I'm less than a month away from the defense of my thesis, and am currently working on the final draft of that thesis. I am very busy, to say the least, so I apologize if my posting is sporadic. Below is the post I meant for Easter. Above is a picture of me on my second Easter in a pale pink dress, my favorite color as a child. Didn't my parents have great shag green carpeting? At least they could monitor my height.
When I was a young child, on Easter Sunday my family would go to Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter for beignets. It is right next to the Mississippi River, so we could see the sun gradually rising higher in the sky over the West Bank (because of the way the Mississippi curves in N.O., the West Bank is across the river and east of the Central Business District and French Quarter - it flows northward). Covered in powdered sugar, we then walked through Jackson Square and in front of St. Louis Cathedral.
For me as a child, decked out in pink dress, white patent leather shoes with bows, and jewelry decorated with flowers (I was such a girly-girl), Jackson Square was the perfect place to dream of a fairy-tale prince. In the right mid-morning lighting, St. Louis Cathedral bears the faintest of resemblances to Cinderella's Castle at Disneyworld, and Jackson Square is the flower-filled garden right outside the gates. The perfect place for Mary Magdalene to look for the Lord, and mistake him for a gardener. Adding to the image were the society women who would parade through the French Quarter on Easter Sunday in horse-drawn carriages on their way to Sunday Mass at the Cathedral. Royalty, going to greet the Savior on the first day of a new world.
I will rise then and go about the city;
In the streets and crossing I will seek Him whom my heart loves.
I sought him but I did not find him.The watchmen came upon me,As they made their rounds of the city: Have you seen him whom my heart loves?
I had hardly left them
When I found Him whom my heart loves.
I took hold of him and would not let him go. Song of Songs 3:2-4
I loved to get dressed up, walk near those trees and by those emerald green hedges - and I love grass that looks velvety - and dream of encountering a prince. (The sugar high from the beignets also helped.) In the Disney cartoon fairy tales, the princess almost always meets her prince in the darkness, whether it be of death (Sleeping Beauty and Snow White) or of twilight (Cinderella). However, they must await the triumphal ringing of bells and the new morn that their love brings.
Seek ye the Lord, and be strengthened:
seek His face evermore. Psalm 105:4
In numerous symphonies, those bells toll to symbolize death, and celebration. But it's the upwards arpeggios that really get me. Upwards arpeggios, when performed slowly and deliberately, are the clouds slowing parting in the sky to make way for the sun. Performed fast, they are the flutterings of the heart in love. In Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, over and over again that F sharp pierces the otherworld where beautiful maidens are trapped in the bodies of swans, and suggests the hovering between tragedy (B minor) and happiness (B major). Finally, after the double suicide of Odette and Siegfried, the dawn comes, and the lovers are united as the strings trill in the key of B major.
There's a cheery secular song written in the 30's that I think encapsulates this feeling, this joy of finding the beloved, and refusing to let Him go:
Dear when you smiled at me,I still recall the thrill
I heard a melody
It haunted me from the start!
Something inside of me
Started a symphony
Zing! Went the strings of my heart!
I guess I always will
I hope 'twill never depart
All nature seemed to be
In perfect harmony
Zing! Went the strings of my heart
St. Gregory Nazienzen wrote of the soul: organum pulsatum a Spiritu Sancto. When the Holy Spirit is there, your heart and soul trill with joy. Before you find Him, it is darkness. But when you do, you cannot let Him go.
O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63: 1-8
P.S. Titian's Noli me tangere is already featured on my blog. I've always liked Thomas Wyatt's secular use of the phrase is in "Whoso list to hunt..." For those unfamiliar with it, the white hind in the verse has a diamond inscription on its collar that reads: "Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am, And wild for to hold, though I seem tame." The rumor is that the hind was Anne Boleyn, and Henry VIII was Caesar. Wyatt may have been quite infatuated with Anne (shh! they may have been lovers!), and he was in prison when she got her head chopped off.