When it comes to appreciating classical music, it’s fair to say that I don’t get out much.
Pretty much the extent of my exposure is the seven minutes or so I spend in the car each morning, listening to the Radio Arts Foundation at 107.3 on the radio dial in St. Louis.
So perhaps I can be forgiven for never having heard of the gifted violinist Julia Fischer until a few days ago. Turns out she’s been performing for a couple of decades (at least), thrilling audiences across Europe, North America and who-knows-how-many-other-places with her virtuosity.
My recent radio encounter featured a piece from Ms. Fischer’s latest release entitled ‘Sarasate.’ I couldn’t begin to tell you which cut I heard from the CD—but I do know this: I found it very difficult to believe all that music was coming from a single violin. (Check out this video clip and you’ll get a sense for what I mean.)
All of which is to say, I may not be the world’s biggest devotée of classical music…but I’d definitely be willing to buy a ticket in order to see (and hear) Julia Fischer play.
Virtuosity has that sort of power, doesn’t it? It can capture the imagination and open our hearts to horizons we would have been unlikely to consider before.
But virtuosity can also slip by, unnoticed—and we are much the poorer for having overlooked it. That seems to be the message Jesus had for us in an intriguing gospel passage (featuring the Queen of Sheba) heard at Mass earlier this week.
Jesus is clearly frustrated with many of the people he encounters in the crowd:
‘At the judgment,’ he says, ‘the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.’
What is the greatness in Christ that the people around him seem to have missed?
What is the nature…the essence…of Jesus’ virtuosity?
It’s a marvelous question to reflect upon as we continue our Lenten journey…and seek to deepen our relationship with the Lord.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.