In this project I am making musical meditations on the Life Of Jesus. To do so, and besides my personal approaches, I am helping myself mainly with the ‘Vita Christi’ (written by Ludolf of Saxony) and getting some insights from the exercises of St Ignatius (although I will get deeper into them in the future).
I’ve based these meditations mainly on choral means. Using music to meditate on the Life Of Jesus is an attempt to convey and commune with “things” for which I cannot find the words or images.
I’d like to emphasize that the Choral approach in these musical meditations is of utmost importance for me since I am trying to evoke the mystery of Incarnation and the human aspect of Jesus’s soteriological life through human voice and human singing (although, not having other mediums, I’ve had to do it with a software).
I make these musical meditations sometimes more rationally, sometimes more affectively, depending on the character of the event of Jesus’s Life. Of course there could be infinite ways to interpret, meditate, re-vive, re-call, re-member, or basically Live inside you each event of Jesus’s Life (always within the canons), but my own life is historical too and I have to stick to the way I feel and see things at this very moment to get true enriching and personal outcomes. Maybe in another moments of my life I will make different musical sets about the same events, but I guess their essence will be always the same, I cannot escape from my limits, at least with music. In any case it would be interesting to make different sets in the future just to meditate on the subtle changes and what they would mean for me, or for the listener.
And as another complementary exercise I have done some little paintings/drawings to meditate on those events visually, having the music as reference too. I should say that at the beginning I was planning to make some paintings for this with the best skillful manner I could, but soon I noticed that approach was not making me any good. So I stopped and tried to make the paintings in the most simple manner I could. This exercise has not served me just to appease some pride inclinations when trying to be skillful, but I think giving to the paintings a childish appearances evokes that the events I am painting belong to the child life of Jesus. I am aware that the childish appearance of the paintings sometimes do not fit the the serious character of the music, but my intention with all these artistic exercises is not making a design or graphic work coherently combined with music so that having an “album”… they are mainly meditative exercises with different purposes. At the same time the childish appearance of the drawings somehow evokes what jesus said about children: we have to become a child to enter in the Kingdom of Heaven.
You can listen or download this first part of the project here:
These are some insights I've written about each musical meditation:
1. GENERATION OF CHRIST:
I made this musical meditation relying on the first verse of John’s Gospel: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’.
There are many analogies that try to convey ‘the unity of God and Jesus since the beginning of the times, and eternally’ but I am so very fond of the “analogy” John used in his Gospel: The Word as the Union and inseparable essence of God and Jesus, being them two two different persons.
The mind (Thought) and the words that “dwell” in the mind (in their very essential means) are One and share the very same essence. Words and Mind are essentially a single entity altogether at the same time that they are two different “things” or “persons”… the same that happens with God and Jesus. But the analogy between God/Jesus and the Word works wonderfully not just in that sense but in the means that words “get out” of the mind when they are spoken or written (while keeping the essence of the mind) and they are “incarnated” in sound (voice) or printed letters… and that “incarnation” of the mind in form of voice or letters gets spread throughout the world and people. That “incarnation” spreads the message of the mind and make people who listen or read that message commune with it… exactly as happens with the message of Jesus, considering Jesus as an incarnation of God that spreads the message of God among people making them commune with Him. I got these ideas from Ludolf of Saxonia and St Augustine.
Having such thoughts in mind I made this musical meditation trying to convey them in the shape of music. So at the beginning of the piece (the beginning of times) I made two different notes of the same trumpet sound in unison, together as one. They are two different notes (persons) of the same instrument sounding as one single entity (as happens with God and Jesus). I chose the sound of a trumpet because I find its magestic character very appropriate to evoke God and Jesus.
So in the first part of this piece the “note” of God and the “note” of Jesus sound in unison, as One, repeatedly. Jus a note: I titled this piece “Generation” but Jesus was not Generated, Jesus is Uncreated, he exists since always and for always, eternally.
In the second part of the piece a melody with the same trumpet sounds representing God and after it the same melody with the same trumpet (same essence) sounds representing Jesus (but in a different tessitura -as a different person-). So in this second part God and Jesus are represented in alternation, being different “persons”, but as a single structure, entity and essence.
In the third part of this piece the melody that represents God and the melody that represents Jesus sound in combination, following at the same time two different lines (persons) in a single structure (essence). The polyphonic condition of this third part evokes the unity of the two persons, God and Jesus.
So this musical meditation exemplify, as a musical analogy, three different ways (unison, alternation and counterpoint) in which God and Jesus are One, share the same essence, but being two different persons. Those three different ways of “being” One and two persons at the same time is actually expressed in one single way: the musical piece by itself as a single entity.
