04 April 2015

The Reproaches of Good Friday

The end of the Good Friday service in the OudeKerk in Amsterdam would include the song: "Het Beklag van God" (God's complaint). I always found it powerful, although startling and a bit disturbing: the song asks how it is that we, God's people, would reject Him. As the songbook attributes the text to a rather well-known liberal Dutch songwriter (Huub Oosterhuis), I assumed that the song was uniquely Dutch: moving, provoking, and perhaps questionably orthodox. As much as the words reflected Scripture, it seemed to put words into God's mouth, which makes me uncomfortable.

I discovered today, though, that the Reproaches of God are actually an ancient text. Furthermore, the words are really from Scripture (Micah 6:3, Jeremiah 2:21, Isaiah 5:2 and 40 and more: see the Catholic Encyclopedia). Although the juxtaposition of these Old Testament texts to the context of Jesus' death is a bit unorthodox (and some have even argued that the words used in this way come across as anti-Semitic), I have found that juxtapositions often surprise us, causing us to see the text in a new way. I thus think it is worth hearing, reading, contemplating and sharing.

The following is the first part of the text (credit to be given to Jeffrey Pinyan):
"O my people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you?  Answer me!
For I brought you out of the land of Egypt,
but you brought out* a cross for your Savior.
Holy is God!  Holy and mighty!  Holy and immortal!
Have mercy upon us!
For I led you through the desert for forty years,
and fed you with manna,
and brought you into a land of plenty,
but you prepared* a cross for your Savior.
Holy is God!  Holy and mighty!  Holy and immortal!
Have mercy upon us!
What more should I have done for you, that I did not do?
Indeed, I planted you, my precious chosen vine,
but you have become terribly bitter to me.
Indeed, you gave me vinegar to drink in my thirst,
and have pierced your Savior’s side with a lance."
Follow this link for more of the text.

You can also listen to a Latin version of the text (the Improperia) on youtube.

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