I didn’t know him well or long, but Isaac left a huge impact on me last year when we were together at SMBI for 6 wks. Now he’s in heaven, and that’s nothing to be sad about, but I’m still sad. There’s a loss of a vibrant, intense, gifted life, and I can’t seem to talk myself out of grieving that loss. Then there’s his family’s loss, and that of his friends, that makes me sad again for their sakes. I cried today when I read Isaac’s brother in law’s tribute to him, and how Isaac can now run without tiring, and see music, and hear sunrises. And I suddenly feel like the little girl who wails because her friend went to the zoo without her, and she’s left behind…
Some may say I have a boring music diet because nearly all I listen to is choral music. Well, I still say it’s likely the closest to what we’ll enjoy in heaven, but we’ll leave that aside. I want to share my favourite hymn here. It was translated from an old Greek text, and was what the Greek Orthodox brothers sang when they buried one of their priests. The music was composed by John Tavener who wrote it in memory of his beloved music master. So there’s a lot of history and meaning behind all of this, which makes it a very heavy piece of music, but I LOVE it and it makes me cry every time I hear it.
In the last phrases, the Clare College singers from Cambridge, England increase in carefully- controlled power and intensity and volume til it nearly blows you away and lets you peak into heaven and what singing there must be like.
(sorry about the weird font changes below)
Why these bitter words of the dying, O brethren,
which they utter as they go hence?
I am parted from my brethren.
All my friends do I abandon, and go hence.
But whither I go, that understand I not,
neither what shall become of me yonder;
only God who hath summoned me knoweth.
But make commemoration of me with the song:
But whither now go the souls?
How dwell they now together there?
This mystery have I desired to learn,
but none can impart aright.
Do they call to mind their own people, as we do them?
Or have they forgotten all those who mourn them
and make the song:
We go forth on the path eternal,
and as condemned, with downcast faces,
present ourselves before the only God eternal.
Where then is comeliness? Where then is wealth?
Where then is the glory of this world?
There shall none of these things aid us,
but only to say oft the psalm:
If thou hast shown mercy unto man, O man,
that same mercy shall be shown thee there;
and if on an orphan thou hast shown compassion,
the same shall there deliver thee from want,
If in this life the naked thou hast clothed,
the same shall give thee shelter there,
and sing the psalm:
Youth and the beauty of the body
fade at the hour of death,
and the tongue then burneth fiercely,
and the parched throat is inflamed.
The beauty of the eyes is quenched then,
the comeliness of the face all altered,
the shapeliness of the neck destroyed;
and the other parts have become numb,
nor often say:
With ecstacy are we inflamed if we but hear
that there is light eternal yonder;
that there is Paradise,
wherein every soul of Righteous Ones rejoiceth.
Let us all, also, Enter into Christ,
that all we may cry aloud thus unto God: