UNBORN WORD of the day


The heartbeat of Unborn Jesus set to Music
June 24, 2008, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Incarnation, Religion, Unborn Jesus

In our last post, we highlighted Catholic composer, Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992). As we pointed out 2008 is the centenary of his birth and he is being honored all over the world with concerts and symposiums. We went on to highlight one of his works: Vingt Regards sur l’enfant Jésus (“Twenty Gazes/Contemplations of the Infant Jesus”) and in particular one composition, ‘Premiere Communion de la Vierge‘. (No. 11, “Virgin’s First Communion”).

This composition represents the Virgin on her knees, worshipping the unborn Jesus within her. Because Messiaen wanted his listeners to be aware of his inspirations and how he constructed various passages, he wrote extensive program notes, which appear as prefaces to his scores or as liner notes for recordings of his music. Here is what Messiaen wrote about the Virgin’s First Communion:

“11. Première communion de la Vierge [First Communion of the Virgin]. A tableau in which the Virgin is shown kneeling, bowed down in the night-a luminous halo around her womb. Eyes closed, she adores the fruit hidden within her. This comes between the Annunciation and the Nativity: it is the first and greatest of all communions. Theme of God, gentle scrolls, in stalactites, in an inner embrace. (Recall of the theme of La Vierge l’Enfant from my Nativity du Seigneur for organ, 1935). Magnificat more enthusiastic. Special chords and durations of two and two in which the weighty pulsations represent the heartbeats of the Infant in the breast of his mother. Disappearance of the Theme of God. After the Annunciation, Mary adores Jesus within her…my God, my son, my Magnificat!-my love without the sound of words.”

These notes with explanations for all 20 gazes/compositions in Vingt Regards sur l’enfant Jésus can be found here. If you wish to purchase recordings of his songs or a book on his life here is a link to Amazon. We must mention that he is a modern composer and if you don’t like modern classical music – his compositions may not be your cup of tea.


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[…] next post will feature Olivier Messaien’s personal notes explaining the “Virgin’s First […]

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