Header Image (book)


Friday, April 6, 2012


Note to readers: If you must have politics, please scroll down. I have two posts for today.

(With thanks to Bunkerville for the information below)

Check out THIS SITE. It is interactive. I've added the site to my sidebar for easy reference.

Via the search tool in the upper right-hand corner, for this Good Friday, I easily pulled up THESE ARTWORKS related to the crucifixion of Christ.

Botticelli's Trinity, appropriate for this holy day of Good Friday:

Thanks to commenter FreeThinke for calling my attention to the following music, appropriate for this Good Friday:


  1. O, Sacred Head Now Wounded

    Kings College Chapel Choir, Cambridge, directed by Sir David Willcocks


    O sacred Head, now wounded,
    with grief and shame weighed down,
    now scornfully surrounded
    with thorns, thine only crown:
    how pale thou art with anguish,
    with sore abuse and scorn!
    How does that visage languish
    which once was bright as morn!

    What thou, my Lord, has suffered
    was all for sinners' gain;
    mine, mine was the transgression,
    but thine the deadly pain.
    Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
    'Tis I deserve thy place;
    look on me with thy favor,
    vouchsafe to me thy grace.

    What language shall I borrow
    to thank thee, dearest friend,
    for this thy dying sorrow,
    thy pity without end?
    O make me thine forever;
    and should I fainting be,
    Lord, let me never, never
    outlive my love for thee.

    Submitted by FreeThinke

  2. A blessed Good Friday to you, AOW.

    I happen to have been born on Good Friday in 1941, but that's not why the day has such special significance.

    Really appreciated seeing Gaugin's The Yellow Christ, which expresses the not only the sadness of the Crucifixion, and the deadly pallor of death, but also the promise of renewal in the vibrant, glowing colors seen in the landscape.

    I've been listening off and on to various performances of The St. Matthew Passion since yesterday. It's wonderful to hear the many different approaches conductors have had to this great music. No preaching or Bible reading by itself has ever made me feel so close to Jesus as Bach's music. The terrible pain and humiliation of the Passion is transformed into empathy and affection for our Lord. Through this music we may actually feel the flesh and blood Presence of our Lord, and start to appreciate the Sacrifice He made for us out of Love.

    When I was a eight years old I sang in an Episcopal boy choir. We performed the Saint Matthew Passion that year -- an experience that's stayed with me all my life. Every child should be so blest. At that age you don't understand such things, of course, but you absorb them, and if you're lucky, they remain part of who you are.

    That's why removing Bible reading, prayer and sacred music from the public schools has been such a tragedy for our society. We've been cut off from our roots -- and the daily reminder that Jesus Christ is our best friend, who walks beside us and guides our way, if we trouble ourselves to take the time to reach out to Him and accept the ever present Love He offers us. We must do our part in order to make the connection.

    It wasn't until years later that the "seeds" planted in me by these early experiences sprouted into full blown faith. What life would have been like without this quiet religious foundation I can't imagine.

    My God bless you, all our friends and our adversaries with greater hope, renewed faith, courage and true humility on this most solemn of all Holy Days.

    ~ FreeThinke

  3. After being arrested, tried, mocked and Crucified Lord Jesus has just been laid to rest. The Resurrection will not come for three days, but these devoted followers don't know that and heartbrokenly assume that their Lord is dead.

    Willem Mengelberg conducts the Final Chorus of The St. Matthew Passion by J.S. Bach



    We sit down in tears
    And call to thee in the tomb:
    Rest softly, softly rest!
    Rest, ye exhausted limbs!
    Your grave and tombstone
    Shall for the unquiet conscience
    Be a comfortable pillow
    And the soul’s resting place.
    In utmost bliss rest there thine eyes, dear Lord, and sleep.


    Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder
    Und rufen dir im Grabe zu:
    Ruhe sanfte, sanfte ruh!
    Ruht, ihr ausgesognen Glieder!
    Euer Grab und Leichenstein
    Soll dem ängstlichen Gewissen
    Ein bequemes Ruhekissen
    Und der Seelen Ruhstatt sein.
    Höchst vergnügt schlummern da die Augen ein.


    This is the most "personal," deeply felt interpretation I have found. Others move through it far more briskly, and while the quality of the music is so high it shines through in any accurate rendition, the thoughtfulness, unique insight and sense of deep personal devotion make Mengelberg's vision tremendously moving.

