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Music of Holy Week: Monday

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Eripe Me (1584) by Orlando di Lasso (1532–1594)

The liturgy of Palm Sunday began with the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, but the joyful cries of “Hosanna to the Son of David” soon gave way to the hate-filled shouts of “Crucify him!” Our focus has thus turned from the journey into Jerusalem to the journey toward Calvary, and the liturgical texts for the Monday of Holy Week mark this stark transition. The Gospel presents Mary of Bethany anointing the feet of Jesus as Judas Iscariot looks on, mocking her extravagant gesture of love, and the chief priests plotting not only to kill Jesus but also Lazarus, “because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him” (Jn 12:11). Jesus himself knows his hour draws near, telling Judas, “Let her keep this [anointing] for the day of my burial” (Jn 12:7).

The Offertory chant for this day’s Mass invites us to contemplate the words of psalm 143 (142): “Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; I have fled to you for refuge” (vs 9). The musical setting of this text by Orlando di Lasso is like the anointing at Bethany itself: a luminous moment in the midst of gathering darkness. Though the verse excerpted from the psalm for the Offertory chant suggests a somber, ominous mood, the psalmist continues on, and in the subsequent verses, proclaims utter confidence in the loving protection of God towards his servant, a confidence reflected in the radiant clarity of di Lasso’s melodies.

As we hear these words, we perhaps imagine them coming from the lips of Jesus, but as we celebrate the liturgy, we also make them our own, praying them with and in Christ himself, asking him to intercede to the Father in the Spirit for us. Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies. Deliver us from evil.

Eripe me de inimicis meis Domine, ad te confugi:
doce me facere voluntatem tuam, quia Deus meus es tu.
Spiritus tuus bonus deducet me in terram rectam:
propter nomen tuum Domine vivificabis me, in æquitate tua.
Educes de tribulatione animam meam:
et in misericordia tua disperdes inimicos meos.
Et perdes omnes, qui tribulant animam meam:
quoniam ego servus tuus sum.

Save me, LORD, from my enemies; I have fled to you for refuge.
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.
Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.
For your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life.
In your righteousness bring me out of trouble.
In your steadfast love cut off my enemies,
and destroy all my adversaries,
for I am your servant. (Ps 143:9–12, NRSV)

Also in this series:
Palm Sunday