This past Thursday, a dear friend took Sister Maria and I to the Cleveland Orchestra’s annual Christmas Concert. From what I understand the Cleveland Orchestra is pretty famous, and having spent an evening listening to them, I certainly understand why. It was a delightful experience! I had never been to this concert before and was simply stunned by the beauty of it all. From the building itself, to the Christmas decorations and above all: the music that made my heart soar!
The orchestra and choir performed different versions of some of the most richly meaningful but not always the most popular Christmas carols, like: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; Good Christians all Rejoice; I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day and We Three Kings. Sister Maria and I were delighted that the focus of the evening was so obviously on what Christmas is truly celebrating: the coming of our Savior to earth, in such a humble, hidden, gentle way.
As I listened to the music, I thought about the composers and their desires to express the glory of that humble night in such poetic language and majestic music. As I watched the violinists gracefully glide the bow across the strings, or the cellists playfully pluck the strings in unison, I thought of all the time, talent, practice, patience, energy and expertise that went into their performance that evening. As I heard the choir, the sopranos and altos, the bases and tenors, I took in not only how excellently they were singing, but also what they were singing. I realized that it is very likely that they and the other musicians were not all Christians and yet, there they were praising God and glorifying the coming of His Son. Just like the sun that shines and the stars that sparkle, by using the gifts that God bestowed upon them, by being what He made them to be, they were giving glory to God.
At this point my heart was taken up into it all and as I have learned from Saint John Eudes, I gathered all of that beauty, all that singing, all that effort, practice and talent into my heart and offered it to God. Saint Paul talks about how creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the sons of God. One way to understand this is that creation is waiting, so to speak, for the sons of God to offer it all back to God so that it may fulfill the purpose it was created for: to glorify God. It cannot offer itself to God – material creation doesn’t have a soul with an intellect and will. So, it needs us, who are baptized into Christ Jesus to offer to God the sacrifice of praise that all of creation is giving to God just by being what it is.
Similarly, all those talented musicians, whether or not they are Christian, are using the gifts that God has given to them and in doing to they are praising His coming among us. They may not even be intending to do so, but as their song lifts my heart to praise God, I can offer up what they are doing to give Him glory and thus they too, whether they know it or not are glorifying their God who became man.
Thank you dear Steph for a delightful evening at the Cleveland Orchestra’s fabulous Christmas concert!
The choir sang the 12 days of Christmas and each time they came to “5 gold rings” they asked a volunteer from the audience to sing a solo. Sister Maria, after being gently encouraged by everyone around her, went up and sang beautifully. As the conductor was introducing each of the new volunteers, when he saw Sister Maria up next he said to the audience, “This time I have to be nice!” To which everyone responded with gentle giggles. After she sang, he said, “That was the best I ever heard!” She playfully scolded him for not being honest! Though, she really did sound lovely!