Sunday, November 10, 2013
4:30pm | Christ Church Lutheran, Minneapolis
This vespers program was designed to honor first the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht on Nov 9, 1938–Nov 10, 1938, the event considered by most as the main prelude or the actual beginning of the Holocaust. It was also intended as a time for the community to ponder the stark realities and deep hope expressed in our All Saints Day observances and to honor—around the time of Veterans Day—those who have given their lives in military service so that we might fight powers of oppression in this world and live freely in the Lord.
Below you will find an essay about the program, a PDF of the bulletin, a list of the readings from the service, and the translations of the tests for Heinrich Schütz’s motet Aus der Tiefe and J. S. Bach’s Cantata 106, Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (Actus Tragicus).
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The movement from autumn to winter is always an occasion to reflect on death and dying, as creation in this part of the world slowly becomes cold, dry, and hard. The end of the Christian church year—beginning with All Saints’ Day on the first of November and moving through to Christ the King Sunday at the end of November—is a time for Christians to think not only about endings but about the great witnesses of faith gone before us.
Our Jewish brothers and sisters draw great strength from the many faithful Jewish believers gone before them, millions of whom perished at the hands of the Nazi regime in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. The tragedy of history we call the Holocaust began seventy-five years ago today, when thousands of Jewish homes, synagogues, schools, and businesses were vandalized and Jewish citizens arrested and killed. This event is called Kristallnacht because of the broken glass scattered on the ground across Germany and Austria after that long, terrible night.
Christ Church Lutheran, founded over one hundred years ago by German Americans, is commemorating this history with a service of Christian worship that includes sacred music by two German Lutheran composers. Gary Wolfman, a talented conductor and faithful religious leader in our community, has graciously worked with us to craft a meaningful and authentic event that honors these sad memories with words of faith and hope, words drawn from the Hebrew Scriptures and also from the Christian New Testament.
Both Schütz and Bach drew heavily from the Hebrew Psalter, which Luther himself returned to daily for comfort and faith and called “the little Bible.” A significant portion of Schütz’s sacred compositions were psalm settings. Aus der Tiefe (Out of the depths), one of the Dresden master’s double-choir motets from the Psalmen Davids collection, was composed soon after Schütz had spent four years in Venice studying composition with Giovanni Gabrieli. Schütz’s rhythmic decisions nearly always follow closely the rhythmic patterns of the spoken German text. And his general compositional decisions always work to draw out the theological emphases of the text. The opening of Aus der Tiefe comes truly out of the depths, with all four voices in very low registers. And listen for the long pauses after the word harret (“await”) in the middle of the piece.
Bach’s ever-popular cantata 106, Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (God’s time is the very best time), was written very early in his professional career, during his short time in Mühlhausen, almost certainly for a funeral service. Bach was in his early twenties at the time, but you won’t find a musicologist who thinks the Actus Tragicus (Bach’s own subtitle for the cantata) is anything but the mature work of a master composer. Bach probably chose the texts himself, a selection of passages from both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. And there is in the choosing itself a kind of personal theological statement from a young man still thinking about the many loved ones, including both his parents, he had lost already in his short life. In the beautiful alto aria, Bach sets the verse of Psalm 31 that Jesus himself quoted while dying on the cross. The ascending scales of the continuo strive upward toward heaven, perhaps a reference to Bach’s own hope in the resurrection.
Certainly Luther, Bach, and Schütz approached the psalms christologically, but in many ways they let the psalms speak on their own terms. We would do well to listen carefully. The psalms proclaim across millennia the tenderness, faithfulness, and redemptive desires of the one God, the maker of all creation.
Our gathering today, and the lifting up of our voices in songs of faith, is our testimony. We testify that we have sinned against our neighbors. We testify that God has proven faithful in his promises of redemption. And we testify that by God’s grace our communities can be made whole again and again, even in the face of unspeakable evil. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Vespers in Remembrance bulletin (PDF download)
Top image. Gary Wolfman conducts the Elm Ensemble at Christ Church Lutheran in November 2013.
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Deuteronomy 4:9. Take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children.