2. ANNUNCIATION AND FINAL INCARNATION:
In this musical meditation I’ve used little fragments of the melody done with trumpets in the former piece, a melody that represents God and Jesus. These fragments are intermingled with another long dialogant melody embodied with the sound of a flute, which represents the angel giving Mary the news and asking her for permission to conceive Jesus in her. I’ve used the flute because its soft sound/timbre evokes the tenderness of the angel when communicating. The intermingling of the melody of the angel and that of God/Jesus evokes that the message of the angel is divine.
At the end of the piece, after the melody/message of the angel and the affirmation of Mary, a human voice makes an incursion in the piece, repeating the melody but with a human voice. This singing with the human voice evokes the moment of the Incarnation. In this very moment the choral work of this musical project starts, making an analogy between the human choral voice and the human condition of Jesus (communed with the divine) during the historical period of time he stayed in this world.
3. THE BIRTH OF GOD:
I've made this choral meditation in Nativity's day. One of the things that occupied my thoughts and feelings in this day is the idea of how tragic and conflictive was the context in which this event happened, despite the affable and edulcorated way it is presented nowadays with naive images of the nativity, merry carols and hyper socialized festivities.
But the mystery of incarnation's birth occurred in total marginality (in a stable in the middle of nowhere with any kind of assistance for the birthing, which might have been quite traumatic), marked by solitude and soon conditioned by persecution and slaughter. No merry ceremony, or any kind of ceremony, for one of the most important and relevant moments for christianity, the eclosion of the incarnation of the divine into flesh.
Extrapolating this to our personal account it makes me wonder if the birth of spiritual awareness in our inner life normally happens in a context of interior marginality and solitude, or literally under such conditions.
In any case, I dedicated some valuable time this Nativity's day to meditate, visualize and internalize this "event", having actual good and happy feelings for what actually meant and means, but having very present at the same time the conditions under which it all happened.
4. ADORATION OF THE SHEPHERDS:
I meditated on this event as if it was an interaction between the shepherds (human witnesses) and the presence of the divine in the human newborn Jesus. The shepherds were adoring both the human essence and the divine essence of Jesus. If they were not aware of the divine condition of the child, they would not adore him. The humility of the shepherds is the principal mean through which they can recognize the divinity of the newborn, only through humility we let God get into us and be aware of his presence in us and in the others… under this thought I approached this musical meditation trying to add a humble character to the melody and voices of the shepherds (low voices). Thanks to the humble character of their melody the divine presence (high voice) is able to appear through it.
To sum it up: The low voices represent the shepherds and their solemn and humble adoration. The high voice represents and evokes the newborn Jesus interacting with them and to the world solely through his human-divine presence (high voice).
In this musical meditation the shepherds and the divine condition of Jesus interact through polyphony. The communion and complementarity of all voices, that is, the polyphonic condition of this piece, evokes the communion of the divinity of Jesus with human beings (and for extension with the Creation and all creatures). In this sense, polyphony is a tool that evokes the communion of God with us.
5. PRESENTATION AT THE TEMPLE:
I put to this musical meditation some festive and sacrificial character at the same time. It was a jewish ritual of purification, after the conception and pregnancy, where they sacrificed two turtledoves or even a lamb in holocaust. Mary and Joseph took the child with them to the temple, which was not a must, and somehow there is a prefiguration here of the future sacrifice of Jesus (lamb) in the cross. We have to sacrifice ourselves and set fire to our inner demons in holocaust to get purified. That is why I’ve put a sacrificial character to this piece.
There are two more relevant persons in this event, Anna and Simeon. Simeon, who was aware that little chid was divine and took him in his arms all happy. And all happy and in peace he left having seen Jesus and his divinity with his eyes. In the same manner we should be happy when we see Jesus with our interior eyes and hug him with our interior arms. That is why I put a happy character to this musical meditation too, besides the sacrificial. Anna was an elder prophetic woman that told everyone that child was divine and made a lot of prayers in the temple for Jesus. She was always in prayer, the same way we should be always in prayer so that being aware of Jesus in our heart.
In this piece I made a repetitive base with four voices, each one representing Mary, Joseph, Simeon and Anna, they all together interacting in this act of purification, each of them in their own way. Over them there is a melody repeated with different voices which represents the divine presence of Jesus intermingled with their offering. The repetitive base of voices remark the ritualistic aspect of the event.
This is a happy meditation since it is the event that represent the adoration of the world (represented by the three magi kings who were pagans) to Jesus. Jesus is presented to all pagans, not just to the jewish. The light of Jesus is universal. The light of Jesus is for all races, cultures and all kind of human beings. Actually the festivity of this event substitutes a mayor pagan festivity, a substitution that is a mayor symbol of the universality of Jesus. The light of Jesus replaces the idolatries and self deifications of the world and the idolatries that we can have inside us and inside the human community as a whole. I made this musical piece as a happy celebration.
