Membra Iesu nostri

As every year, I find myself on Palm Sunday struggling to look ahead. Rationally I know that within a week we shall have celebrated Easter, yet the prospect seems almost unreal given that, between now and then, we shall by means of the Paschal mystery have re-lived liturgically — that is, with high realism — the entire history of the world, seeing it through to fulfilment in the eschaton. In the Ambrosian rite, Holy Week is known as the Hebdomada authentica, the week that sets the measure of all other times. It is a helpful notion. It puts experience in perspective. Where words fail, music can help. I love Buxtehude’s Membra Iesu nostri, the setting of a text attributed (wrongly, probably) to St Bernard of Clairvaux. Through what is largely a mosaic of Scriptural passages, the cantata takes us to the heart of Christ’s sacrifice and the grace it confers. The video quality of this recording with René Jacobs shows its age, but the ensemble’s interpretation is possibly unsurpassed. The text can be found here.