Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Zadok the Priest.

In recent days, George Frideric Handel's Zadok the Priest has come up a couple of times in conversations in person and online, which led me to recall its use as an offertory anthem at my ordination last June. One of four anthems written by Handel for the coronation of King George II in 1727, Zadok the Priest may seem an incongruous choice of music for an ordination; as one of my friends pointed out, the only mention of priesthood in the words of the anthem comes in the first line ("Zadok the Priest, and Nathan the Prophet anointed Solomon King"), after which the focus turns to the king himself and his subjects' joyful reaction to his coronation. Nevertheless, the anthem's neat linking of the roles of priest, prophet, and king as well as its emphasis on the priest's role in the anointing of a new monarch are perhaps salutary reminders for a newly-ordained priest of the responsibilities that come with his office. I didn't expect to hear Zadok the Priest at my ordination, but now the piece is indelibly associated in my mind with the day I was ordained a priest, and that's not a bad thing.

Of course, the idea of hearing Zadok the Priest at a Roman Catholic ordination Mass is a bit less strange when one remembers that the piece has been used in sundry and various contexts far from its original setting; living in Canada, I can't help but recall Zadok's appearance in a milk commercial that got a lot of play here a couple of years ago. Some purists may balk at hearing Zadok the Priest used to sell milk, but I suppose that one should be grateful to hear Handel wherever he may be heard, even in the unlikeliest places. AMDG.


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