This evening in the Paul VI Hall, Benedict XVI attended a concert held in his honor, during which the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir played Beethoven's 9th Symphony. The event was organized to thank the Pope for his visit to Bavaria of September 2006.
At the end of the concert the Holy Father remarked how Beethoven had composed his final symphony in 1824, following a period of isolation and difficulty "which threatened to suffocate his artistic creativity." Yet he "surprised the public with a composition that broke with the traditional structure of the symphony" rising at the end "in an extraordinary finale of optimism and joy."
"This overwhelming sentiment of joy," the Pope said, "is not something light and superficial; it is a sensation achieved through struggle" because "silent solitude had taught Beethoven a new way of listening that went well beyond a simple capacity to experience in his imagination the sound of notes read or written." His was akin to "the perceptivity given as a gift by God to people who obtain the grace of interior or exterior liberation."
Benedict XVI recalled how in 1989, when the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir had played Beethoven's 9th Symphony for the fall of the Berlin Wall, they altered the text from "Ode to Joy" to "Freedom, Spark of God," thus expressing "more than the simple sensation of a historical moment. True joy is rooted in the freedom that only God can give.
"God — sometimes through periods of interior emptiness and isolation — wishes to make us attentive and capable of 'feeling' His silent presence, not only 'over the canopy of stars' but also in the most intimate recesses of our soul. There burns the spark of divine love that can free us to be what we truly are."