20 December 2016

The Word Made Flesh, Chanticleer and Biebl's Ave Maria

This Saturday evening a friend and I attended a Chanticleer Christmas concert in San Francisco at St Ignatius Church. The program included Biebl's Ave Maria --- something which has become expected, and would be seriously missed were Chanticleer to omit it from the program. The first year I heard this I was surprised by it and even a little disappointed; I was expecting Schubert or Bach-Gounod. We are resistant to the new sometimes. But now, I, like my friend, am ordinarily brought to tears by Chanticleer's rendition of this version of the Angelus/Ave Maria.

Some will remember my having quoted Dom Robert Hale, OSB Cam, when I wrote about God shaping and sustaining us "like a singer sustains a note." I have spoken of our vocations to become true counterparts of God, language events which are expressions of the eternal and loving Word and breath of God, responses to God which bring creation to articulateness, and in the past I have spoken of human being summoned out of muteness to become canticles of joy and hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. In all of these ways and others I have tried to provide Scriptural and theological images of the ways we become our truest selves in the power and powerful presence of God, images part of what is celebrated at Christmas and especially in the stories we hear throughout this last week of Advent.

In today's Gospel we hear the story of  the angel greeting Mary and describing her as "full of grace;" it is also an account of Jesus' conception by the power of that same Spirit. In other words Mary is a woman of prayer in whom the breath of God moves freely and who, because of that, will speak her "fiat" to become pregnant with the One who will become God's counterpart in an exhaustive and definitive sense. Mary is indeed the canticle created when God is allowed to shape and sustain her as a singer does a note --- an image of Mary we celebrate especially in tomorrow's Gospel. The dialogue between Mary and God as well as our own subsequent reflection on and praise of this great mystery is captured in Biebl's marvelous rendition of the Angelus. I hope you enjoy it.