Laughter and Frolicking Accompany Our Hearts

Kommt, eilet und laufet, ihr flüchtigen Füße,
erreichet die Höhle, die Jesum bedeckt!
Lachen und Scherzen
begleitet die Herzen,
denn unser Heil ist auferweckt.

Come, hasten and run, you fleeting feet,
approach the cave, which conceals Jesus!
Laughter and frolicking
accompany our hearts
for our Savior is raised from the dead.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Below is a video of the Easter Oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach (BWV 249), as performed in 2013 by the English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir, conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner:

From the video notes:

1   Sinfonia
2   Adagio
3   Aria. Kommt, eilet und laufet
4   Recitativo. O kalter Männer Sinn
5   Aria. Seele, deine Spezereien
6   Recitativo. Hier ist die Gruft
7   Aria. Sanfte soll mein Todeskummer
8   Recitativo. Indessen seufzen wir
9   Aria. Saget, saget mir geschwinde
10   Recitativo. Wir sind erfreut
11   Chorus. Preis und Dank

Hannah Morrison, soprano
Meg Bragle, mezzo-soprano
Nicholas Mulroy, tenor
Peter Harvey, bass

The image at the top of this post is the 14th-century Anastasis fresco in the parekklesion of the Chora Church in Istanbul (then Constantinople). Below the jump is an explanation of the theological significance of the fresco, from Biblicalia:

This is widely agreed to be the most striking exemplar of the traditional Byzantine Anastasis icon. It is the fresco in the apse of the arekklesion or funerary chapel, of the Monastery of Chora at Istanbul. A brilliant mandorla surrounds the anything-but-dead Christ, in Hell rescuing the inhabitants from Death, who lies bound amidst the shattered gates of Hell and the broken locks and useless keys thereof. The All-Powerful Christ, in midstride, brooking no nonsense lifts the helpless Adam and Eve by the wrist like children, this being witnessed by the older King David and younger King Solomon on the left, with St John the Forerunner behind them. On the right, the Protomartyr (and Prototype of Christ!) Abel watches with his shepherd’s crook, and others of the Old Testament Prophets watch with him.

This is a fine exemplar of the traditional Orthodox Christian composition of the Anastasis, the Resurrection of Christ. This victory over death, the proclamation to and release of the prisoners (1Pt 3.19), is the reason for His Resurrection. We have in this icon a theology lesson rather than a history lesson. Instead of Orthodox Resurrection icons depicting a conflation of events surrounding the Resurrection of Christ as depicted in the Gospels (as in many such Western Christian depictions: the tomb, the winding sheet, the Myrrh-Bearing Women, the sleeping guards, the bright-shining angel), the Resurrection icon presents us with the love of God for mankind, His personal sacrifice, and His personal rescue of humanity from eternal death!

22 thoughts on “Laughter and Frolicking Accompany Our Hearts

  1. You’ve been doing your homework, Baron; the Easter Oratorio is too little known compared with JSB’s “big” Easter works, the St Matthew & St John Passions.

    Just to be contrary, I listened to the B Minor Mass a couple of days ago (the great Karl Richter, natch, from 1961- and on LP). The great uprushes of joy, especially in the “Et Resurrexit” and “Sanctus”, are so intense as to be almost unbearable; I’d think twice about hearing them with someone else as I’d feel so emotionally naked.

        • So reluctant to be ungracious in my response, Dymphna. And yet, in “The Last Battle”, Lewis’ older “children” appear too sophisticated to qualify for Heaven. Not a generous viewpoint…

      • My knowledge of German is limited, despite decades of listening to Bach et al. Yet this transcends limits…;

      • Mark, The last work I sang as a boy soprano before my voice broke was Bach’s B Minor Mass.

        I have never felt able to sing at that level again.

    • We Eastern Orthodox do not use the word ‘EASTER’ as the day of Christ’s Resurrection ….. we call next Sunday as The GREAT AND HOLY PASCHA.

      The Anglo-Saxon goddess for which “Easter” is named is not in our Greek , or Russian or any other Orthodox countries’ language.

