Thursday, December 13, 2007

Meditations at the Cantata

We went to a Christmas Cantata last Sunday at a local Moravian Church here in hyphen city. It was most enjoyable (haven't I written about live performances, already?): Woodwinds, strings, percussion, and piano accompanied by a chorus made up of several church choirs and soloists, about forty Sunday singers and ten instrumental students. It was a strong effort by all. This cantata alternated musical parts with spoken readings, mostly from scripture.

So here I am in the pew wishing I could cross my legs at the knee, or slouch down, or otherwise make myself comfortable. Pews are not made for worshipers' comfort. They have been designed to encourage attention and humility. Therefore, I alternated between attention and humility. During one of my humility postures, I noticed I had my legs crossed at the ankles, my hands on my thighs, and my palms up and my thumbs touching my index fingers. I looked down and saw my belly. Damn, I thought, Buddha had a beer belly, too. And I went from humility to more of a feeling of contentment and tranquility.

This church that held the concert was decked out in greenery: wreaths, garlands, and a '60s modern triangle of a tree on the back wall of the chancel. It covered up the cross. This is the second church I've visited at Christmas that had the chancel cross covered by an evergreen tree. One would think that in a Christian church sanctuary the cross would never be covered. I noticed that the flags were still visible. I really have no comment on this phenomenon, only questions.

Passages from the Old and New Testaments were read between the choral offerings. Scripture has changed remarkably since I first started reading it. As a child I wished for a modern translation to help me understand better. Now, I hate modern paraphrases, interpretations, translations. King James is a basketball star, not a version of the Bible.

Read this aloud from Isaiah 40:1-2 New American Bible: "Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.
1 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; Indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD double for all her sins."

Now read this from the King James version: "1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD's hand double for all her sins."

Try setting the first to music. Yes, the King James version is not reliably a true translation from the best sources, but it is far and away the best for Hebrew poetry and songs.

It was also a football Sunday afternoon. The sanctuary would have seated 250 easily. There were many vacant spaces in the pews. The only young people were in the orchestra.

It was a great afternoon out of the house with family and live music. From these musings, it doesn't sound as if I paid much attention to the concert. You listen your way, and I will listen mine.

BRB is Write(and is still searching for Christmas)


Blogger phlegmfatale said...

This sounds like a lovely, contemplative experience. My perspective has always been from the choirloft at such times, but there's such a sense of moment and energy about such occasions.

I'm with you re: King James version set to music - its elegance of phrase is unmatched by other translations. The magnficent choral work Belshazzar's Feast comes to mind, particularly. "Howl ye, therefore" indeed!

Thank you so much for your kind words on my blog - you made my day!

10:24:00 AM  
Blogger brbiswrite said...

Thanks for the comment. As you can see, I don't get many; but spousal partner found it amusing.

12:12:00 PM  

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