Mother and child

There are the sometimes cloying images of mother and child, and then there is another reality of motherhood that can be hard and messy and heartbreaking, or sometimes just plain terrifying. Surely Jesus’ mother Mary was terrified when she saw the events of that first holy week unfolding. Re-living the scenes of Jesus’ final days is an emotional time for all who walk the journey of Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, but Mary’s suffering isn’t often part of the picture. As any parent can attest, she would, in an instant, have given her life to save her child, and her helplessness to do so must have been unbearable.

Jesus’ humanity was never more evident than in these final days, and it is his humanity which speaks most fully to us on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. I experience this most in the music of Holy Week, which I find is a portal to greater understanding of God’s gift to us – the gift of life amidst the shadow of death, and the potential for great love that comes when the acceptance of death becomes an essential part of living.

On Good Friday, during the three hours between noon and 3:00 pm when Jesus was on the cross, music at St. Alban’s will first explore the crucifixion through Mary’s eyes in Tarquino Merula’s anguished and prescient lullaby Canzonetta Spirituale: Hor ch’e tempo (Po Chen, baritone and Guillermo-Juan Christie, oud), part of Pergolesi’s Stabat mater (Claire Maude and Melissa Bourne), Hall Johnson’s moving Take my mother home (Richard Turner, tenor), and Pie Jesu by Lili Boulanger (Mary Shaffran, soprano).

Then follows a work written by a loving son for his mother – the German Requiem by Johannes Brahms (with soloists Melissa Mino and James Shaffran). Skeptical of religion, Brahms nevertheless used Biblical texts full of assurances that we will see those we love again. A work of great breadth and strength, Brahms completed it shortly after his mother’s death and it premiered on Good Friday in 1868. He famously declared he wished that instead of calling it Ein Deutsches Requiem, as it is known for its German text, he had called it “A Human Requiem”. Esteemed conductor Simon Rattle, as he prepared to record it with a German choir, said that he found the Requiem to be touchingly human, and not very religious.

I would argue that to be human IS religious. Jesus – and his mother – proved that on Good Friday.

This entry was posted in Sonya Subbayya Sutton and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Mother and child

  1. Beth H. says:

    This was lovely, Sonya!

  2. Carol Flett says:

    This is lovely… perfect set up for my Good Friday meditation at 2 pm during the Good Friday Liturgy.

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