A thought in Holy Week

“Thou tun’st this world below, the spheres above — who, in the heavenly round, to their own music move.”

The words, by the forgotten Nicholas Brady, are of course those for a soprano aria within an Ode by Henry Purcell. The melody is unearthly and sublime; Purcell was half an angel. I first heard this as a schoolchild, exploring the recordings in a music library. I was struck dead by it, or struck alive. My hair was still standing after I had replayed it into the earphones, several times.

It is an odd thing to mention in Holy Week, but then, I suppose I am odd. The movement towards Good Friday is no celebration of the music of the spheres. And yet I think it is this, too, and that the dimension of the Gloria, suppressed through Lent, remains; although as silent to us as the movement of the stars, and veiled behind our foreground.

Everything is happening in its course: wheels within wheels. The death in this world of Our Saviour is from a cause and to an end which we can understand, doctrinally; but only begin to glimpse in the mystical, when the near becomes the far and the far becomes the near. It is a human story of unimaginable pain, presented to us in words and images through art, and only tangentially in the soft chant of music, until that shall ignite in the Easter Resurrection.

We are human; it is a hard harvest in this world. But this is the way through death and life, there is no other. And in the end, no other than the Gloria.