    ~ FreeThinke

  4. FT,
    Thanks for the link to that video of "O Sacred Head Now Wounded." I've added it to the body of the post.

    Decades ago, I sang for a few years with The Choral Arts Society of Washington under the direction of Norman Scribner, who is now about to retire and turn the baton over to a new director. In fact, I was part of Norman's choir BEFORE it acquired the name "The Choral Arts of Washington."

    If you go to that link for The Choral Arts Society, you can hear a sampling of the choir's music.

    At the time that I sang for Choral Arts, I was about 14 years old and in high school. Norman typically didn't admit children to sing in the choir, but my voice was mature enough.

    I was scared to death when I auditioned! After a few glitches on my part (evoking titters from others in the room) and after Norman's gentle encouragement, I finally found my voice and auditioned with Handel's "He Shall Feed His Flock." The next day, someone from the choir called me and told me that I was in! I couldn't believe it! I had never sung any choral music before as our church didn't have a choir. I didn't know SATB from bull's foot. But I learned -- thanks to Norman and Richard Wayne Dirksen, under whose baton I also performed during a summer music concert season at the National Cathedral.

    Every week for over two years, sometimes two or three times a week, my parents, even though not in good health, drove me into Washington for rehearsals on the grounds of the National Cathedral (St. Alban's Hall on Wisconsin Avenue) and on specific stages (Constitution Hall, usually, as the Kennedy Center had not been built.

    I know that when I was in choir we performed the St. Matthew Passion.

    Later, when I become the organist and choir director of a small church, at my insistence we always performed "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" or used the piece for the offertory and/or communion during the Easter season.

    Anyway, that particular hymn (chorale?) has always been one of my favorites from J.S. Bach.

  5. And so we have much in common, AOW. I didn't know that you too have been an organist and choir director.

    It was work I loved intensely, until the pressure to perform what-I-call Christian Cocktail Music began to build to crisis proportions.

    Maybe some people are not capable of being touched by the majesty and the poignancy of Bach, but I believe with a welcoming, nurturing, respectful attitude towards such things in the home and in schools most could be reached. The popular culture, of course, is bitterly hostile to reverence, devotion, faith, in fact spirituality of any kind, so it's more difficult today to relate to these great testaments of love for our Jesus.

    The music, however, will always find an audience. But it was never written "only' for elitists. Bach was very human and devoted his life to demonstrating the humanity of Jesus as well as His divinity.

    Here's the opening of the St. Matthew Passion. I hope someone will copy the link and enjoy its appropriateness to this special Holy Day:

    J.S. Bach - The St. Matthew Passion

    Come, Ye daughters, share my mourning

    Berlin Philharmonic and Berlin National Cathedral Choir

    Conducted by Herbert von Karajan


    Come, ye daughters, share my mourning,
    See ye ---(Faithful) whom? --- (Zion, et sim.) the bridegroom there,
    See him --- how? --- just like a lamb!

    O Lamb of God, unspotted
    Upon the cross's branch slaughtered,
    See ye, --- what? --- see him forbear,
    Alway displayed in thy patience,
    How greatly wast thou despiséd.
    Look --- where, then? --- upon our guilt;
    All sin hast thou borne for us,
    Else we had lost all courage.
    See how he with love and grace
    Wood as cross himself now beareth!
    Have mercy on us, O Jesus!

    ~ FreeThinke

  6. Thanks for the link and letting everyone know about a wonderful art site. A whole lot of work went into creating it, with no finanical reward. When one gets discouraged with humanity, these lights twinkle and let us know that there is much good in the world. I chose a bit of Handel for the day. I as well sang in a Moravian church choir,and there was nothing as grand as Handel for my choice!

  7. FT,
    And so we have much in common, AOW. I didn't know that you too have been an organist and choir director.

    I was nowhere in the same league as you. It was a tiny church with a terrible electronic organ and terrible acoustics.

    I know exactly what you mean by Christian Cocktail Music. The minister where I worked for those few years started insisting that we perform "The Sounds of Silence" and "Morning Has Broken" and "Bridge over Troubled Water" instead of standard liturgy. Now, I do like those pop songs, but not as a full diet.

