September 30, 2007

Wo ist dein Sieg?

What a great day. After Divine Service, Kassie and I dashed home for a delicious breakfast, then went to the National Presbyterian Church for the Magnificat and Masterworks concert put on jointly by Carmina, The Washington Kantorei, and The Bach Sinfonia. Incredible! The concert concluded with Bach's Magnificat (Kassie threatened grave repercussions if I sang along with the compelling bass solo, Quia fecit mihi magna...), but perhaps the greatest joy came from a Telemann work with which I was unfamiliar: Triumph, Triumpf ihr Frommen, freuet euch! What a powerful work; I simply cannot imagine how wonderful it would be to have it sung at Mass on Easter Sunday. The surging, defiant force of Telemann's resurrection confession simply must be heard to be grasped: Tod, wo ist dein Stachel? Ho(e)lle, wo ist dein Sieg?

How much that confession was needed, after the haunting Monteverdi work sung by Carmina. Here is the English translation--I dare you not to be moved by the horrors of death, so painfully captured by the "tormented Glauco" at the death of his beloved:

Remains reduced to ashes, greedy tomb
which has become the earthy sky of my fair sun.
Ah, alas! I come to consign you to the earth.
With you my heart is sealed up in the marble's breast,
and day and night tormented Glauco lives
in tears, in fire, in sorrow, in wrath.

Speak, O rivers, and you who hear Glauco
rending the air with his cries over the tomb.
Deserted fields and nymphs and Heaven who know:
I feed on grief, I drink tears.
O happy stone, who bosom is her bed,
since the frozen earth has covered my love.

I can imagine such pain - but to articulate it thus is quite a gift. I am looking forward to hearing Carmina again. What ethereal voices.

But what would one do without the Gospel?
Ho(e)lle, wo ist dien Sieg?

3 comments:

Past Elder said...

Since I'm a bass too, singing would have been allowed -- disapproval only if you say "fay kit" rather than "fay chit".

As to the Monteverdi, I am a widower.

Rev. Christopher S. Esget said...

I'm teaching Latin I & II at our parochial school, and we use the classical pronunciation. I mess it up all the time, and the kids (who've never heard anything different) are correcting me all the time. Years of listening to Bach have made saying "fecit" with the hard "c" almost impossible.

There's something about Bach's "Quia fecit" melody that I cannot get out of my head!

Sitting next to my wife listening to the Monteverdi, all we could do was hold hands tightly. We know it's coming. Hopefully not for many years - but the pain of it is unimaginable to me. But Past Elder, you experience truly what for me is simply a foreboding. Ever-blessed is the Name of the LORD, who has given to us the hope of the resurrection.

Past Elder said...

My first exposure to the "classical" pronunciation came in graduate school when I took a review course to brush up what I had learned in RC schools years before. My two languages -- in those days the doctorate required two -- were German and Latin, appropriate in that I was re-expressing Boethius in terms of Schenker (straight up, no Salzer et al, which I think from your bio you understand).

Years later when I became Lutheran I thought it interesting that German and Latin, at least in WELS where I first converted, were called the "confessional" languages and Hebrew and Greek the Biblical -- maybe another instance of God getting me ready to be Lutheran, to which my first pastor ascribed my having grown up around German speakers in Minnesota so I could lapse into it when ranting.

Anyway, I used to joke with my classmates that when I get to heaven at least I won't have an accent.

This Thanksgiving it will be ten years since Nancy died at 43 of unexpected cancer. For a non pastor, I've read a bunch of theology, but nothing re-inforces that faith is the gift of the Holy Spirit and not a work of ours more than that experience. For a guy who had a history of crises of faith over all kinds of stuff, and Lutheran not quite a year at the time, Nancy's death and being left with a 15 month and 3 month old did not then and has not to this day tempted me to, as it were, turn my face to the wall and curse God.

I've been me for a while now, and I can tell you there is nothing about me to account for that. Faith truly is the gift of the Holy Spirit, because I don't have it and can't produce it, yet it's there! That completely amazes me. I realise theology by anecdote isn't academically kosher, but all I can say is there is something in me that I didn't put there!