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    Morning over the bay

    Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater

    By Marianne Wright

    March 24, 2014

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

    On March 25, many churches celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation, commemorating the moment when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary of Nazareth that she would be the mother of God (Luke 1:26-38). It was Mary’s answer – “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” – that opened the way for Christ to be born. Coming in the season of Lent and Easter, this feast links the earliest tiding of Jesus’ life on earth with his last days. As John Donne explained in his Christmas sermon of 1626:

    The whole life of Christ was a continuall Passion; others die Martyrs, but Christ was born a Martyr. He found a Golgotha (where he was crucified) even in Bethlem, where he was born; For, to his tendernesse then, the strawes were almost as sharp as the thornes after; and the Manger as uneasie at first, as his Crosse at last. His birth and death were but one continuall act, and his Christmas-day and his Good Friday, are but the evening and morning of one and the same day.

    In this sense, Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel was the beginning of a way of costly discipleship that some thirty years later would lead her to witness her son’s execution on the cross (John 19:16-27). As she had been warned shortly after Jesus’ birth: “A sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35). Inspired by these words, the anonymous thirteenth-century author of the Stabat Mater meditated on Mary’s suffering during the crucifixion in a poem still loved today. Included below in Latin and English, this poem is a prayer that we may love the crucified Christ with the depth of a mother’s love.

    Giovanni Pergolesi spent the final months of his life in a Franciscan monastery – he was dying of tuberculosis – and it was there in 1736 that he composed his superb setting of the Stabat Mater. This 1985 Deutsche Grammaphon recording features soloists Margaret Marshall (soprano) and Lucia Valentini Terrani (contralto) with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado.

    Stabat mater dolorosa
    Juxta crucem lacrymosa
    Dum pendebat Filius.

    Cujus animam gementem
    Contristatem et dolentes
    Pertransivit gladius.

    O quam tristis et afflicta
    Fuit illa benedicta
    Mater unigeniti.

    Quae morebat et dolebat
    et tremebat cum videbat
    Nati poenas inclyti.

    Quis est homo qui non fleret
    Christi Matrem si videret
    In tanto supplicio?

    Quis posset non contristari
    Piam Matrem contemplari
    Dolentem cum Filio?

    Pro peccatis suae gentis
    Vidit Jesum in tormentis
    Et flagellis subditum.

    Vidit suum dulcem natum
    Morientem desolatum,
    Dum emisit spiritum.

    Eia Mater fons amoris,
    Me sentire vim doloris
    Fac ut tecum lugeam.

    Fac ut ardeat cor meum,
    In amando Christum Deum
    Ut sibi complaceam.

    Sancta Mater istud agas
    Crucifixi fige plagas
    Corde meo valide.

    Tui nati vulnerati
    Jam dignati pro me pati
    Poenas mecum divide.

    Fac me vere tecum flere
    Crucifixo condolere
    Donec ego vixero.

    Juxta crucem tecum stare
    Te libenter sociare
    In planctu desidero.

    Virgo, virginum praeclara
    Mihi jam non sis amara
    Fac me tecum plangere.

    Fac ut portem Christi mortem
    Passionis ejus sortem
    Et plagas recolere.

    Fac me plagis vulnerari
    Cruce hac inebriari
    Ob amorem Filii.

    Inflammatus et accensus
    Per te Virgo sim defensus
    In die judicii.

    Fac me Cruce custodiri
    Morte Christi praemuniri
    Confoveri gratia

    Quando corpus morietur
    Fac ut animae donetur
    Paradisi gloria. Amen.

    The mother stood sorrowing
    by the cross, weeping
    while her Son hung there;

    Whose soul, lamenting,
    sorrowing and grieving,
    has been pierced by the sword.

    O how sad and afflicted
    was that blessed
    Mother of her only-begotten Son.

    Who wept and grieved
    and trembled to behold
    the torment of her glorious child.

    What man would not weep
    if he saw the Mother of Christ
    in such torment?

    Who could not be sorrowful
    to behold the pious mother
    grieving with her Son?

    For the sins of His people
    she saw Jesus in torment
    and subjected to the whip.

    She saw her sweet Son
    dying, forsaken,
    as He gave up the spirit.

    Ah Mother, fount of love,
    let me feel the force of grief,
    that I may grieve with you.

    Make my heart burn
    with the love of Christ, the God,
    that I may be pleasing to Him.

    Holy Mother, bring this to pass,
    transfix the wounds of Him who is
    crucified firmly onto my heart.

    Of your wounded Son,
    who deigns to suffer for my sake,
    let me share the pains.

    Make me truly weep with you,
    grieving with Him who is crucified
    so that I may live.

    To stand by the cross with you,
    to be freely joined with you
    in lamentation, I desire.

    Virgin of virgins, resplendent,
    do not now be harsh towards me,
    let me weep with you.

    Let me carry Christ's death,
    the destiny of his passion,
    and meditate upon his wounds.

    Let me suffer the wounds
    of that cross, steeped
    in love of your Son.

    Fired and excited
    by you, O Virgin, let me be defended
    on the day of judgement.

    Let me be shielded by the cross,
    protected by Christ's death,
    cherished by grace.

    When my body dies,
    let my soul be given
    the glory of paradise. Amen.

    Browse more selections from the Plough Music Series.

    annunciation by Lorenzo Costa The Annunciation to Mary, Lorenzo Costa
    Contributed By MarianneWright Marianne Wright

    Marianne Wright, a member of the Bruderhof, lives in southeastern New York with her husband and five children.

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