Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: amen, Christianity, credo, Lent, Religion, Spirituality
Last year was the hundredth anniversary of one of my favorite composers Olivier Messiaen. I first learned of him through his famous composition Quartet for the End of Time. It was a piece that he composed and preformed in a Nazi concentration camp for prisoners and guards. This piece is now considered a masterpiece of 20th century composition. He is one of those composers that I find to be an inexhaustible well that deepens with every listen.
Messiaen was an organist, composer and collector of bird songs (many of which he incorporated into compositions). Because Messiaen suffered from a condition called synaesthesia his compositions are lush and complicated. This disorder causes its patients to actually see music in color patterns when heard or thought of. So, Messiaen would compose pieces to synthesize the surreal color patterns that appeared before his eyes when he created his music. This could make even the simplest composition complex upon multiple hearings.
One such composition is work for two pianos called composed after Massiaen was released from the concentration camp for his student and future wife Yvonne Loriod entitled Visions de l’Amen. It is based upon the mystical writer Ernest Hello’s contention that there are three distinct spiritual meanings for the word Amen. They are the Amen uttered by the Creator in creation, the Amen of obedience to the divine will, the Amen of longing for union with God, and the Amen of the eternal consummation of everything in Paradise. These different meanings of this word are woven together in this composition where two pianos alternate between rhythm and crescendo.
Amen is a word that I rarely think about. It is almost an afterthought in my personal and liturgical life. I could just as well say to God, the end. Yet, this work has reminded and rejuvenated my memory about what it means to agree with God. It can be the simplest agreement, saying that even though my stocks are worthless I believe that you, almighty, are in control, amen. It can be in the most precious and important decisions of our lives or in the most banal and tedious aspects of our existence that we turn over to our almighty creator with the ascent of Amen. We have little need for credos and statements of faith in the spiritual realm when we are forming this agreement with our God by saying Amen. We are giving over control to the almighty and surrendering to the will of something much greater than ourselves.
We are at the beginning of the liturgical season of lent. As Paul reminds us our faith buys into a whole experience as disciples of Jesus Christ. We are participating in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without this full participation we cannot experience the change that constitutes new life. In the end we will again say “Amen” with Jesus in the garden when he agonizes in prayer saying, “Take this cup from me, not my will but your will.” We will painfully say “Amen” when Christ proclaims in agony “My God, My God why have you forsaken me!” We will say in triumph “Amen” when Christ proclaims in Emmaus “Peace be with you!” Finally, we will say “Amen” to the possibility that Christ promises he will come again! Amen and amen.
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