Yes, I have indeed been rather “out of commission” with regard to this weblog for the last week or so, devoting my energies to preparing a short article I’m calling, provisionally, “Provocations in Place of Answers”. It’s been one of my most difficult, but also engaging, assignments.
The article is to appear in the program book accompanying the premier of Sir John Tavener’s new setting of the Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The Mass—Sollemnitas in Conceptione Immaculata Beatae Mariae Virginis—was co-commissioned by Religio Musica Nova, a Swiss-based arts organization that sponsors an annual festival in Zurich, and Saint Thomas Church in New York, and the premier will be December 8th in Zurich’s Grossmünster Cathedral—ironically, the church in which Zwingli preached his brand of Reformation.
Tavener, as you may know, has been saying for the last several years that Schuon’s work is the principal inspiration for all his new music, especially it seems the German lyric poetry FS penned during his last three or four years. The composer is calling this new work a “universalist” setting of the Mass, and the idea is to “show” in sound—choir, orchestra, solo soprano, organ—perennialist resonances between the traditions, but in such a way as to underscore the integrity of each religion, notably (of course) the Christian. There will be hints as to the deep relationships, I’m told, but no syncretistic mixing and matching.
In any case, I was asked to contribute a piece bringing together the main features of the weeklong festival and the culminating Mass in particular: Could I please talk about the perennial philosophy, liturgy, beauty, the meaning of the Immaculate Conception, and Mary and the feminine Divine—in ten pages or so?! The task has reminded me of what the Hieromonk Damian—he’s the iconographer who wrote the icon I feature on the homepage of my website—always says about how much more difficult it is to paint a small icon than a large one. All those details and so little room.
I’m to be on a couple of panels during the course of the week leading up to the premier, and I’ll try to make a point of posting a short report on the whole experience, as well as my article itself, sometime in December.