Extraordinary really. I think I used just to hear and enjoy the music. Now I go for my annual ‘fix’ of Bach St John or St Matthew Passion and it turns me inside out. Tonight it was St Matthew with the Dunedin Consort in Perth Concert Hall. Mists of tears.
Old and tired and uncomfortably aware of frailty? Aware of how much crucifying goes on around the church – both that I have my hands as a friend once said ‘pre-drilled’ and that I bang in a nail or two myself.
I know that it’s the story of people like us fumbling about and not knowing – until like Peter we realise and weep bitterly. I know too that the key moment for me is the arrest in the garden. You need to recognise the moment when they come to take you away – the moment when everything is at stake – the moment that can’t be finessed away. Everything else depends on that point of discernment.
I thought about Richard Holloway’s preoccupation with the llne, ‘He saved others – himself he cannot save’. And I remembered his remarkable exposition of the meaning of the Passion in the middle of a performance of St John Passion in the Concert Hall a few years ago.
And as I stumble about in the tears, I ask myself why it is so seldom that worship does that to me. The performance this evening was deeply worshipful. It was as my colleague Grace used to say ‘brisk with spaces’. It had huge involvement and commitment – great ranges of expression in light and shade and pace. And the Evangelist gave me that rare feeling at one point that the ground had opened up and was going to swallow me.