After the spectacle of Palm Sunday, these three days of Holy Week can sometimes feel a little quiet. It is worth remembering, as we await the start of the Triduum on Maundy Thursday, that much of our lives are lived in such ‘in-between’ times.
I often think about this when I listen to J S Bach’s great aria Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben
from the St Matthew Passion, which you can listen by clicking here
. Throughout the three hour-long work (don’t worry - you don’t have to listen to it all!), Bach portrays vividly the monumental nature of Christ’s suffering and death, and there are times where one can almost feel the physical presence of the crowds demanding his blood. But this aria, chosen as today’s anthem, is something of an anomaly in the middle of the noise and chaos. Musically, it is surprisingly sparse: its instrumentation comprises only two oboes and a flute in the accompaniment of a solo soprano voice. The absence of strings or organ, which are present throughout the rest of the piece, is intentional. Bach, often referred to as the ‘Fifth Evangelist’, evokes rather beautifully, I think, the Jesus who is the perfect image of the unseen God who, for simple love of humanity, does the unthinkable in becoming one of us. It’s worth reading the translation in full:
Out of love my Saviour is willing to die
Though he knows nothing of any sin,
So that eternal ruin
And the punishment of judgement
May not rest upon my soul.
That most moving of Passiontide hymns, O sacred head, sore wounded
, is a worthy companion to the anthem, here heard in Bach’s own arrangement. Click here to listen
Look out for more music from me tomorrow