      We do occasionally while conversing with the non-Orthodox we live among as easter, least they be confused.

      Our Pascha baskets are blesses by the priests after the Divine Liturgy with holy water

      • Many western Christians are unaware of the origin of the word “Easter.” It does indeed arise from a pre-Christian festival honoring the return of life to the earth, the plants and animals, called Ostera.

        Blessed Pascha to you.

  2. Hallelujah! He is risen! Sin and Death are despoiled and laid waste. O Death, where is your victory, where is your sting? We now have hope beyond the grave in Jesus Christ our Lord Who paid the price for our sin on Calvary’s Cross and secured our Salvation in His resurrection! Just as He rose from the dead on the Feast of First Fruits, He is the first fruits of those who will rise with Him having placed their hope and trust in Him by faith. Hallelujah!

  3. Excellent post Baron!

    Now to mix your two topics of Easter music and Orthodox Christian art, I invite you to listen to this hair-raising (in a positive way!!) and moving Russian orthodox Easter chant.

    The chant says:

    “Your resurrection, o Christ the Saviour, Angels sing in Heavens.
    And grant us, on earth, as well in imitation, to praise Thee with pure hearts!”

    About 9 years ago I was studying music in St. Petersburg, Russia, and I used to participate in the Easter vigils every year in a marvellous Russian Orthodox cathedral next to my apartment. This chant was song always before midnight.

    The singing of this chant would first start as all the lights in the cathedral would be turned off, then all the congregants would light small candles that they held in their hands, by passing on the flame from one congregant to another, and then all would come out of the church and would walk around the church building behind the icon of the crucified Christ while repeating this chant along with the choir. Then all would congregate in front of the doors of the cathedral again. The doors would remain closed till midnight and people would keep singing this chant.

    Then at midnight the bells of the church would start to wring in a wildly jubilant fashion and the priest would stand in front of the church doors which symbolised the door to the cave where Jesus was buried. Then the priest, who was standing in for the angels in the Gospel story, would shout joyfully: “CHRIST IS RISEN!!” and the congregation would shout back: “INDEED HE IS RISEN!!” The priest would repeat the declaration several times and the congregation would answer him back, and then the big doors to the cathedral would open and the chandeliers would be lit again and we all would go inside to listen to the rest of the Easter liturgy and receive the holy communion! The whole service lasted till morning.

    That was a magnificent celebration of the resurrection of Christ, reenacted by the whole congregation which brought this historical fact to life! The music and ancient chants played an important role in it all!

    Happy Easter, all counter Jihadi friends! Christ is Risen!

    • I enjoyed singing along with this as I have done for many years…. Thanks for posting .

    • That was sublime, Ritamalik. If you don’t already know Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil (aka “Vespers”)- unlikely, I suspect- check it out, preferably the 1960s Soviet recording conducted by Aleksandr Sveshnikov, who learned his craft before the revolution. Amazon list the CD, and it’s on YouTube in audio only; I defy anyone to listen to the start without going on.

      • This was a dangerous post to click on…I listened to Otche Nash. three times I listened. Then Agni Parthene. Then Varlaam Brethren Choir. Then…the beauty of the music and the religious art is overwhelming, quite different from the austere Lutheran denomination in which I was raised. I have already emailed a Russian Orthodox priest whose church is (reasonably) close by to ask of him the proper etiquette for a non-Orthodox person to visit religious services, proper clothing for a woman to wear (esp. for Great Friday Matins and Christos Voskres midnight service).

        Dare I hope that, for the first time in a half-century, I may discover a religious home?

        Pray that I do. I’m quite sincere.

        • I should have said “the Lutheran denomination in which I was raised and from which I was driven out at the age of 12.” Very painful and not yet healed.

        • Of course I will pray for your journey. Every path has its times of pain, times of ?glory? – for me, the latter lies in learning something new.

          I don’t pray for specific things w/o being asked. However I do have a general blessing whose purpose covers all those who read GoV, comment here, give of their resources (time, money, talents, etc)*. I won’t be more specific than that except to say that it is an ancient prayer because I am drawn to prayers our ancestors said for untold generations, in all sorts of conditions.
          *commenting is definitely sharing one’s experience, a resource of wisdom in most cases.

