The Weight Of Glory
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”
This week’s feature is Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. The piece was written in 1942 for the Cincinnati Orchestra under Eugene Goossens. It was inspired by a speech made by then-Vice President Henry Wallace which talked about the dawning of the “Century of the Common Man.” It is worth noting that the use of “common” here is its original meaning – prevalent or frequently occurring – as opposed to the more pejorative meaning of unrefined.
In art, an image that immediately comes to mind is Jan Vermeer’s “Kitchen Maid.”
Nancy Pearcey in Saving Leonardo writes that “the Protestant doctrine of vocation insisted that any honest work can be a calling from God.” In this vision, the glory and splendor of a person is not found in the worldly status or value given to a vocation: in other words, God doesn’t see according to our pay grade or societal rank. There is worth to be discovered in the imago Dei (the image of God), which means necessarily that the work we do, no matter how menial can be used for our sanctification and to draw us nearer to God.
“The paintings shine with a quiet intensity to convey the biblical concept that ordinary life is infused with spiritual dignity and significance.” ~Nancy Pearcey
Roughly two hundred years after Vermeer, a simple and uneducated nun would come to the same conclusion and reinforce the truth that what we do on even an hourly basis could be consecrated to Christ and therefore of inordinate value.
“Little things done out of love are those that charm the heart of Christ…on the contrary, the most brilliant deeds when done without love, are but nothingness.” ~Therese of Lisieux
The greatest temptation to which we regularly succumb is to forget our glory; our true glory. We are inundated with images and stories of temporary and shallow greatness from sports superstars, pop megastars, famous artists – all part of the earthly royalty. In the race to temporary prestige and power, we lose sight of our inherent worth. Let us remember that by vocation, those first chosen as disciples were mostly fishermen, with a tax-collector and a political activist thrown in for good measure.
If you would like a more developed version of the theme, Copland also used this as the basis for the Finale of his Third Symphony.
Copland wrote your fanfare for you – next time you are engaged in common activities, put this on and take a moment to thank God for your life and to help you to re-orient your perspective to things eternal.
John 1: 1-5
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
Kate Thomsen Gremillion resides in Newport Beach, CA. After pursuing a music degree at Trinity University and Indiana University she currently studies at HBU in the Master of Arts in Apologetics program. She is a full time homeschooling mother of four, two of whom have graduated to college (Cornell and LMU). She is also a professional singer performing regularly with the Pacific Symphony and Pacific Chorale. Kate gives regular recitals in Art Song and Opera and conducts the St Matthew’s Choristers at St Matthews Anglican Church in Newport Beach where they study Latin, Liturgy and Music. Her newest projects are the establishing of The Children’s Conservatory at St Matthew’s Montessori school and… as a contributing writer to Literary Life!