At long last, I finally got a chance to listen to the “naked” reissue of the Beatles album “Let It Be.” (I know, several years after the fact… let’s just say it was to commemorate the recent Beatles-iTunes partnership.) The idea behind this release, for those of you who don’t know, was to strip away all of the ‘overproduced’ bits of the classic album (soaring strings, massive choirs ooh-ing and aah-ing) to let the songs shine through in their simple, visceral beauty. Apparently Bryan Adams is doing something similar just in time for the Christmas season this year… not sure if it will be as successful, and I don’t know if the world needs another version of “Cuts Like a Knife.” In any case, I think that “Let it Be… Naked” is (or was) quite an ingenious idea. I’ve never heard “The Long and Winding Road” sound as good as it does here, without all the schmaltzy orchestration that pushes it into the sentimental stratosphere.
Also striking was the title track. And here, much as I groan at the existence of books like The Gospel According to the Beatles, is the theological point. It never occurred to me until this listening that Mother Mary actually says “Let it be” in the Bible. Actually, the full quote is “Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38, ESV), in the context of the Annunciation. Mary, in faith, agrees to be the mother of God Incarnate. So “let it be” is an act of faith, of trust in a higher power, which I do think is the point of the song.
The subject of Mary came up (although without the Lennon-McCartney gloss) in my von Balthasar class today and caused a modest controversy. The sticking-point was to what extent Mary is an example/role model/guide for us when we find ourselves in “times of trouble.” Does she model the appropriate response to hardship? Ought we to say “let it be” and “let it go,” or is the more fully human response to push back a little, to resist, even to show a little anger at the injustices of the world? The consensus was that Mary exemplifies a kind of “active receptivity” to God, not just a passive “que sera sera” resignation to fate. Her willingness to be the Christ-bearer is an active response; without being able to clearly see the end, she still trusts that God is at work. It’s a “naked,” open faith.