Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

Painting by Marc Chagall, White Crucifixion

This painting, by Jewish artist Marc Chagall, is one of my favourites. I like it for at least two reasons: i) It depicts Jesus as a Jew, notice he is wearing what looks like a Jewish prayer shall. ii) Around the cross there are also Jews who are fleeing for their lives, likely from eastern European pogroms, and reminiscent of their plight during the Shoah. Unfortunately, historically, Jews have often lived in fear for their lives far too often during Holy Week celebrations. Christians fuelled the evil fires of antisemitism and anti-Judaism, and carried out violent acts against God's Chosen. As Christians we need to continue to renounce all antisemitism and anti-Judaism.  
   Yet, paradoxically for me, Good Friday is one of the most, if not "the" most meaningful days of the church's liturgical year. I love J.S. Bach's St Matthew Passion, and think it is the best choral work ever composed. I also find the older traditional Lutheran Tre Ore (Three Hour) Good Friday liturgy based on the Seven Last Words of Jesus from the Cross and the classic Lutheran hymn "Jesus in Thy Dying Woes," composed by Thomas Pollock, sung to the tune "Ack, Vad Ar Dock Livet Har," from the Stockholm, Swedish Koralpsalmboken  profoundly simple, yet most moving. The hymn is divided up into seven parts, and each part consisting of three stanzas. It is a beautiful prayer-meditation on Christ's Passion. The version of it below is from our Lutheran Book of Worship, I'm rather disappointed that in our newest hymnbook, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, that it is omitted. 
Part I
1 Jesus in thy dying woes, Even while thy life-blood flows,
Craving pardon for thy foes: Hear us holy Jesus.
2 Saviour, for our pardon sue When our sins thy pangs renew,
For we know not what we do:Hear us holy Jesus.
3 Oh, may we, who mercy need, Be like thee in heart and deed,
When with wrong our spirits bleed: Hear us holy Jesus.
Part II
4 Jesus, pitying the sighs Of the thief, who near thee dies,
Promising him paradise:Hear us holy Jesus.
5 May we in our guilt and shame Still thy love and mercy claim,
Calling humbly on they name:Hear us holy Jesus.
6 May our hearts to thee incline, Looking from our cross to thine. Cheer our souls with hope divine:Hear us holy Jesus.
Part III
7 Jesus, loving to the end Her whose heart thy sorrows rend,
And thy dearest human friend:Hear us holy Jesus.
8 May we in thy sorrows share, For thy sake all peril dare,
And enjoy thy tender care:Hear us holy Jesus.
9 May we all thy loved ones be, All one holy family,
Loving for the love of thee:Hear us holy Jesus.
Part IV
10 Jesus, whelmed in fears unknown, With our evil left alone,
While no light from heaven is shown: Hear us holy Jesus.
11 When we seem in vain to pray And our hope seems far away, 
In the darkness be our stay: Hear us holy Jesus.
12 Though no Father seem to hear, Though no light our spirits cheer, May we know that God is near: Hear us holy Jesus.
Part V
13 Jesus, in thy thirst and pain, While thy wounds thy lifeblood drain, Thirsting more our love to gain: Hear us holy Jesus.
14 Thirst for us in mercy still; All thy holy work fulfill; 
Satisfy thy loving will: Hear us holy Jesus.
15 May we thirst thy love to know; Lead us in our sin and woe
Where the healing waters flow; Hear us holy Jesus.
Part VI
16 Jesus, all our ransom paid, All thy Father's will obeyed;
By thy suff'rings perfect made: Hear us holy Jesus.
17 Save us in our soul's distress; Be our help to cheer and bless, While we grow in holiness: Hear us holy Jesus.
18 Brighten all our heav'nward way With an ever holier ray
Till we pass to perfect day: Hear us holy Jesus.
Part VII
19 Jesus, all thy labour vast, All thy woe and conflict past;
Yielding up thy soul at last: Hear us holy Jesus.
20 When the death shades round us low'r, Guard us from the tempter's pow'r, Keep us in that trial hour: Hear us holy Jesus.
21 May thy life and death supply Grace to live and grace to die,
Grace to reach the home on high: Hear us holy Jesus.

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