Monday, September 19, 2011

Memorial, Part 3: Prayers

A natural response to something like the 9/11 attack is not only grief and shock but also rage and a desire for revenge.  Rene Clausen departs from these sorts of reaction and turn to expressions of faith of several sorts. The first section of Part 3 is totally unexpected: it came from an piece by a young woman, a  Buddhist monk, who wrote a these words as a chant, a meditation. The words are simple: "May I be peaceful; may you be peaceful; may they be peaceful."  Repeated in a random fashion by the voice parts of the choir, the sound that results is a vast murmuring, ephemeral, distant, diaphanous, and soft. The  individual words may not be distinguished and the result is an overall effect rather than a meaning. The chant is based on the structure of a Buddhist Metta Meditation--a three-part series of personal meditation.

The circle become wider through the succeeding verses.  First "I," then enlarging to include one other with "you" and finally to the whole world with "they."

A baritone solo overlays the chant section.  The words of many of the prayers in the work were the work of Dr. Roy Hammerling of the Concordia College Religion Department, who wrote the prayers for a series of services held at the college in the week following 9/11.

The words to the solo in this section are

Gracious and loving God, pour forth your mercy on us all. For those who have fallen and are lost, lost in the oblivion of rubble, blanket them with your eternal light.

Gracious and loving God, pour forth your mercy on us all.  For those whose souls have  turned cold and empty, grant them a large measure of your mercy, and a nutritious kernel of your kindness, grant them peace, grant them peace.

Gracious and loving God, pour forth your mercy upon us all. For those whose dreams  are haunted, haunted by images of horror, enfold them in your loving embrace. Fill our hearts with your healing love.

At the end of the solo and chants, the choir moves to a statement: May I live with peace of heart,may you live with peace of heart, may we live in joy!

Clausen said he regarded the last statement as the most joyful of the entire work. 

One of our ministers posted on Facebook this statement from William Willomon in Christian Century, who asked what would've happened if, in response to 9/11, we'd have gone to the cross of Christ instead of the flag.This section considers the same idea: what if we had chosen a spiritual response instead of a patriotic one? 

Tomorrow:Memorial, Part 4: Petitions

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