Ruth Whitehead, Moderator of the South Western Synod, provides our reflection for Epiphany.
Epiphany is the Christian festival where we celebrate the showing forth of the glory and wonder of the reality of God’s presence. We know how music can help us celebrate many things, and that when our souls are moved by music we are made more aware of God’s presence.
For me, music for Epiphany doesn’t get much better than this:
“And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed”.
Handel’s setting is marvellous – especially for all the long-suffering altos who get their moment to shine, for once.
The piece has few words, but conveys so much.
It is often studied for GCSE music, and study notes point out the four themes
And the glory of the Lord – one note per syllable, outlining the A major chord, giving a bright, positive mood
Shall be revealed – revealed has many notes per syllable, conveying something of the richness of the revelation of God.
And all flesh shall see it together – the repeating of the same sequence of notes each time illustrates the inclusiveness of God’s revelation to all people.
For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it – this has longer notes on much the same tone, as if the composer is underlining the importance of what God has done by God’s creating Word.
The music conveys the reality of the revelation of God with us in all these interwoven themes of positivity, complexity, beauty, and simplicity.
But the most powerful, and for the singers the scariest, part is that General Pause at the end.
For the mouth of the Lord….hath spoken it.
In the silence which breaks into the business of our singing and our living, the Lord is present. God has spoken, and all things attend to the Word of God.
God’s glory shines on God’s world – and Handel’s oratorio helps us celebrate it.