Holy Monday

The world would be a better place if everyone listened to Bach’s St. Matthew Passion at least once a year, and I highly recommend it as a Holy Week observance.

The story of the Anointing at Bethany is often part of the reading for Holy Monday (even though it’s not chronologically proper to holy week), so the first section of the St. Matthew (particularly starting at about 10 minutes in) is especially good for today.

And for the textually-inclined, here‘s a sermon on the anointing.

Text below:

Da nun Jesus war zu Bethanien, im Hause Simonis des Aussätzigen, trat zu ihm ein Weib, die hatte ein Glas mit köstlichem Wasser und goß es auf sein Haupt, da er zu Tische saß. Da das seine Jünger sahen, wurden sie unwillig und sprachen:

When now Jesus visited Bethany and was in the house of the leper called Simon, unto him came a woman who carried a jar of precious ointment and poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when his disciples saw it, they became indignant and said:
Chorus I

Wozu dienet dieser Unrat? Dieses Wasser hie mögen teuer verkauft und den Armen gegeben werden.

What end serveth all this nonsense? For this ointment might indeed have been sold for much, and the sum to the poor been given.
Da das Jesus merkete, sprach er zu ihnen:

Was bekümmert ihr das Weib? Sie hat ein gut Werk an mir getan. Ihr habet allezeit Arme bei euch, mich aber habt ihr nicht allezeit. Daß sie dies Wasser hat auf meinen Leib gegossen, hat sie getan, daß man mich begraben wird. Wahrlich, ich sage euch Wo dies Evangelium geprediget wird in der ganzen Welt, da wird man auch sagen zu ihrem Gedächtnis, was sie getan hat.

But when Jesus noticed this, said he unto them:

Why trouble ye so this woman? For she hath done a good deed for me! Ye always have the poor with you, me though will ye not have always. That she hath poured this ointment over my body hath she done because I am to be buried. Truly I say to you: wherever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, there will be told also in memory of her what she hath done.

Du lieber Heiland du,
Wenn deine Jünger töricht streiten,
Daß dieses fromme Weib
Mit Salben deinen Leib
Zum Grabe will bereiten,
So lasse mir inzwischen zu,
Von meiner Augen Tränenflüssen
Ein Wasser auf dein Haupt zu gießen!

Belovèd Savior thou,
Midst thy disciples’ foolish quarrel,
Because this loyal dame
Thy body with her oils
To bury would make ready,
O in the meanwhile grant me this,
From these mine eyes’ own streams of weeping
To pour upon thy head an ointment!


Buß und Reu
Knirscht das Sündenherz entzwei,
Daß die Tropfen meiner Zähren
Angenehme Spezerei,
Treuer Jesu, dir gebären.

Guilt and pain
Break the sinful heart in twain,
So the teardrops of my weeping
A most soothing precious balm,
Jesus, thee doth offer.


  1. Is this interleaved German/English translation available in total somewhere? I like the music, but I’m lost.

  2. The only time I use “Holy” and “Monday” together is when I wake up and say “Holy crap, its Monday.”

  3. This is great, been listening to it as background music all morning.

  4. Melyngoch says:

    I’d like to bear my testimony that the first sentence of this post is true.

  5. Observer fka erics says:

    My jewish boss (at work, not the jesus bumper sticker boss) told m we to turn it off. But its great thx

  6. Uh, yeah. Bach didn’t exactly do a good job tamping down the anti-Semitic traditions of NT interpretation. Alas.

  7. This is certainly one of my favorite works; if only it weren’t for all that German. ;) Thanks for the post!

  8. Mom in Utah says:

    Wow! Where or how did you find that website for St John’s Church in Epping? He has some insight that I quite had not understood before. Thank you, what a great start and framework to my holy week.

  9. michelle says:

    I listened to this the other nite while doing schtuff on the computer. Really beautiful music. Thanks for the heads-up.