Ignatian Retreat with G.F. Handel

Source: youtube.cm

In early June, having completed the academic year at St. Xavier’s School, Godavari, I moved into retirement at St. Xavier’s Jawalakhel, in Kathmandu.  I was fighting a flu bug but wanted to make my annual Ignatian retreat.  I’d been listening to Handel’s Messiah – beautiful music and a catechesis based on Jesus’ life.  With a printout of the lyrics in hand, I used the Tabernacle Choir recording – professionally done with very clear and expressive soloists.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlR9AAYMa3A

I spent the first half of the retreat praying over the lyrics.  Then listening, and watching the performance a little at a time.  This was not just another performance, rather an orchestra and chorus together meditating on God’s gift of salvation for the world.

The lyrics and music speak for themselves.  Listen and pray along with the performers as they promise salvation for all, making the path to God’s salvation straight and smooth.  God WILL come!  Those who are pure in heart will recognize him and welcome him.  Others, lost in their own selfishness, will not accept him.

The humble will recognize the great light, and rise with it.  They can trust God, and God’s messengers, so as to step into the light of grace-filled salvation.  The shepherds are the first people to enjoy this divine light.

But only the humble and poor will recognize their salvation.   These are people who with Jesus empty themselves and are ready to accept rejections in order to receive salvation!  Pay attention to the expression on the singers’ faces.  They are one with Jesus as they meditate on his acceptance of his mission.  The yokes they bear seem heavy!  “He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of Thy people was He stricken.”

Let the “Hallelujah” chorus be the sign of God’s triumph for our eternal salvation. Enjoy a final couple of hours of prayer, listening to and watching the complete performance!

Perhaps readers could recommend other music suitable for such prayer!


Bill Robins, SJ, is a Canadian Jesuit who lived at Godavari, our original school at the south-east edge of the Kathmandu Valley. He lived in a community of six Jesuits and taught 11 and 12 English until his return to Canada in 2021.

  • Paul Baker
    Posted at 09:02h, 07 August Reply

    Bill, what a great idea to pray/meditate with Handel’s Messiah. Thanks

  • John Montague
    Posted at 09:10h, 07 August Reply

    Faure’s Requiem is a masterpiece worth meditating upon. It is available on YouTube. Although in Latin, for those who need it, translations are available.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 10:27h, 07 August Reply

    Thank you Bill!

  • Catherine von Zuben
    Posted at 14:25h, 07 August Reply

    Thank you a milion times over for this reflection and others that you have done. Having sung Handel’s ‘Messiah’ for many years in many choirs, I so appreciate your thoughts on its meaning and beauty. I woud like to suggest Handel’s Largo fro his opera Xerxes, as another beautiful prayer – in praise of trees ! I have often used it as an opening prayer followed by an English translation. Alice Coste sings it beautifully. Thanks so much.

  • fr. Joe Newman SJ
    Posted at 16:05h, 07 August Reply

    Likewise, Bill, Bach’s St. John Passion is a very moving meditation, by a composer who claimed he never wrote a note except for the glory of God.

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