    His choices of music aside, that minister, the one who performed the marriage ceremony for Mr. AOW and me, was a nice fellow and a good personal friend. He died some years of colon cancer -- at a young age.

    Will check the link you left at 9:45 AM.

  8. Choir director/organ player in my past, too. I say "Organ player" because I would never flatter myself with organist. I'm a pianIST but not an organIST :-) Did pretty well, thought.
    During that time, we did perform this gorgeous O SACRED HEAD NOW WOUNDED.
    Will go to Bunker's to hear Handel...a very big fave of mine!
    Happy Easter, AOW. xx

  9. Z,
    Happy Easter to you!

    Factoid here at this house: I'm cooking Easter dinner today on Good Friday. I want Easter Sunday not to push me with too many things to do.


    I, too, am a pianist by training. I've was been able to manage fancy pedal work on the organ.

    But, because of my ability to sight read even complicated chords and to use clinging-fingers technique, I was able to get by okay -- in a small church, anyway.

    Truth be told, I do prefer the to play the piano. But I'm so rusty now. Not much time or desire to play since Mr. AOW's stroke. **sigh**

  10. I should have said this before, but better late than never. Thank you, Bunkerville, for giving us access to all those wonderful facsimiles of great religious art from many different periods.

    Earlier today I was struck by the way Delacroix thoroughly humanized Jesus. Earlier religious iconography presents Him in a much more stylized fashion -- beautiful, of course, but it makes Him seem remote -- lofty -- mythological -- out-of-touch -- beyond our grasp.

    The French romanticist Delacroix brings Jesus down to earth, which is, of course, exactly what God the Father intended when He "arranged" for Christ, the Word, to be made flesh.

    Today is a day of contrition and penitence on the liturgical calendar, so I won't wish anyone "Happy Easter" just yet. We need time -- not to be gloomy, feel guilty or be depressed -- but for prayer and contemplation -- not of the WORDS -- but of the ESSENCE -- of what WILLINGLY submitting oneself to TORTURE and gruesome DEATH for the sake of OTHERS might really mean.

    In feeling greater empathy for Jesus, the Man, the less we are apt to think of Self, and the closer we come to being at one with God, the Holy Spirit. And there we will come to know that unity with the Holy Spirit is ALL that truly matters.

    He means for us to LOVE one another. Nothing less could possibly please Him. Nothing less could ever fulfill our individual lives. It's why we've been put here, I'm sure.

    ~ FreeThinke

  11. T.S. Eliot –– a modern American poet, who lived and did most of his work in England –– gives us a somber, enigmatic view of the meaning of Good Friday:

    The wounded surgeon plies the steel
    That questions the distempered part;
    Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
    The sharp compassion of the healer's art
    Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

    Our only health is the disease
    If we obey the dying nurse
    Whose constant care is not to please
    But to remind of our, and Adam's curse,
    And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

    The whole earth is our hospital
    Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
    Wherein, if we do well, we shall
    Die of the absolute paternal care
    That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

    The chill ascends from feet to knees,
    The fever sings in mental wires.
    If to be warmed, then I must freeze
    And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
    Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

    The dripping blood our only drink,
    The bloody flesh our only food:
    In spite of which we like to think
    That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood
    Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good

    ~ T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets (East Coker)

    It sounds as though Eliot probably felt greater need to express Contrition than to gain Redemption. He might have lost sight of our faith's insistence that we do not DESERVE and can never EARN Redemption, we can only ACCEPT it as God's Gift freely given out of His infinite Love and Compassion for Fallen humanity.

    What the cynics and the ruder skeptics never seem to grasp is the necessity for us to REACH OUT and LOOK UP to God in order to claim our kinship with Him. That's what "Free Will" is all about.

    ~ FreeThinke

  12. Christmas is my favorite religious holiday, because it's the one out of all of them, of all religions, that's evolved into a day of sharing and caring and showing love for each other, and yet has become the least religious of them all in spite of being set as the birthday of Jesus.

    That seems to me to be exactly right. Wouldn't Jesus be far happier with people celebrating love for each other than celebrating his birthday? Even atheists give and share at Christmas.

    The heart of Christianity is love. Not worship. Love. People have lost sight of his message in their concern for all the rigamarole. Practicing genuflecting and making the sign of the cross is not practicing Christianity.

