Religion

By Friedrich Kerst


Mozart was of a deeply religious nature, reared in Salzburg where his father was a member of the archiepiscopal chapel. Throughout his life he remained a faithful son of the church, for whose servants, however, he had little sympathy.

The one man whom Mozart hated from the bottom of his soul was Archbishop Hieronymus of Salzburg who sought to put all possible obstacles in the way of the youthful genius, and finally by the most infamous of acts covered himself everlastingly with infamy.  Though Mozart frequently speaks angrily and bitterly of the priests he always differentiates between religion, the church and their servants. Like Beethoven, Mozart stood toward God in the relationship of a child full of trust in his father.

His reliance on Providence was so utter that his words sometimes sound almost fatalistic. His father harbored some rationalistic ideas which were even more pronounced in Mozart, so that he formed his own opinion concerning ecclesiastical ceremonies and occasionally disregarded them. His cheery temperament made it impossible that his religious life should be as profound as that of Beethoven.

 

 243.     “I hope that with the help of God, Miss Martha will get well again. If not, you should not grieve too deeply, for God’s will is always the best. God will know whether it is better to be in this world or the other.”

 (Bologna, September 29, 1770, to his mother and sister in Salzburg. The young woman died soon after.)

244.     “Tell papa to put aside his fears; I live, with God ever before me. I recognize His omnipotence, I fear His anger; I acknowledge His love, too, His compassion and mercy towards all His creatures, He will never desert those who serve Him. If matters go according to His will they go according to mine; consequently nothing can go wrong,--I must be satisfied and happy.”

 (Augsburg, October 25, 1777, to his father, who was showering him with exhortations on the tour which he made with his mother through South Germany.)

245.     “Let come what will, nothing can go ill so long as it is the will of God; and that it may so go is my daily prayer.”

 (Mannheim, December 6, 1777, to his father. Mozart was waiting with some impatience to learn if he was to receive an appointment from Elector Karl Theodore. It did not come.)

246.     “I know myself;--I know that I have so much religion that I shall never be able to do a thing which I would not be willing openly to do before the whole world; only the thought of meeting persons on my journeys whose ideas are radically different from mine (and those of all honest people) frightens me. Aside from that they may do what they please. I haven’t the heart to travel with them, I would not have a single pleasant hour, I would not know what to say to them; in a word I do not trust them. Friends who have no religion are not stable.”

 (Mannheim, February 2, 1778, to his father. For the reasons mentioned in the letter Mozart gave up his plan to travel to Paris with the musicians Wendling and Ramen. In truth, perhaps, his love affair with Aloysia Weber may have had something to do with his resolve.)

247.     “I prayed to God for His mercy that all might go well, to

His greater glory, and the symphony began....Immediately after the symphony full of joy I went into the Palais Royal, ate an iced cream, prayed the rosary as I had promised to do, and went home. I am always best contented at home and always will be, or with a good, true, honest German.”

(Paris, July 3, 1778, to his father. The symphony in question is no longer in existence, although Mozart wanted to write it down again at a later date.)

248.     “I must tell you my mother, my dear mother, is no more.—God has called her to Himself; He wanted her, I see that clearly, and I must submit to God’s will. He gave her to me, and it was His to take her away. My friend, I am comforted, not but now, but long ago. By a singular grace of God I endured all with steadfastness and composure. When her illness grew dangerous I prayed God for two things only,--a happy hour of death for my mother, and strength and courage for myself. God heard me in His loving kindness, heard my prayer and bestowed the two mercies in largest measure.”

 (Paris, July 3, 1778, to his good friend Bullinger, in Salzburg, who was commissioned gently to bear the intelligence to Mozart’s father. At the same time Mozart, with considerate deception, wrote to his father about his mother’s illness without mentioning her death.)

249.     “I believe, and nothing shall ever persuade me differently, that no doctor, no man, no accident, can either give life to man or take it away; it rests with God alone. Those are only the instruments which He generally uses, though not always; we see men sink down and fall over dead. When the time is come no remedies can avail,--they accelerate death rather than retard it....I do not say, therefore, that my mother will and must die, that all hope is gone; she may recover and again be well and sound,--but only if it is God’s will.”

