IGNACY JAN PADEREWSKI
There is a delightful story about a mother who bought a ticket to a concert by Paderewski, the great Polish pianist. She took her five-year-old son with her hoping the experience would encourage him in his own young efforts at music.
She was delighted to see how close to the stage their seats were. Then she met an old friend & got so involved talking to her that she didn’t notice that the wee laddie had slipped away to do some exploring.
When eight o’ clock arrived – the time for the performance to begin – the lights dimmed, the audience hushed to a whisper, and the spotlight came on.
Only then did the woman see her five year old on the stage, sitting at the piano, innocently picking out ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’
She gasped in total disbelief. However, before she could retrieve her son, Paderewsski walked onto the stage. Walking over to the piano, he whispered to the boy ‘Don’t stop! Keep playing’
Then leaning over the youngster, Paderewski reached out his left hand and began to fill in the bass. A few seconds later, he reached around the other side of the boy, encircling him, and added a running obbligato
Together, the great maestro and the tiny five-year-old mesmerised the audience with their playing. When they finished, the audience broke into thunderous applause.
Years later almost all those present forgot the pieces Paderewski played that night, but no one forgot ‘Twinkle Twinkle little star’
That image of the great maestro and the little boy at the piano makes a beautiful image of the Holy Spirit and the Church. It provides a lovely image of how the Holy Spirit unites the Church to make beautiful music.
Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, just as Christ had promised when he said:
” I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth…he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you… I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.” (John 14, vv 16-17, 26, 29)
Going back to the image of Paderewski and the five-year-old, we see that – to some extent – the boy resembles the disciples.
When Christ departed from their midst, they were like children; their knowledge of God & how to spread God’s kingdom was terribly deficient – like, if you like, the boy’s knowledge of music.
And the great pianist – if we can use this image – resembles, if you like, the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples, encircling them with love, whispering encouragement to them, and transforming their feeble human efforts into something beautiful.
There is a lesson here for us, I believe. We look at the world and see so many problems that need to be addressed. We look at our talents and see how inadequate they are in the face of these problems.
It’s here that we need to recall the image of the little boy and Paderewski
Musically, the little boy’s skill was minimal. Nevertheless, Paderewski built upon it and turned it into something beautiful – something that completely mesmerised the sophisticated audience that gathered in the hall that night.
In a similar way, the Holy Spirit can take whatever we have – no matter how small – build upon it, and transform it into something powerful and beautiful.
That is the good news of Scripture. This is the good news we celebrate on this day of Pentecost. It is the good news that Christ has sent upon his church the promised Holy Spirit.
We are not alone. The Holy Spirit is leaning over us, taking our small contribution, and transforming it into something that we never dreamed possible.