An introduction to our Organ Sermon from the service on October 13 – Apparition of the Eternal Church by Olivier Messiaen – written by Richard Spears:
Christians are people of the word. But we are also people of song. There are times when music has a unique message of its own that comes to us in a form that words cannot match. You will experience that kind of music today.
In 1932, a French composer, Olivier Messiaen, wrote Apparition of the Eternal church for the pipe organ.
The piece is most effective when played on a large powerful organ, such as the organ of the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. As one might suspect, this piece is about far more than just a magnificent church building. It is revelation. In 2006, a film was made showing the reactions of people from all walks of life as they hear and experience the image of the Kingdom of God as represented by the eternal church.
The composer wrote his own poetic description of the piece, freely translated here from French into English:
Made of living stone, Made of divine stone,
It appears in the heavens:
And links God to God’s people.
It is the Kingdom of God
The eternal church is built from stones which are the souls of God’s people.
These souls are in God, and God is in them…throughout eternity!
Although the music is highly evocative, the experience might be clearer with a few words of guidance. Perhaps we are ascending a mountain. As we journey upward a vision struggles to enter our consciousness. The pulse of the universe persists. It is the sound of the on-going creation and reconstruction of the universe, the church, and our souls. In time we arrive at a point where for a few seconds we experience a vision, a glimpse of the eternal church, a vision of the Kingdom of God, a taste of peace on earth. This vision is not gentle birdsong or rays of light streaming from golden clouds, but a majestic and thunderous revelation, asserted with clarity, simplicity, and purity. Our vision persists for a moment while the pulse of the universe continues unabated. The apparition flickers, appears once more—fleetingly—and fades. We descend once again into life’s trials and challenges, life’s discords and resolutions.
The next time we experience the eternal church it will be the Kingdom of God and our hope is…it will be real.
So, the journey begins: Apparition of the Eternal Church