Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Protecting Veil

One of my favourite pieces of music is the late John Tavener's The Protecting Veil for cello and orchestra.  I love the cello - it is the one instrument I would have loved to have learned - my first exposure to it was Elgar's Cello Concerto and as a teenager that work spoke to me.  Tavener's piece really utilises the otherworldly possibilities of the cello and uses it to explore the life of Our Lady in a truly mystical way.
The concerto is based on an apparition of Our Lady - that of the Protecting Veil, celebrated in Orthodoxy as a feast.  In the tenth century St Andrew of Constantinople and one of his disciples had a vision of Our Lady in which she appeared over the city of  Blachernae when it was threatened with invasion by barbarians and spread her mantle over the city as a sign of protection.  It is a vision that reminds all of us that the Holy Mother of God wraps us in the mantle of her motherly protection.  We Carmelites see the Scapular as the protecting veil of Our Lady, one in which we are clothed not only for her protection, but also to inspire us to imitate her virtues and her humble service of her Divine Son. 
Tavener's piece begins with a musical invocation of this Veil being drawn over the city and over all of us, he then goes on to explore Our Lady's life.  One of the most stunning parts is that which represents the Resurrection, a bright and brilliant invocation after the solitary lament of Holy Saturday. My own great admiration for Tavener emerged from gratitude - this piece allowed me meditate in a deeper way on Our Lady and her life, and even today the work is as fresh as it was when I first heard it and it still inspires me to pray. 

Don't forget to say a prayer for the repose of John Tavener's soul.  Having written such a beautiful piece for and about Our Lady, I have no doubt she is interceding for him. 
If you have time to listen to it, here is the piece from YouTube.  But best to go out and buy it so you can listen to it whenever you want.   

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