New Stages. The New Yorker, May 10, 2021.
Χριστός ἀνέστη! Today is Easter, and I am thinking of my late mother, who was a devout Greek Orthodox and the granddaughter of a notable priest, Rev. Basilios Lambrides. I’m listening to Hymns of Kassiani, a new disc by the Byzantine choir Cappella Romana. This ninth-century abbess, whose Troparion “The Fallen Woman” is sung on Holy Wednesday, is the earliest female composer whose music is still known.
The great liberal theologian has died at the age of ninety-three. I immediately thought of his remarkable 1982 essay on Parsifal, mention of which I sadly cut from the final draft of Wagnerism. It is a passionate and personal interpretation, one to which Wagner scholars might object. It is worth reading and pondering all the same:
Only if redemption takes place now in the world (as demonstrated by Parsifal) and is not simply redemption of the world, will the theological discussion of redemption lose its ideological character. Only if redemption past, redemption present and redemption future remain unsevered, will it be possible to make good its liberating humane potentiality. Then the talk of renunciation itself, this so often abused and misunderstood category of Christian asceticism, loses its false connotation. Instinctual renunciation is then no longer an individualistically limited, moralizing postulate of private self-castigation. In an age of short supplies of raw materials and squandermania, renunciation assumes the character of dire social urgency: the recantation of the will to power and success in favor of sympathy with man and nature. Sympathy as an appeal and motivation for an alternative political practice. Renunciation is a challenge to humane commitment, in order that man remains man and this world remains habitable for man and animal!
Pope Francis has talked about Wagner in vaguely similar terms.