By Anita Mathias
When Beethoven’s Ode to Joy was first performed at the Theater am Kärntnertor in Vienna in 1824, Beethoven conducting for tempo, had his back turned to the audience. The audience stood up, the applause was thunderous, and the aging exhausted composer knew nothing of it.
When the contralto, Caroline Unger, gently turned him around, he saw the ecstatic audience applauding.
* * *
Mr Holland’s Opus tells the story of an American aspiring composer, who marries too young (an accidental pregnancy), and then teaches music at high school for 31 years, all the while longing to complete his opus, his Great American Symphony.
At his forced retirement after music department budget cuts, the students play the beautiful symphony on which he had laboured for all those decades. And as he stands, entranced at the music he has never yet heard, and overwhelmed with emotion, they tell him that they, in fact, are his Opus; the lives he poured love and music into are his Opus.
* * *
A writer sows into her little patch of earth, and she does not know who, or how many, her words touch, or how.
We sow, we sow, in our little patch of earth, and we hope our words do some good in the world, touch and change other lives, even a little.
We send our words out into the world, to our invisible audience.
And it’s more than an earthly one.
It is, perhaps, at the end of the performance, at the end of our earthly lives, that God will turn us around and show us how the seeds we have planted have bloomed.
* * *
Always the invisible audience.
The other day, a member of our family got upset with another one, who, though upset too, remained silent, until the angst burned out.
And I said gently, “You thought your self-restraint passed unnoticed. But I am sure Someone was very proud of you, and said to the closest bystander, “Do you see my servant? Did you note the overwhelming temptation to yell back and sin? Did you note the self-restraint?”
* * *
While we live our lives, intensely absorbed in the tempo, we sometimes miss the music our work creates, the reverberations through other people’s lives.
However, when we turn around and see with eternal eyes, we will see our invisible audience, Christ Jesus himself; and the angels among whom there is joy when we repent; joy when we win the little victories no one else notices; joy at what Wordsworth called, “the best portion of a good man’s life, his little nameless, unremembered deeds of kindness and of love.”
Anita Mathias is the author of Wandering Between Two Worlds (Benediction Classics, 2007). She has won a writing fellowship from The National Endowment for the Arts, and her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The London Magazine, Commonweal, America, The Christian Century, and The Best Spiritual Writing anthologies. Anita blogs at Dreaming Beneath the Spires, anitamathias.com; you can find her on Twitter @anitamathias1 and or on Facebook at Dreaming Beneath the Spires.