I met a violist the other day in my travels to New York and we spoke about our shared passions for chamber music and opera. Violists do not receive a lot of attention in a quartet or an orchestra. There are very few times when this magnificent stringed instrument is allowed to sing and share the richness of its sonorities.
And yet, some of the most beautiful compositions in all the world are written for the viola and “hidden” in the midst of the complexity of musical notes and phrases. Johannes Brahms wrote magnificent music for the viola in his Sextet Opus 18 and later Opus 36. Wagner’s Tannhauser is literally filled with wonderful passages for the viola which are “hidden” in the mist of vast orchestration and melody but vitally important nonetheless.
I was easily drawn into the images that Henri Nouwen provided in his fifth letter to his nephew, Marc. “God prefers to work in secret,” he writes. “You must have the nerve to let the mystery of God’s secrecy, God’s anonymity, sink deeply into your consciousness because, otherwise, you are continually looking in the wrong direction. In God’s sight, the things that really matter seldom take place in public. It’s quite possible that the reason why God sustains our violent and homicidal world and continues to give us new opportunities for conversion will always remain unknown to us. Maybe while we focus our attention on the VIPs and their movements, on peace conferences and protest demonstrations, it’s the totally unknown people, praying and working in silence, who make God save us yet again from destruction” (page 68).
How many times in my life have I focused so intently on the “melody”, the VIP as Nouwen suggests, that I have missed moments of sheer grace in the “hidden”. It takes discipline, as Nouwen writes to be able to listen for, and to be open to, those moments – and such magnificent moments they are!
I pray that as we move closer to Christmas Day, in this season that is so filled with noise and distraction, we listen intently for the “hidden” – that space where God can let something truly new take place within our lives. Then we can truly make music of the heart like my friend who plays the viola.
I look forward to reflecting with you.
Be at peace today - Brian
Rules of Engagement
You are entitled to your opinion as much as the next person is entitled to their opinion. These discussions over the course of the next seven weeks are for our mutual enjoyment and benefit. You may disagree – but you must do so in a spirit of love and common understanding. If I should discern that a post is “attacking” in nature or derogatory, I will pull it from the site. Your assistance and understanding is gratefully appreciated!