Saturday, 6 March 2010

Awe-inspiring irony

Tonight I had the privilege of hearing the CBSO, CBSO Chorus and soloists, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, perform Bach's St Matthew Passion. I'd been reading Carson's Scandalous on the way - here follow a few selections from the libretto, and then some verse by Carson.
The Saviour falls prostrate before his Father,
And so he raises me and all men from our fall
Up again to God's grace
He is ready
To drink the cup of bitter death
In which the sins of the world were infused, stinking;
Because it pleased God.

How awe-inspiring is this sentence:
The good shepherd suffers for the sheep.
The debt he pays: the Master;
he the righteous, for his servants.

Why, what evil has this man done?

He has so richly blessed us all:
To the blind he has given sight,
The lame he made to walk,
He told us his Father's word,
He drives the devil forth,
The humble he has lifted up,
He took the sinners to himself.
Else, my Jesus has done nothing.

Out of love,
For love now will my Saviour die:
He does not know a single sin.
That eternal condemnation
And the sentence of the court
Will not fall upon my soul.

Ah Golgotha, unhappy Golgotha!
The Lord of majesty must perish here, scorned,
The saving blessing of the world
Is placed as a curse upon the cross.
Creator of both earth and heaven
From earth and air must now be taken.
The guiltless must die guilty here.

See - Jesus has outstretched his hand
To capture us
Come! Where to? To Jesus' arms.
Seek redemption: take his mercy.
Where? In Jesus' arms.
Living, dying: rest here,
You forsaken little chicks:
Stay. Where? In Jesus' arms.

And, behold: the curtain of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom. And the earth was filled with quaking, and the cliffs split asunder, and the graves themselves opened up, and there rose up the bodies of many saints who were sleeping, and they came out of the graves after his resurrection and came into the holy city and appeared to many. But the centurion and those who were with him and were watching over Jesus, when they witnessed the earthquake and all that there occurred, were terrified and said: Truly, this was the Son of God.
And Carson's verse, from Scandalous
On that wretched day the soldiers mocked him,
Raucous laughter in a barracks room,
'Hail the king!' they sneered, while spitting on him,
Brutal beatings on this day of gloom.
Though his crown was thorn, he was born a king -
Holy brilliance bathed in bleeding loss -
All the soldeiers blind to this stunning theme:
Jesus reigning from a cursed cross.

Awful weakness mars the battered God-man,
Far too broken now to hoist the beam.
Soldiers strip him bare and pound the nails in,
Watch him hanging on the cruel tree.
God's own temple's down! He has been destroyed!
Death's remains are laid in rock and sod.
But the temple rises in God's wise ploy:
Our great temple is the Son of God.

'Here's the One who says he cares for others.
One who says he came to save the lost.
How can we believe that he saves others
When he can't get off that bloody cross?
Let him save himself! Let him come down now!' -
Savage jeering at the King's disgrace.
But by hanging there is precisely how
Christ saves others as the King of grace.

Draped in darkness, utterly rejected,
Crying, 'Why have you forsake me?'
Jesus bears God's wrath alone, dejected -
Weeps the bitt'rest tears instead of me.
All the mockers cry, 'He has lost his trust!
Here's defeated by hypocrisy!'
But with faith's resolve, Jesus knows he must
Do God's will and swallow death for me.

1 comment:

TerritaJane said...

What an unexpected blessing to find your translations of St. Matthew Passion in conjunction with Carson's "Scandalous". A very powerful juxtaposition. I found your entry while searching for a good translation of 2 Chronicles 16:9. Go figure!