The San Francisco Opera is getting ready to open this year’s season with Turandot, the opera by Giacomo Puccini about a cold-hearted Asian princess who lures potential suitors by challenging them to answer three riddles. Puccini was diagnosed with throat cancer at the time he was writing the work and died before he was able to finish it. Having a sense of the seriousness of his condition, he is said to have told his friend and conductor Arturo Toscanini, “Don’t let my Turandot die.” In fact, it was Toscanini who conducted the premiere of Turandot at La Scala in Milan in 1926, more than a year after Puccini’s death. Though the work had been finished by another composer, Toscanini reportedly put down his baton in the middle of Act 3, saying, “Here the opera ends, because at this point the maestro died.” And the curtain was lowered. Today, Turandot is one of Puccini’s most-performed operas, keeping the memory of Puccini and his works alive.
The liturgy is one way we keep the memory and the works of Jesus alive. Much like Puccini’s plea to Toscanini to keep Turandot alive, Jesus commanded us to keep his memory and his works alive with the words, “Do this in memory of me.” The “this” Jesus speaks of refers not only to what we do inside the liturgy, but also by how we live outside the liturgy. This is summarized in the new Roman Missal (which we will begin using on the first Sunday of Advent) by two of the newly-translated dismissals spoken by the deacon: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord,” and “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord with your life.” May these words challenge us with the grace to continue God’s opera of humankind.
O Lord, help us to live what we pray. AMEN