The devil’s playground

Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss is for the entire world!
Brothers! over the starry canopy
Must a loving Father dwell!.

Beethoven’s 9th, Movement III.

Retired University of Pennsylvania music librarian and lifelong friend Carolyn brought Beethoven’s line to our attention in response to today’s earlier post, “Now (regretfully) I Know.”

“Hitler,” she said, “was purportedly extremely partial to Beethoven’s 9th,” especially to the lines above. Her comments remind me again that even beauty itself can become the source of ugliness. Good and evil lie next to each other in this world, just a breath away from the other.

It’s not just an idle mind that is the devil’s workshop. [H. G. Bohn, “Hand-Book of Proverbs,” 1855]. It’s also a lofty mind, propelled by the best in us.

High ideals – a world at one, a world at peace; feel the embrace, you millions, this kiss is for the entire world – are not just lofty. They are also the devil’s playground where light is turned into darkness, love into hate, hope into despair, hugs into gropings, and kisses into kisses of death.

Thank you, Carolyn, for the comment. The physically blind Beethoven surely would cherish the prospect that the world will not allow Hitler’s distortion to become the the last interpretation of the last movement of Beethoven’s 9th.

It is left to us to redeem the hug and the kiss with the spirit of hope and contrition we know by heart:

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.” (Just enough bread for one day.) “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, November 5, 2016.





An acrostic verse: Missa Solemnis

“Missa Solemnis”

LORD HAVE MERCY begins the Mass
Under the baton of Maestro
Dean Craig Jessop. The last word: PEACE.
Wisdom and beauty from solo
Instrument, the mass choir, voice
Go to the top of Cathedral.

Vast walls of sound show pain also,
Arising from those who are cruel.
Nothing human escapes alto,

Bass and tenor and soprano.
Even a skeptic like Ludvig
Enlisted to create music,
Tries to make out of the tragic:
Hope, faith, love, kindness, and courage.
Overwhelmed by suffering, he
Values still signs of human will.
Even though stone deaf, he can be
Nurturing peace and harmony.

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL August 7, 2013

EDITOR’S NOTE: Craig Jessop is Dean of the College of the Arts at Utah State University, and former Director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Christian-Marxist Dialogue: a Memoir

Thanks to Robert Perschmann for bringing attention to this link, sent out as a New Year’s gift by The People’s World, the newspaper of the Communist Party USA.

Robert sent the link as a part of a comment on Views from the Edge’s  post from “Every Valley” from Handel’s “Messiah”. I responded with the following reflection, slightly edited here.:

“Robert, the valleys and mountains, and the rough places a plain, or level place, are so clearly (biblical) metaphors for the coming of economic just. “He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.” The hearer is transported into a vision and hope that can only be voiced and heard in poetry. It is the day of the lion and the lamb, the end of violence and sorrow, the end of the disparities of the sated and the sorrowful.

Josef Hromadka

Josef Hromadka

“Josef Hromadka, Czech theologian and “father of Christian-Marxist Dialogue” during the Cold War, always said the church’s unfaithfulness to its calling was responsible for the atheism of communism. In Czarist Russia there were, on the one hand, the Czar and the Church, and, on the other, the peasants, the poor, the suffering who were oppressed by the throne and consigned to perpetual poverty by the church that taught them to be patient in their hope for another world. Hromadka called for the church to confess the sin of abandoning it charter and its hope. He saw in communism the re-awakening of the original grand hope for the coming of the Kingdom of God.

“Hromadka was a much-beloved professor of theology at Princeton Theological Seminary during the 30s and 40s. My father studied with him and remembered him fondly as a great teacher. When Hromadka left his secure teaching position in Princeton in 1947, many of his Western friends and colleagues were deeply disappointed and highly critical. They viewed him as naïve, a communist, or communist-sympathizer. Hromadka returned to create in Czechoslovakia and the wider Eastern bloc a dialogue that would contribute to the hope for a more humane and human society in both the church and the society..

“Thanks for the link. So interesting and rather mind-blowing that the newspaper of the Communist Party USA would choose Beethoven’s 9th as a New Year gift. I’ll listen with new ears.”

Princeton Theological Seminary Professor Charles West’s “Hromadka: Theologian of the Resurrection” offers an in-depth look at Hromadka’s life and witness as seen by a faculty colleague in the West.  Here are some excerpts from the article:

Hromadka rejected both liberalism, with its shallow view (of the human crisis, and conservatism, with its allegiance to old structures which had lost their moral power. “We are living on the ruins of the old world, both morally and politically,” he concluded. “No one single element and norm of our civilization can possibly be taken for granted.”

With this faith which he continually translated into political judgments, Hromadka made the choice to return to Czechoslovakia in 1947, to accept the Communist coup d’etat in 1948, and to work as a Christian within the framework of a Marxist-dominated socialist society.

“I am in no sense a Communist,” he wrote, “but I take part in this revolution from the point of view of my Christian faith which sees the work of the forgiving grace of God in the midst of changes that are coming about.”

Thanks for coming by Views from the Edge. Leave a comment to promote discussion.