of his books, and asked him if he wrote them, and was willing to recant. Interestingly, for he was just a human being after all, and one potentially facing death at the hands of an unjust institution, he asks for 24 hours to consider his response. Which is famous.
|Luther at the Diet of Worms|
“I do not accept the authority of Popes and councils for they have often erred and contradicted themselves. I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive only to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything for to go against my conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”
One of history’s greatest declarations of exhausted defiance!!
Luther’s statement marks the dawn of a new era, the ordinary person standing up against authority.
It’s a grand moment when an individual ends up standing for something much larger than himself.
He fully expects that the Church will sentence him to death as a heretic, as it did the Czech reformer, Jan Hus (who also appeared at a Council under a guarantee of safe conduct). However, the vote is inconclusive. Luther is free, though his life is in danger from the Catholic church, which combined spiritual, administrative and judicial authority (a dangerous situation).
* * *
Going from the peaks of glory, attention and notoriety to anonymity and invisibility is a frequent Christian experience.
So Luther goes from the drama and intense experience, the elation and energy of the Diet of Worms to a solitary existence hidden in the Wartburg Castle. He regresses into depression, despair and anguish, introspection and melancholy, and had a strong sense that the devil was tormenting him.
And yet again, he snapped out of depression by using the Prozac which had worked in the past: Work.
And while he was in the Wartburg, Germany’s Peasant Revolts commenced, sparked by Luther’s ideas and writings. Luther was horrified as he saw the destruction the reformation entailed. His ideas turned out to be more radical than he had realized.
Disappointly, he does not support the revolting peasants, but attacks them in vicious prose.
Concluding comments from the scholars on the program:
“When I die, I want to be a ghost, so that I continue to pester the bishops, priests and godless monks so that they can have more trouble with a dead Luther than they had before with a thousand living ones,” Luther wrote.
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