7. FLYING INTO EGYPT:
I’ve done this musical meditation in an affective way, thinking of the solitude and adversities of a journey to an unknown land, having fled possibly at night, and being persecuted. At the same time there is something symbolic: Jesus, the light, going to Egypt so that enlightening the idolatrous of that land... or taking this personally: giving light and appeasing our posible idolatrous inner impulses (which lead to self deification and suffering). I tried to give to this piece a solemn character at the same time than empathic.
8. MASSACRE OF THE INNOCENTS:
This musical meditation is mostly affective, feeling compassion for all the killed innocents which, in a way, prefigures the future killing of Jesus, an innocent, during his passion. There are tragic events along the soteriological/salvific life of Jesus, we have to assume all the tragic events that we all come across along our life and take them as an “exercise” to reinforce our inner spirituality, humility and faith.
9. RETURN TO NAZARETH:
I’ve meditated this event and musical piece as a bridge, a conjunction and a symbol of the return to the inner spirituality from the exterior idolatries of ancient Egypt. Nazareth is a very tiny village that almost nobody knows, returning to Nazaret is like returning to humility. This humility opens the inner doors to love and God. (This is a symbol of the necessity of humility and of going back to your inner retreat. This symbolic interpretation works for us personally, as humans, it doesn’t mean Jesus was not humble or that he was idolatrous when he was in Egypt).
10. FINDING IN THE TEMPLE (CHRIST AMONG THE DOCTORS):
In this musical meditation, the first three minutes evoke the three days in which Mary and Joseph "lost" the child Jesus, which prefigures the three days Jesus was in the sepulchre too and the pain Mary will have during the passion.
You can imagine how much pain Mary had while looking for his son, mostly knowing his son was God and she had such a big responsibility. Personally it evokes too the time in which we don't find Jesus in our heart and we desperately search him as if he were lost and we don't find him.
Then after those three minutes a little short melody comes evoking the question of Mary to Jesus when she finds him in the temple, why he has done that, why he has not told them he would remain in the Temple those days. The melody is still a bit painful but not resentful, I imagine Mary was very gentle and humble when asking. There is a conflict here between the respect Jesus should have had for his parents and the will of God that commanded Jesus to stay in the Temple those days. But that “conflict” is approached by Mary with humility and love, despite her pain, so that trying to resolve it and because she knows her son is God. That is, in the moments we have spiritual conflicts we should trust the will of God and be humble.
Then it comes the third part, the reply of Jesus... He is wondering how it is posible they didn't figure out he was with his godly Father in the Temple, we all should know he is the son of God and we shouldn't look for Jesus anywhere else but in God, in heavenly “things” not in worldly things.
It is the first time he makes an statement referring himself as celestial and gives a public celestial answer. And he did that being 12 years old. So I made a melody with a celestial character in which 12 voices start to sound progressively as One. All those voices are of every age and sounding at the same time, for Jesus is atemporal and eternal, he has no beginning and no end.
This melody of 12 voices symbolizes too the moment in which we find Jesus in our heart (God’s Temple) and he asks us why we have looked for him in other places and not in God... So we hear 12 celestial voices in our heart, as if the 12 apostles and the 12 tribes of Israel would sing too, all of it to tell us that it is not Jesus who was lost but us, and that he is not from this world.
After this event Jesus comes back with his worldly parents and keep doing the normal habits of his religious community. Despite being God Jesus is humble and follows the laws, even though he didn’t need them because he was already divine. That is: Even in the case we have some sporadic personal mystic experience, we should be humble and keep doing the canonic habits in our church community. Even Jesus, being God, did it as an act of humility and to exemplify.
11. SILENT YEARS:
There are many other ways to name this period of time of Jesus about which we do not know anything. Some people call it “occult years”, but I like the name of “silent years” because of what the word ‘silence’ evokes. Silence evokes humility and meditations, and I think the relevance those years in which Jesus didn’t make any public appearance rely precisely on humility and meditation. Jesus is God, so he didn’t need to mature his spirituality and wisdom along the years, all that spirituality and wisdom is within him not just since he was born, and not just since the beginning of the times, but since always, eternally. So, he was not waiting all those years before making his public appearance in order to maturate his wisdom before teaching it. He was waiting and in silence because of humility. He teaches humility to us through his years in silence. We don’t have to rush in our spiritual development, we have to be patience and mostly humble. We have to be silent and find that silence within us.
Under such thoughts I tried to make a very simple and humble melody in this mediative musical piece. To give it a more humble character I have not used polyphony in this piece but a very simple monodic structure, plain chant.
This chant goes through three different phases. The first one with the voice of a child. The second one with the voice of a teenager. The third one with the voice of a man. Doing this I try to evoke the human maturation of Jesus (as I said his divine condition don’t need to mature).
He doesn’t vocalize the melody. Instead he sings with a humming voice. I did it this way to evoke the silent condition of this period of time.