  13. Another kind of deeply serious music evoking the spirit of Good Friday with awe and reverence:

    Tenebrae factae sunt (Darkness fell upon the earth when He was crucified)

    A cappella motet by Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)


    Historic Latin Text

    Tenebrae factae sunt, dum crucifixissent Jesum Judaei:
    et circa horam nonam exclamavit Jesus voce magna:
    Deus meus, ut quid me dereliquisti
    Et inclinato capite, emisit spiritum.
    Exclamans Jesus voce magna ait:
    Pater, in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum.
    Et inclinato capite, emisit spiritum.

    English Translation

    Darkness fell upon the earth when the Jews crucified Jesus:
    and about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice:
    "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
    Again Jesus cried with a loud voice and said,
    "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit."
    And he bowed his head and gave up the ghost

    An appropriately somber Good Friday composition. Complex chromatic harmonies in Poulenc's unique, twentieth-century style evoke the pain and sorrow while lifting our thoughts at the same time to a higher plane glorifying Christ Jesus and His great Sacrifice.

    ~ FreeThinke

    PS: Thank you, AOW, for posting the video of the Kings College Chapel Choir singing the Passion Chorale. I hope everyone notices and appreciates the extraordinary beauty of the architecture in that magnificent place. I've attended services there, and spent hours totally enraptured listening to the choir boys rehearse in that exalted atmosphere. The entire building looks as though it were made of the finest, most intricate lace, but all made of stone filled in with jewel-bright stained glass. What a great privilege it was to have been able to experience it in person! - FT

  14. "Practicing genuflecting and making the sign of the cross is not practicing Christianity."

    Like anything else, Black Sheep, it all depends on the spirit with which the act is performed.

    You're right, of course, about the unworthiness of "vain repetitions," but the dignified, reverential exercise of ritual, if practiced faithfully over time cannot help but have a salubrious and civilizing effect on the worshipper.

    Jesus may not need for us to worship Him, but we need to do it for the tonic effect it has on ourselves and in society.

    I've known many atheists and agnostics who are good, basically decent people, but I've never known one who gave off an aura of comfort, reassurance and contentment. The most honest, trustworthy and dependable people I've known in my 71 years of living have all been men and women of faith. Exponents of Dialectical Materialism are by and large a dour and dreary lot.

    By faith, however, I do not mean those who prance around making a Holy Show of their "piety" -- and certainly not those who feel entitled to point fingers at others, and feel entitled to counsel them with an attitude of harshly judgmental contempt.

    Self-righteousness is the polar opposite of true righteousness.

    The great cathedrals, the magnificent art, the wonderful poetry, and the glorious music inspired by over a thousand years of growing, evolving familiarity with Christian thinking is -- for me -- the "proof" that God is real, and that faith most assuredly worth the price one must pay to exercise it in a world that always has been -- and always will be fundamentally hostile to Truth, Beauty, Wisdom, High Achievement and Love -- all of which demand self-discipline and continual sacrifice to know and enjoy.

    The easy thing is rarely the best thing.

    ~ FreeThinke

  15. FT,
    I've known many atheists and agnostics who are good, basically decent people, but I've never known one who gave off an aura of comfort, reassurance and contentment.

    I know one atheist has all those good qualities. One and only one: my mother-in-law's significant other for over 20 years. The exception that proves the rule, I think.

  16. "I know one atheist has all those good qualities. One and only one: my mother-in-law's significant other for over 20 years."

    All I can say to that, AOW, is that "God works in mysterious ways."

    I, of course, am not "orthodox" in my own understanding of Christianity.

    If God is, indeed, Love –– as I believe He is –– then no loving person could truly be an atheist. They're working with and for God no matter what else they might think. Spirit is everything -- all that really counts.

    Thank you, by the way, for posting Willem Mengelberg's sublime interpretation of the final chorus in Bach's St. Matthew Passion. Ironically, that performance was recorded in 1939 -- just before Europe was drawn into the deadliest conflict in human history.

    ~ FreeThinke

  17. Magnificent artwork! Beautiful music.


We welcome civil dialogue at Always on Watch. Comments that include any of the following are subject to deletion:
1. Any use of profanity or abusive language
2. Off topic comments and spam
3. Use of personal invective

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.