How We Use the Light
Posted on February 2, 2013
Last weekend, I sang, “Senza Mamma” for a master class in opera performance. The teacher is not especially famous, but many of her students are. When I stood on the stage, before I entered the character or began to sing, I found the light and made sure it was on my face. In opera, the light must [almost] always be on one’s face; it amplifies and reveals the emotions you are conveying.
At one point in the aria, the mother sings, [my translation] “Now you are an angel in heaven; now you can see her, your mama. You can descend from the heavens…You’re here. You’re here! You kiss me and hug me.” I started out that phrase with hands folded over my breast in prayer, and as the section progressed, slowly opened them in supplication, letting the bright light spill over my hands, which were holding the mother’s heart out to her child. The light transformed my palms, and I angled them so that the light reflected more onto my face when the mother exclaimed in joy that her son was there. It was as though I were actually experiencing revelation, that added light on my face.
One of the comments the teacher made was that I used my hands and face well to convey the meaning of the music, making it accessible even to those who do not speak the language. She said I had beautiful hands, and contrasted them with her own, gardener’s hands. Now here is why I told you this story: At the time of the master class, I had approximately two dozen nicks and cuts on my hands, which also suffered from partially peeled beige polish, huge splits on two finger tips, and chafed, dry, completely unladylike, but very motherly, backhands. The light, along with the expression I gave them, transformed my hands into vectors of beauty for the aria.
Christians talk about letting their lights shine, but perhaps not enough about reflecting light that shines on them. Way back in the archives of church history, there are these bits of advice from respected teachers along the lines of being a good mirror. Mirrors at the time were often made with silver coated glass. Over time, the pattern of light on the mirror could cause an image to appear, sort of like what happens in film photographs, but much slower. The idea was that when God shines light on us by showing up in Jesus, we ought to turn toward that light, and let the image of the invisible God form in us through exposure to that goodness. We could then be images of the image of God, which is a way that the teachers tried to get us to understand a bit of how God makes us more like God.
A major Christian statement of faith clarifies that Jesus Christ was “light from light,” in part so that we understand that the Son of God was not just another mirror, but actually God light, straight from God light, sent to shine right up in our faces and transform us.
So that’s where we are. There’s this light that has an amazing power to transform us if we will just take it in our hands and let it shine on our faces. It can make us better than we are: more beautiful, more whole, healed, holy. It might even make us sing.