Sunday, December 8, 2013

Life's Grace Notes

"My joy is much greater than my tiredness." -- Pope Francis

It has been one super duper hectic week. And yet, in the midst of life's busyness, there is always joy to be found. 

"Grace notes" in music function as ornaments, and are defined as "less important" notes that preempt or anticipate the actual note.

In life, God gives us so many grace notes, instances when we suddenly glimpse a perfection beyond words, His way of showing us slivers of the joy and happiness that we can expect in the heavenly kingdom. Each day sings its song of small grace notes, and we should always be alert so we can catch them. It is as C.S. Lewis said: "To let no bird fly past unnoticed, to spell patiently the stones and weeks, to have the mind in a storehouse of sunset, requires a discipline in pleasure and an education in gratitude."

I am grateful that, as I grow older, I am able to cherish more and more of these grace notes, something I was too rash and impatient to do when I was younger.

This past week's grace notes include seeing the angelic faces of the third graders during their First Communion, the joy of discussing "Ender's Game" with students who identify so closely with the protagonist (while the classic book offers something for everyone, I maintain that the book is truly FOR children), being able to mingle and celebrate the joys of reading amongst fellow readers in the 3rd ReaderCon, the huge blessing of catching the movie of the aforementioned novel in the newly opened cinema fifteen minutes away from our school, and the wonder of being able to rehearse onstage for our school drama club production of ROMEO AND JULIET.

Grace-filled moments, full of anticipation... and how timely, too, now that Christmas is nearly upon us! And how wonderful it was to hear mass earlier, and see that the second candle of the Advent Wreath has been lit! I've brought out my Christmas pieces, and after a year of not playing them, have begun to practice our household favorites so my fingers will be ready for the "grand concert" in our humble sala on Christmas eve (it's tradition! Along with watching Nigella Lawson Christmas specials to make ourselves hungrier for noche buena). 

Here's one of my favorite Christmas songs, not only because it is so beautiful but also because it also happens to be a Marian hymn (Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception!!). It is sung by the peerless Kathleen Battle:

May we be able to catch all the grace notes that He sends our way!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Music of Forgiveness

Rembrandt's "The Return of the Prodigal Son"
I am a teacher, but for several years in my youth, I studied music. And once upon a time, I seriously considered it as a career, until I took a Music Practicum Teaching class in college and fell in love with my present vocation. Years later, I am still drawn to music in a very primal way… I even THINK in music, at times!

I associate people with certain types of music… for instance, there’s this special person, my equivalent of Beethoven’s "Unsterbliche Geliebte,” and whenever I think of that person I always seem to hear Schubert’s “Du bist die Ruh” in my head. J (Yes, I’m weird that way.) Or when I’m in a particularly melancholic mood, the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 7th symphony.


For my family, I always associate Boccherini’s Minuet from his E Major String Quintet (Op. 11), just because everything is light and cheery whenever I am with them. :)

But for several years now, I’ve been living in fear of a certain person who besmirched my happy memories of college life and forever made me distrustful and wary of men. Whenever I encountered a person who resembled him physically, or just the mention of his name, the opening bars of Beethoven’s 5th symphony would play in the orchestra of my mind!!

It was only recently that I’ve been able to speak about “the incident” that occurred on Sept. 12, 2006, to others apart from my most intimate friends. Just last week, in our class discussion about Mozart, I spoke about it to my senior high school students with the goal of warning them not to be so trusting and naïve when they go to college. I also mentioned that I found it very hard to forgive this person because no apology was ever made, and that the incident was even swept under the rug by the institution I belonged to, at the time. “But whenever I hear this melody by Mozart, I find myself closer to being able to forgive,” I said, and proceeded to let them hear two minutes of some of the most exquisite music ever written, “the music of God’s absolution,” according to Salieri in the movie Amadeus. Truly, “Contessa, perdono” is the voice of God.

In her reaction paper, one of my students expressed her outrage at what had happened to me. She also encouraged me to forgive, not for his sake, but for my own mental health. And because of Mark 11:25.

And finally, finally… I have forgiven. It took seven years, but at last, it is done. For he has passed away, you see. And in death, there is new life.

I was thinking that for several years, I’d been yearning for some sort of ‘closure,’ the one we’ve been taught to expect from watching Hollywood movies with happy endings, or ones where people receive the consequences of their actions. But now I realize that, from a Christian point of view, there is no closure in the human sense, for if one believes in eternal life and in the communion of saints, then it is very clear that our actions in this world will reverberate in the next. And we shall all see each other, at the end of time, in a better place, when we are our better selves after having been purified and made better in this “valley of soul-making.”

So, thank you, Mozart. And thanks to the person who bade me forgive at a time when I found it impossible to do so. And now I have. And now my soul is truly free.
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