From Abraham Joshua Heschel: A Memoir by Rabbi Arthur Green. Rabbi Heschel liked to tell the Hasidic tale of Rabbi Raphael of Bershad who invited a group of his disciples to come share with him in a ride in his coach. “But there is not enough room!” a disciple cried out. “The rebbe will be crowded.” The master replied: “Then we shall have to love each other more. If we love each other more, there will be room for us all.” Heschel understood that all of humanity rides in that coach, one that can be either the divine chariot of God or the crowded, sealed railway car. The choice, he insisted, is a human one, and we who have escaped the terrors of hell are here to help all our fellow humans make that choice.
“Through Fields of Ripe Wheat” by Anne Porter
“Death, Be Not Proud” by John Donne
Isaiah 49:14-16. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.” Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.”
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Heinrich Schütz | Aus der Tiefe
Aus der Tiefe ruf ich, Herr, zu dir.
Herr, höre meine Stimme,
laß deine Ohren merken
auf die Stimme meines Flehens!
Out of the depths I call to you, O Lord:
Lord, hear my cry.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy!
So du willst, Herr, Sünde zurechnen,
Herr, wer wird bestehen?
Denn bei dir ist die Vergebung,
daß man dich fürchte.
If you kept a record of our sins,
Lord, who could stand their ground?
But forgiveness is with you,
that you may be revered.
Ich harre des Herren; meine Seele harret,
und ich hoffe auf sein Wort.
Meine Seele wartet auf den Herren
von einer Morgenwache bis zur andern.
Israel, hoffe auf den Herren!
I await the Lord, my soul awaits,
and I place my hope in his word.
My soul awaits the Lord
more than they that watch for the morning.
Israel, place your hope in the Lord.
Denn bei dem Herren ist die Gnade
und viel Erlösung bei ihm,
und er wird Israel erlösen
aus allen seinen Sünden.
For in the Lord is much mercy,
and with him is plenteous redemption;
and he shall redeem Israel
from all their sins.
Ehre sei dem Vater und dem Sohn
und auch dem Heiligen Geiste,
wie es war im Anfang,
jetzt und immerdar
und von Ewigkeit zu Ewigkeit. Amen.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning,
and ever shall be. Amen.
J. S. Bach | Cantata 106, Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit
Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit.
In ihm leben, weben und sind wir, solange er will.
In ihm sterben wir zur rechten Zeit, wenn er will.
God’s time is the best of all times.
In him we live, move and are, as long as he wills.
In him we die at the appointed time, when he wills.
2b. Arioso (tenor)
Ach, Herr, lehre uns bedenken,
daß wir sterben müssen,
auf daß wir klug werden.
Ah, Lord, teach us to consider
that we must die,
so that we might become wise.
2c. Aria (bass)
Bestelle dein Haus; denn du wirst sterben
und nicht lebendig bleiben!
Put your house in order;
for you will die and not remain alive!
2d. Chor und Arioso (soprano)
Es ist der alte Bund:
Mensch, du mußt sterben!
Ja, komm, Herr Jesu!
It is the ancient law:
human, you must die!
Yes, come, Lord Jesus!
3a. Arie A
In deine Hände befehl ich meinen Geist;
du hast mich erlöset, Herr, du getreuer Gott.
Into your hands I commit my spirit,
You have redeemed me,
Lord, faithful God.
3b. Arioso und Choral (bass and altos)
Heute wirst du mit mir im Paradies sein.
Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin
In Gottes Willen,
Getrost ist mir mein Herz und Sinn,
Sanft und stille.
Wie Gott mir verheißen hat:
Der Tod ist mein Schlaf worden.
Today you will be with me in Paradise.
With peace and joy I depart, in God’s will,
My heart and mind are comforted, calm, and quiet.
As God had promised me: death has become my sleep.
Glorie, Lob, Ehr und Herrlichkeit
Sei dir, Gott Vater und Sohn bereit’
Dem Heilgen Geist mit Namen!
Die göttlich Kraft
Mach uns sieghaft
Durch Jesum Christum, Amen.
Glory, praise, honor, and majesty
be prepared for you, God Father and Son,
for the Holy Spirit by name!
The divine power
makes us victorious
through Jesus Christ, Amen.