10 Apr 2011

Lenten Reflections (No. 18) - Miserere Mei Deus (Psalm 51) and the Seven Last Words of Christ



This piece is Psalm 51, but first set to music by Allegri around 1630. It is one of the finest and most popular examples of renaissance polyphony. It is often heard in Churches of the apostolic Christian tradition on Ash Wednesday, immediately following Shrove (or pancake) Tuesday, marking Christ's return to Jerusalem.


As part of their preparation for Holy Week, the students of the English Dominican Province at their blog Godzdogz have begun a series of reflections on the Seven Last Words of Jesus:


"The last words of dying people are treasured and it is not unusual that different members of a family, or different friends, hold on to different things said by a dying person in the last days of their life. So we find seven words recorded in the Gospels. Matthew and Mark give us just one, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me', the opening line of Psalm 22.........The first of these words is 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do' (Luke 23:34). How can we expect to be forgiven if we do not forgive, he had asked the disciples more than once. 'They know not what they do' is a reason he gives for this forgiveness. This can be heard on two levels: they are blinded by the agitation of the mob, the confusion of the situation, and the passion that has taken hold of their hearts. Some of those involved might have said they were 'just doing their job'. On a deeper level it refers to the divine plan which, unknown to them, is working itself out through their actions: they do not know it but their actions are contributing to the work of the world's salvation. We read later in the Acts of the Apostles that Jesus was 'delivered up by the definite plan and foreknowledge of God' (2:23). On one level he is put to death by the hands of lawless men. On another level it is a divine plan that is unfolding.

When we find difficulty in forgiving others we should remember the forgiveness of Jesus ."



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