With Mary & a Cloud of Witnesses by Ken Myers

From Heavenly Harmony

With Mary & a Cloud of Witnesses

There are many texts that have been employed in the music of Holy Week. The Passion accounts in the Gospels are the most immediate candidates, and have produced—augmented with sensitive and theologically alert poetry—some of the most memorable works in the canon of sacred music (e.g., J. S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion).

The book of Lamentations is another biblical source for musical expression during Holy Week (see last year's column, "The Depths of Solemn Grandeur"). Beginning in the fifteenth century, many of the greatest composers working in the Western Church wrote settings of Lamentations to be used at matins on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Last year, I singled out Robert White's little-known setting, but also notable are those by Morales, Tallis, Palestrina, Lassus, Byrd, and Victoria. Readers would do well to spend time in the week before we celebrate the Resurrection to allow the expression of sorrow conveyed in the work of one or more of these servants of the Word to get into their ears and heart.

Another text that has inspired a huge catalog of music for Holy Week is the medieval poem Stabat Mater Dolorosa, "The Sorrowful Mother Was Standing." While its authorship has been attributed to various hands, including St. Gregory the Great, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Pope Innocent III, St. Bonaventure, Pope John XXII, and Pope Gregory XI, it was likely (but not certainly) the work of Jacopone da Todi (c. 1230–1306). Born into a noble family in northern Italy, Jacopone had been a successful lawyer until the tragic death of his pious wife prompted a dramatic conversion. He wrote many hymns, mystical poems, and satirical verses in addition to Stabat Mater Dolorosa, a 20-stanza poem probably intended for private devotional rather than liturgical use.

THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:


Ken Myers is the host and producer of the Mars Hill Audio Journal. Formerly an arts editor with National Public Radio, he also served as editor of Eternity, the Evangelical monthly magazine, and This World, the quarterly predecessor to First Things. He also serves as music director at All Saints Anglican Church in Ivy, Virginia. He is a contributing editor for Touchstone.


more on music from the online archives

33.3—May/June 2020

Consolation in Death

Bach's Cantata BWV 106, Gottes Zeit ist die allerbesteZeit (God's time is the very best time) by Ken Myers

calling all readers

Please Donate

"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand

"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor

Support Touchstone

• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!


personal subscriptions

Purchase
Online Subscription

Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives including pdf downloads for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!


RENEW your online subscription

Purchase Print &
Online Subscription

Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!


RENEW your print/online
subscription

gift subscriptions

GIVE Print &
Online Subscription

Give six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for the reduced rate of $29.95. That's only $2.50 per month!


RENEW your gift subscription

Transactions will be processed on a secure server.

bulk subscriptions

Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.

kindle subscription

OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)

Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.


more from the online archives

32.2—March/April 2019

What Gives?

on Properly Rendering Things to Caesar & to God by Peter J. Leithart

21.1—January/February 2008

One Flesh of Purest Gold

John Chrysostom’s Discovery of the Blessings & Mysteries of Marriage by Mike Aquilina

27.3—May/June 2014

Religious Freedom & Why It Matters

Working in the Spirit of John Leland by Robert P. George

00