2012-06-02 Vatican RadioOn Friday evening, Pope Benedict XVI attended a concert in his honor at Milan’s renowned La Scala opera house, where he heard Beethoven’s 9th Symphony performed by the La Scala orchestra with music director Daniel Barenboim conducting. Listen:
Following the concert, the Holy Father praised both the work and its performance in remarks that touched on technical aspects of the music as a way into a profound theological reflection occasioned by it.
The 9th symphony is famous for its final movement, often called the “Ode to Joy” after the poem by the late 18th century German playwright, poet and philosopher, Friedrich Schiller, the words of which provide the texts for the four solo voices and chorus that have parts in the symphony’s culminating section.
“At this concert,” said Pope Benedict, “which was to be a joyous celebration on the occasion of this meeting of people from almost all nations of the world, there is the shadow of the quake that has brought great suffering of many inhabitants of our country.” He continued, “The words of Schiller’s Ode to Joy sound empty to us – indeed, they do not seem real. We do not feel the divine sparks of Elysium at all. We are not drunk with fire, but paralyzed by grief and so much and such incomprehensible destruction that has cost so many human lives, that took away house and home from so many others.” The Pope went on to say, “Even the assumption that above the starry sky there must live a good Father, seems questionable.”
“Is the father is just above the starry sky?” asked Pope Benedict. “Does not His goodness reach us down here? We seek a God who does not stand at a distance, but comes into our lives and our suffering.”
The Holy Father continued, saying, “We do not need unreal talk of a distant God and an easy brotherhood that requires nothing of us. We are in search of God who is near. We are looking for a fraternity that, in the midst of suffering, sustains its fellows and thus helps to go forward.” Pope Benedict concluded, noting that after this concert, many would go to Eucharistic adoration – to adore the God, who “has introduced His very self into our suffering and continues to do so: the God who suffers with us and for us, and so has made men and women capable of sharing the suffering of others and of turning that suffering into love.”
“This,” said Pope Benedict, “is precisely what we feel called by this concert to do.”