Sunday, December 19, 2004

World Magazine Blog Takes on Handel's Messiah and Secularizing of the Sacred
When the Charlotte Symphony performed Handel’s Messiah earlier this week, here’s how the group’s printed program summed up the masterpiece: “Composed in 1741, Messiah stands alone as a majestic monument to the human spirit and the aspirations of man.” Anyone listening to the actual words of the oratorio – which are exclusively passages of Scripture – might get a different idea. But humanistic interpretations of the work aren’t new. Pastor and famous hymn-writer John Newton railed against the secular popularity of Handel’s Messiah just 40 years after its premiere, lamenting that the oratorio’s performance had become a fashionable social event that focused on the greatness of Handel, instead of the Messiah Himself. Newton acknowledged the genius of the oratorio, but told his congregation that if the “professed lovers of sacred music” truly appreciated the Messiah, “the nation would soon wear a new face.”

I would say that the benefit of Handel's Messiah secular appeal is that it keeps Scripture and the Messiah before the general public. Although viewing it as a "monument to the human spirit" when it is God-focused is incredibly sad.

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