 (Paris, July 3, 1778, to his father, from whom he is concealing the fact that his mother is dead. He is seeking to prepare him for the intelligence which he has already commissioned Bullinger to convey to the family.)

250.     “Under those melancholy circumstances I comforted myself with three things, viz.: my complete and trustful submission to the will of God, then the realization of her easy and beautiful death, combined with the thought of the happiness which was to come to her in a moment,--how much happier she now is than we, so that we might even have wished to make the journey with her. Out of this wish and desire there was developed my third comfort, namely, that she is not lost to us forever, that we shall see her again, that we shall be together more joyous and happy than ever we were in this world. It is only the time that is unknown, and that fact does not frighten me. When it is God’s will, it shall be mine. Only the divine, the most sacred will be done; let us then pray a devout ‘Our Father’ for her soul and proceed to other matters; everything has its time.”

 (Paris, July 9, 1778, to his father, informing him of his mother’s death.)

251.     “Be without concern touching my soul’s welfare, best of fathers! I am an erring young man, like so many others, but I can say to my own comfort, that I wish all were as little erring as I.  You, perhaps, believe things about me which are not true. My chief fault is that I do not always appear to act as I ought. It is not true that I boasted that I eat fish every fast-day; but I did say that I was indifferent on the subject and did not consider it a sin, for in my case fasting means breaking off, eating less than usual. I hear mass every Sunday and holy day, and when it is possible on week days also,--you know that, my father.”

 (Vienna, June 13, 1781--another attempt at justification against slander.)

252.     “Moreover take the assurance that I certainly am religious, and if I should ever have the misfortune (which God will forefend) to go astray, I shall acquit you, best of fathers, from all blame. I alone would be the scoundrel; to you I owe all my spiritual and temporal welfare and salvation.”

 (Vienna, June 13, 1781.)

253.     “For a considerable time before we were married we went together to Holy Mass, to confession and to communion; and I found that I never prayed so fervently, confessed and communicated so devoutly, as when I was at her side;--and her experience was the same. In a word we were made for each other, and God, who ordains all things and consequently has ordained this, will not desert us. We both thank you obediently for your paternal blessing.”

 (Vienna, August 17, 1782.)

254.     “I have made it a habit in all things to imagine the worst.  Inasmuch as, strictly speaking, death is the real aim of our life, I have for the past few years made myself acquainted with this true, best friend of mankind, so that the vision not only has no terror for me but much that is quieting and comforting.  And I thank my God that He gave me the happiness and the opportunity (you understand me) to learn to know Him as the key to true blessedness.”

(Vienna, April 4, 1787, to his father, who died on the 28th of the following month. One of the few passages in Mozart’s letters in which there are suggestions of the teachings of Freemasonry.  In 1785 he had persuaded his father to join the order, with the result that new warmth was restored to the relationship which had cooled somewhat after Mozart’s marriage.)

255.     “To me that again is art twaddle! There may be something true in it for you enlightened Protestants, as you call yourselves, when you have your religion in your heads; I can not tell. But you do not feel what ‘Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi’ and such things mean. But when one, like I, has been initiated from earliest childhood in the mystical sanctuary of our religion; when there one does not know whither to go with all the vague but urgent feelings, but waits with a heart full of devotion for the divine service without really knowing what to expect, yet rises lightened and uplifted without knowing what one has received; when one deemed those fortunate who knelt under the touching strains of the Agnus Dei and received the sacrament, and at the moment of reception the music spoke in gentle joy from the hearts of the kneeling ones, ‘Benedictus qui venit,’ etc.;--then it is a different matter. True, it is lost in the hurly-burly of life; but,--at least it is so in my case,--when you take up the words which you have heard a thousand times, for the purpose of setting them to music, everything comes back and you feel your soul moved again.”

 (Spoken in Leipsic, in 1789, when somebody expressed pity for those capable musicians who were obliged to “employ their powers on ecclesiastical subjects, which were mostly not only unfruitful but intellectually killing.” Rochlitz reports the utterance but does not vouch for its literalness.)

 


 

 

 


 

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