          The Orthodox Church is looking better and better as the mainline denominations sell out.

        • I guess there are all sorts of Lutherans. The services I have attended weren’t austere. I find it hard to tell the liturgies of Catholics, Lutherans, and Episcopalians apart. I do love the Liturgical Year, also similar for all three churches.

          One of my favorite ministers was a Lutheran. I got to know him via an organist who worked with the B many years ago. He had a lunch group for bookworms and we read/discussed Tolstoy. He had long before outed himself as a recovering alcoholic & wrote a humorous self-deprecating book about his experiences. Many years later, when I began my own cleaning business (a great antidote for a recovering social worker) one of my first customers turned out to the the then-current owner of the house he’d raised his children in. That was a house with good vibes.

  4. Wow Baron – Thank you so much for posting this. That had to be one of the most beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard.
    Just a few technical questions as I am a complete plebe when it comes to this kind of music:
    What was the instrument being played
    @ 7:oo by the man with the ponytail
    @ 20:00 by the woman (a flute of some kind?)
    @ 31:00 by two women

    Also, did Bach write the lyrics? And also, where was this performed?

    As I was watching this I was thinking about the post about India and the questions asked in that post about didn’t the various Kingdoms in India see what was happening with the onslaught of Islam and couldn’t they have banded together to stop it? Apparently not.
    I was wondering if the West is really willing to give up the high culture that this piece of music represents. I read a report not too long ago that ISIS had a mass burning of musical instruments, mostly drums. Is it conceivable that performances of this type will cease to exist in the West in my grandchildren’s lifetimes? It very well might be.
    I think you posted about the recent incident in Indiana that shut a small pizza parlor down and caused the owners to go into hiding because in response to a hypothetical question about catering a gay wedding the young owner said she wouldn’t because of her Christian convictions.

    The hate and fury directed at her was truly disturbing to me, including a call to burn the business down! I am not a religious person but I also can see the writing on the wall that our culture is being dismantled brick by brick.

    However, not to read too much into the pizza episode, a funding rally that was supposed to raise $20,000 to tied these pizza owners over while they were in hiding and their shop was closed raised over $840,000! I think many people have had a belly full of the derision that has become extremely intense over the last decade of Christianity and Western culture in general.

    I feel fairly certain that the progressives will be the first to go to the wall when Islam takes over. Their lifestyle is anathema to Islam. I just wish they could all be forced to watch this performance and then asked “Is this the culture you wish to destroy?”

    We had a quiet and serene Easter Sunday and viewing this performance capped it off beautifully. I baked a ham with an orange mustard glaze and served it with asparagus bundles wrapped in prosciutto along with a potato gratin that had a strip of bacon in it. My husband asked me if there was a point I was trying to make… Well yes, there was.

    • I don’t want to venture much on the instruments, since they’re Baroque period instruments, and I’d probably guess wrong. However, I think the guy with the ponytail is playing an oboe, archaically known as an hautbois. For more fun with archaic instrument names, look up “sackbut” and “flageolet”.

      The librettist, according to the wiki, is thought to be “Picander”, real name Christian Friedrich Henrici (January 14, 1700 – May 10, 1764).

    • “…didn’t the various Kingdoms in India see what was happening with the onslaught of Islam and couldn’t they have banded together to stop it? Apparently not.”

      The penetration of Islam into India was very protracted over centuries and complex; it wasn’t a wholesale conquest, but an ongoing devouring by piece-meal, with Indians fighting back here and there and winning back territory (then losing it again, then maybe winning it back again, etc.). So various Indian princes and their armies here and there did put up valiant efforts; but essentially, Islam ruined India (as it did Africa) and made it a grotesque, horrible, tragic mess, engendering along the way various sociopolitical psychological pathologies among various Indians (dhimmi reflexes being one of them) — which only the French and British Colonialists were able to repair, somewhat (with the usual caveats that “nobody is perfect”).

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