Thursday, 1 January 2009

The Gospel Music Revolution

Some have been amused by the Reformation Polka on YouTube (ok, so it is amusing). But much better, is Luther & the Reformation to the tune of Bach - a fascinating & melodious documentary in the BBC's Sacred Music series - Bach and the Lutheran Legacy. I remember when I first heard the St John's Passion live, in Warwick, back when I was a relay worker. Despite not buying a programme, with some small knowledge of German and more knowledge of John's gospel, it was a spine-tingling, heart-warming experience, lifting my eyes to Christ. And what struck me most was the brilliant protestantism of the libretto! Granted, Bach didn't write the words - but since then, it's been my personal opinion that Bach's St John's Passion is possibly the best worship music yet written. Have an listen / watch: the Reformation celebrated to the music of Bach (more Luther in the first part of the programme).

It is finished,
O rest for all afflicted souls!
This night of woe
makes me ponder my own my last hour.
Judah's hero triumphs now,
and ends the fight,
It is finished!

And he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Beloved Saviour, wilt Thou answer,
as Thou has now the cross endured,
and Thyself hast said: It is finished!
Am I from death delivered?
Can I, through Thy pain and death,
the heavenly realm inherit?
Shall all the world redemption see?
Thou canst for anguish now saw nothing,
yet Thou dost bow Thy head
and say, in silence: yes!

Jesus, Thou who knowest death,
art alive for ever;
when I yield my dying breath,
I turn to no other
but to Thee, who hast redeemed me,
O Thou dearest master!
Give me what Thou hast won,
For more I cannot ask.

And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.

My heart, behold how all the world
at Jesus' sufferings likewise suffers;
the sun his beams in sorrow shrouds,
the veil divides, rocks are rent,
the earth quakes, graves are opened,
while they behold the Creator die;
and for thy part, what wilt thou do?


O Lord, send Thy dear angels
at mine end, to gather my soul
to Abraham's bosom,
my body in his chamber
softly laid, without pain or sorrow,
until the last day.
Then wake me from death
that mine eyes may see Thee
in fullest joy, O Son of God,
my Saviour and my Throne of Grace!
Lord Jesus Christ, hear Thou me,
I will praise Thee eternally.

(Translation of selection of the St John's Passion libretto, my emphasis.)

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