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Four Iraqi refugee children in a camp

And He Shall Be Our Peace

The Dona Nobis Pacem in Bach’s B Minor Mass

Colin Fields

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The Plough Music Series is a regular selection of music intended to lift your heart to God. This is not a playlist of background music: each installment will focus on a single piece worth pausing to enjoy.

With Christmas approaching and fresh news of horrifying violence arriving daily from around the world, read again God’s plan for all people, as described by the prophet Micah: 

It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised up above the hills;
and peoples shall flow to it,

And many nations shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and we may walk in his paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall decide for strong nations afar off;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more;

 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree,
and none shall make them afraid;
for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.

For all the peoples walk
each in the name of its god,
but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God
for ever and ever.

… And he shall be our peace.

There seems to be an unwritten rule that any mention of Bach’s B Minor Mass must include the word “magnificent.” And it is, although the Dona Nobis Pacem, which comes near the end, starts quietly with unaccompanied bass voices. Other voices join as the music progresses, continuously repeating the words, “Give us peace,” until Bach brings it to a close with magnificent confidence, with drums and blazing trumpets at full volume. Listen to it as a musical description of Micah’s vision of the peoples of many nations converging on the mountain of the Lord “that he may teach us to walk in his ways.”

John Eliot Gardiner conducts the English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir in this 2015 recording.

a choir dressed in black and white singing

 

Four Iraqi refugee children in a camp Iraqi Yazidi refugee children at Newroz camp in northeastern Syria. Photo courtesy of UK Department for International Development / Wikimedia Commons
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