As Lent goes on and my meditation on the active fast continues, I had the opportunity last night to perform to works of music that I think are quite relevant.
The first was Bach’s Cantata 77, Du sollt Gott, deinen Herren, lieben. This work intertwines the Old Testament commandment to love the Lord your God, and the New Testaments teaching to love your neighbor as yourself. The second was Britten’s Cantata Misericordium, which is based on the story of the Good Samaritan. Particularly striking to me is the final chorus verse of Britten:
O that men like this gentle helper, who saved a wounded
man and treated as his neighbour an unknown stranger,
may be found all over the world. Disease is spreading,
war is stalking, famine reigns far and wide. But when
one mortal relieves another like this, charity springing
from pain unites them.
This verse also resonantes beautifully with the final chorale of the Bach Cantata:
Lord, dwell in me through faith,
let it become always stronger,
so that it might be fruitful for ever and ever
and rich in good works;
so that it be active through love,
practiced in joy and patience,
to serve my neighbor from now on.
I think that meditating on these two cantatas is a wonderful opportunity to expand on the Biblical basis and suggestions for an active fast. Loving your God and loving your neighbor as yourself are in fact, I believe, an excellent centerpiece for an active fast. From this can grow nourishment of the soul and rebuilding of one’s community.