The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us. O come, let us worship. Alleluia
Valentin de Boulogne (1591–1632). Saint John the Evangelist (ca. 1621–22). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "The visionary evangelist is shown with his emblem, the eagle, and is interrupted while writing the opening line of his gospel: 'In the beginning was the word …' We seem to be in the presence of a real person who has taken on the role of the saint, colliding past with present and resulting in an image of compelling presence—a veritable 'portrait' of the saint." — Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Listen again to John's words: "We declare to you," he writes, "what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ."
John's declaration is teeming with passion and holds within it a burning desire to share this faith that has been both revealed and experienced. The faith that is declared is not something abstract but one that engages all the senses—it is heard and seen and touched. And if, as tradition has held, St John wrote this letter as an old man, he did indeed speak from experience—the experience of having known Jesus both in bodily and resurrected form. Yet his passion to share the Good News of Jesus Christ has not faded one iota in the intervening years. If anything it has grown bolder and stronger with age.
Loving Father, help us to remember the story of Christ's birth,
Johann Sebastian Bach: St. John Passion BWV 245.
Masaaki Suzuki, conductor, James Gilchrist, Evangelist (tenor), Aki Matsui ( soprano), Damien Guillon (alto), Zachary Wilder (tenor), Christian Immler (bass), Bach Collegium Japan chorus and orchestra, at the hall of the Kölner Philharmonie, Cologne, 15 March 2020.
Unusually for this series of calendars, this extraordinary performance is an hour and forty-six minutes long, but enthralling throughout. Without an audience in the hall because of Covid-19 precautions, and just before widespread lockdowns, this performance was viewed online by over 250,000 people. Fine listening for a Sunday afternoon!
May the Lord, who has called out of darkness into his marvellous light, bless us and fill us with peace. Amen.