Elevate your hearts: knock on the door of heaven

Elevate your hearts: knock on the door of heaven

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Whenever I climb the stairs of the organ floor in Magdalen College Chapel, a wooden board with the college organists from 1480 reminds me of the small role I have played in a long story. Its predecessors have witnessed plagues, conflicts and closings over the centuries (without the help of any technology), and yet the choir basis remains. The comfort of this does not completely alleviate the pain of separation from making music as part of Opus Dei, but at least provides a much needed context.

As I imagine many others, my cultural and intellectual stimulus plans during the lock went from too ambitious to very modest because I found that my skills were severely limited by countless hours of screen time. Now that I have admitted to myself that Proust has to wait another day, I have discovered a newly discovered love for read Short stories. A bit like deciding what to have for dinner, with collections by Italo Calvino, Alice Munro, Saki, Ivan Turgenev and Eudora Welty, as well as several anthologies that choose something that suits my mood, and then for half an hour settling down was pleasant. This is often the best thing I can do after a day of class, tagging exam scripts, reviews, and online rehearsals.

The recent anniversary of Rev. Dr.'s death John Hughes, a very beloved colleague and friend, in 2014 prompted me to dive into Graced Life again, a collection of John's writings published by Matthew Bullimore and published in 2016. In The Politics of Forgiveness, an essay written in his last year as a student at Jesus College in Cambridge, where John later became dean of the chapel. He speaks about the challenges we all face when we think about our share of historical and persistent injustices: “The political process of forgiveness must be reciprocal to be successful, but it also requires someone to take the risky and takes a costly step to take the initiative to break through the circle of discrimination and violence so that the circle begins. Without such an initiative, the two sides remain in a dead end waiting for the other to take the first step. "

For hundreds of years, Magdalen College, Oxford's choir, has climbed the college tower at 6 a.m. on May 6th to sing gathered revelers who have gathered in the streets below. This year I pulled a shirt and tie over my shorts and flip-flops to direct them to a screen, kitchens were converted to recording studios, iPads were supported on piles of books, duvets were hung on hard surfaces, siblings stood on chairs Hundreds of hours were spent on editing because choir singers and academic staff participated in a "virtual May morning". It was viewed more than 200,000 times later.

While researching the history of tradition, I discovered an exchange of letters between one of my predecessors and William Holman Hunt, who painted the scene in the late 1880s. I have passed a version of Holman Hunt & # 39; s on a regular basis painting The light of the world when I was working in St. Paul's Cathedral; The original hangs in the chapel at Keble College, Oxford, just down the street from where I live now. Since the locked door – a cathedral, a church, a pub, a restaurant, a hair salon, or a concert hall – has been one of the permanent images of the past few months, it may be useful to reopen places to remember that this particular door is not locked: it is only waiting to be opened when we are ready to hear its knock.

Listen music took on a certain sharpness at a time when live music stopped and both professional and amateur musicians were silenced by the pandemic. I was usually in Portland, Oregon every August to celebrate Renaissance music with friends and colleagues at the annual William Byrd Festival – but not this year.

Many of Byrd's motets speak of the pain and frustration of reuse and religious isolation that were the reality of his daily life. Quomodo cantabimus gets his text from verses 4 to 7 of Psalm 137 – "How should we sing the song of the Lord in a foreign country?" – and was written in response to a setting of the opening verse of the same psalm ("We sat down and cried by the water of Babylon"), which the composer Philippe de Monte, Kapellmeister, sent to the Holy Roman Emperor in Byrd. Byrd's response motet for the same number of voices in the same key seems melancholic, but has a profound effect, but with its counterpoint brilliance and defiance at the words "Remember, sir, the children of Edom". it is far from bleak.

His work recalls that Roman Catholic music, although hidden, was alive and healthy and that hope for liberation from the Protestant yoke was fervent, although it took more than 200 years for emancipation to culminate in the Relief Act of 1829 . Those of us who long to “sing the Lord's song” in our churches pray daily for a slightly shorter wait before we can return to the choir stands.

The rhythm of the daily evening song has been a constant in my life for many years, and – since absence makes my heart beat faster – a reflection on what I miss the most reminded me of the parts that often go unnoticed. The second collection for peace is a prayer with God's help, this prompts us to spend our time in "peace and quiet". While the pandemic has in one way or another brought about a profound change in our daily lives, the need for real calm and serenity amid increased anxiety has never been greater:

“O God, from whom all holy wishes, all good advice and all just works come from; Give your servants the peace that the world cannot give; so that our hearts are ready to obey your commandments and that through you, when defended against the fear of our enemies, we can spend our time in peace and quiet; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen."

My consumption of watch TV has increased significantly in recent months, no doubt as a form of escapism. The hilarious Schitt & # 39; s Creek on Netflix is ​​in a small town that is characterized by its values ​​of love, kindness, understanding, and inclusiveness – something we hope and pray the "new normal" will look like we emerge from this time of isolation.

Mark Williams has been an informational choristarum, organist and tutorial fellow at Magdalen College, Oxford since 2017, having previously held positions at St. Paul & # 39; s Cathedral and Jesus College, Cambridge.

Next week: Carla Grosch Miller

A dark lake.

AlamyEsther Summerson, Illustration for Bleak House from "Phiz"It is hard to believe that we have weathered a crisis so far without resorting to Charles Dickens. Here at Bleak House, Esther Summerson tells of her slow recovery from smallpox that she got while caring for her maid Charley:

I am sick for several weeks and the usual tenor of my life became like an old memory.

However, this was less the effect of time than the change of all my habits caused by the helplessness and inactivity of a hospital room. Before I restricted myself to this for many days, everything else seemed to have moved away to a distant distance, with little or no separation between the different phases of my life, which were really divided by years.

When I got sick I seemed to have crossed a dark lake and to have left all my experiences, mixed up by the great distance, on the healthy shore. . .

While I was very sick, like. . . Periods were confused with each other and extremely troubled my mind. As a child, older girl and the little woman I had been so happy with, I was suppressed not only by worries and difficulties that were adapted to each ward, but also by the great confusion of trying endlessly to reconcile them.

I assume that few who have not been in such a state can understand what I mean or what painful riots have arisen from this source.

For the same reason, I'm almost afraid to point out this time in my disturbance – it seemed like a long night, but I think there were both nights and days in it – as I worked my way up colossal stairs, always striving for that Reaching the top, and ever turning like I saw a worm in a garden path, through an obstacle, and working again. I knew perfectly at intervals, and I mostly vaguely think I was in my bed; and I spoke to Charley and felt her touch and knew her very well; still I would complain: "Oh, more of these endless stairs, Charley – more and more – piled up to the sky, I think!" and work on it again. . .

Perhaps the less I say about these sick experiences, the less boring and understandable I will be. I don't remember her to make others unhappy, or because I'm the least unhappy now when I remember her. If we knew more of such strange ailments, we might be better able to relieve their intensity.

The calm that has succeeded, the long delicious sleep, the blissful calm when I was too calm in my weakness to take care of myself and could have heard (or so I think now) that I was dying , without other emotions than with a compassionate love for those I left behind – this condition may be better understood. . .

I had heard my Ada crying at the door day and night; I had heard her call to me that I was cruel and did not love her; I had heard her pray and plead to be let in to care for and comfort me and not to leave my bed; but I only said when I could speak: "Never, my sweet girl, never!". . .

Little by little my strength was restored. Instead of lying with such strange serenity and watching what was done for me as if it was done for someone I quietly regretted, I helped him a little and so on to a little more and a lot more. until I became useful and interested in myself and was bound to life again.

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