What is a fugue? While musicians and those who know more about music than I do might frown at my simplistic definition, a fugue is a musical piece where two separate musical parts are quite different from each other and yet because of the talent of the composer are brought together in one mix of beautiful sound. Moreover, it is generally the case that there is a recurrence of these themes throughout the entire work.
Houselander relates this idea of a fugue to God. “The history of the Incarnation is like a fugue, in which the love of God for the world is the ever-recurring motif. It was uttered first in Mary’s voice, in its very simplest phrase, like a few single notes.
A few words spoken to an angel and heard only by him: “Be it done unto me according to thy word.””
And in true fugue style, after the great fiat of Mary, this recurring motif is not present for the next nine months. There is a silent waiting for the Son of God to become fully human in this world. And in a way seemingly so unfitting for a Messiah, there was that dramatic moment when the cry of the infant burst forth at birth. The words of Mary gave way to the Word of God fully human in our world.
And as the child-Jesus becomes the man-Jesus, two statements become bookends of the grace of Jesus here on this earth. Mary and Jesus both utter powerful words to surrender to God. Both phrases have so much to do with our salvation. They uttered perfect surrender that we aspire to have in our own lives. The first bookend is when Mary says, “Be it done unto me according to thy word.” And the second bookend comes in the words of Jesus, “Not my will by thy will be done.” The first bookend brings the human Jesus in the world so he can utter the second. And both Mary and Jesus show us, model for us, exactly what we should do in life; we must surrender our will to the perfect will of God.
These two bookends are the two motifs that get played again and again. There is the dissonance of the sinful world in which both persons, both Our Lady and Our Lord must live, but again and again these motifs get played to show us the profound beauty of surrendering to the will of God.
And yet, from time to time, the motifs become evident in others. Others are inspired by these musical motifs to play melodies that arise from the notes of surrender. The manifestation of God’s will is seen in an infant leaping for joy in his mother’s womb. It is seen in the eloquent writing of the actions and words of the Messiah. It is seen when one brother brings another to Jesus. It is seen even after the resurrection in the conversion of one who persecutes the Church into one who becomes one of her great apostles.
The purpose of the two motifs is to show us just how deep faith in God and surrender to Him can in fact transform. Houselander puts this beautifully. “When he was born again, in life after life, it would always be in order to live through the same things as He did the first time: fear, poverty, exile, work, publicity, temptation, pain, betrayal, and crucifixion.
“It is obvious, too, that He intended to overcome all this in each person’s life, not by doing away with it, but by transforming it; and to overcome death itself by dying.”
When Mary utters her fiat, and when Christ prefers the will of the Father, we see how their willingness to surrender to the Father changes us. Despite our sin we can become holy, not because of our working harder, seeking to earn it, but because of the bookended surrenders that both made our new and transformed life possible.
In the gospel of John Jesus comes for the hour. It is that time when the glory of God will become obvious to all. Sometimes we anticipate this hour. At other times we see it clearly. In every human soul there are times when we hear the Christ. “In many souls, for this very reason, Christ will say, ‘It was for this hour that I came into this world.’” And so yes, it is the case that Advent is a time when we are to wait patiently to celebrate the time when Jesus became fully human. But Advent is so much more. It is that time when we seek to find the ways in which Jesus longs to join two other motifs, his hour and ours. And it can be great indeed when we come to know and experience, to believe and accept, that our lives take on their greatest significance and beauty, when we realize that truly his hour and ours are indeed the same. The hours become one when we can accept that His hour extends the mercy we need at our hour. The hours become one when we hold the infinite Christ in our hands in the Eucharist. The hours become one when a couple is married, a priest is ordained, one who is sick is anointed. The hours also become one in every moment in our lives, doing small and great things, ordinary and extraordinary things, living our ordinary and spiritual lives. When we know that the Christ is deep within us, then we realize that our hour is indeed His.
Other Commentaries on The Reed of God
It can be helpful to have the book to read. To purchase books I recommend the Pauline sisters.