Here’s the day-retreat I led on Saturday, November 18, 2017, at Pauline Books and Media, Culver City. Here you can follow this retreat yourself, wherever you are and at your own pace.
Messiah, the oratorio by George Frederick Handel, puts together Scripture passages that beautifully illuminate the coming of Christ and his redemptive work. Since Isaiah has sometimes been called the “Fifth Gospel” because of the way Christ is extensively contained in the text, I thought to base this pre-Advent retreat on Isaiah as presented to us in Messiah.
Introduction: Five Things to Know about Isaiah
1. Isaiah the Man
2. Isaiah the Prophet
3. Isaiah the Book
4. God’s Word for Dangerous Times & Troubled People
5. Isaiah Sometimes Called “The Fifth Gospel”
First Meditation: Comfort / Prepare / Glory
Play this performance of Messiah on YouTube, from the beginning until 11:09. For this mediation you can follow along with the text below, and, if helpful, use the reflection questions to guide your thought and prayer.
2. Tenor Recitative. — Isaiah 40:1-3
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her,
that her warfare is accomplished,
that her iniquity is pardoned.
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness:
Prepare ye the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
3. Tenor Air — Isaiah 40:4
Every valley shall be exalted,
and every mountain and hill made low,
the crooked straight,
and the rough places plain.
4. Chorus — Isaiah 40:5
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together:
for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
How / Why / Where does humanity need comfort right now?
How / Why / Where do you need comfort right now?
How can we / you “prepare the way of the Lord” this Advent?
What can we / you do to make the road straight and level for the Lord in your life? In your world?
What is the “glory of the Lord?” And, so what?
Second Meditation: Virgin / Light / Son
Play this section of Messiah on YouTube; it will start at 18:13 to 33:01 (about 14 min 48 sec). For this mediation you can follow along with the text below, and, if helpful, use the reflection questions to guide your thought and prayer.
8. Alto Recitative — Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23
Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son,
and shall call his name Emmanuel, God with us.
9. Alto Air and Chorus — Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 60:1
O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain;
O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, and be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
10. Bass Recitative — Isaiah 60:2,3
For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people;
but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee.
And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
11. Bass Air — Isaiah 9:2
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light:
and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death,
upon them hath the light shined.
12. Chorus — Isaiah 9:6
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given:
and the government shall be upon His shoulder:
and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor,
the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
“God with us”—how can you tell this “good tidings” in your life?
How does your life let the light of God’s truth and love shine?
How can you become more transparent to God’s light during Advent?
Are there particular dark areas in your life or in your world, where you need to let God’s light shine? How can you do this?
Does Christ govern your life? Honestly, are there areas of your life where you don’t want Christ in? that you want to reserve for yourself, or are too ashamed of?
Third Meditation: Eyes / flock
Play this section of Messiah on YouTube; it will start at 43:00 to 49:26 (about 6 min 26 sec). For this mediation you can follow along with the text below, and, if helpful, use the reflection questions to guide your thought and prayer.
19. Alto Recitative — Isaiah 35:5,6
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.
20. Alto and Soprano Air — Isaiah 40:11; Matthew 11:28, 29
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd;
and he shall gather the lambs with His arm,
and carry them in His bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.
Come unto Him, all ye that labour, that are heavy laden,
and He shall give you rest.
Take his yoke upon you, and learn of Him;
for he is meek and lowly of heart:
and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
21. Chorus — Matthew 11:30
His yoke is easy, and His burthen is light.
In what ways are you blind, deaf, lame, mute?
Be honest: where are you in need of healing? Could it be in areas where you are the most comfortable and complacent?
How does the image of the Good Shepherd and the meek and lowly master speak to you?
The yoke of Christ is the cross, and his burden is the sin of the world, including yours. Is there a paradox here? How can you understand this?
Fourth Meditation: Despised / Rejected / Grief / Iniquities
Play this section of Messiah on YouTube; it will start at 49:34 to 1:07:35 (about 18 min 01 sec). For this mediation you can follow along with the text below, and, if helpful, use the reflection questions to guide your thought and prayer.
22. Chorus — John 1:29
Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.
23. Alto Air — Isaiah 53:3; Isaiah 50:6
He was despised and rejected of men,
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.
He gave His back to the smiters,
and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair:
He hid not His face from shame and spitting.
24. Chorus — Isaiah 53:4,5
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.
He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon Him.
25. Chorus — Isaiah 53:5
And with His stripes we are healed.
26. Chorus — Isaiah 53:6
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
What does “Lamb of God” mean? What does “he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” mean? What does “the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all” mean?
The next selection will skip to 1:35:54. Listen to the Hallelujah Chorus, which is a fitting conclusion for our meditation. (It ends at 1:39:29, about 3:35 min.) For this mediation you can follow along with the text below, and, if helpful, use the reflection questions to guide your thought and prayer.
44. Chorus — Revelation 19:6, 11:15, 19:16
Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord,
and of His Christ:
and He shall reign for ever and ever.
King of kings, Lord of lords.
“The kingdom of the world is become the Kingdom of our Lord.” How do you understand the relationship between the two Kingdoms?
Conclusion: Advent and Isaiah
Homily at Concluding Mass
Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Saturday Vigil). Parable of the Talents: Most of us are like the guy with one talent, and often tempted to set it aside because “it’s not much.” “Do your best with what you’ve got” and “bloom where you are planted.” (Scripture Texts at http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/111917.cfm.)
Thank you and God bless you!