Singing the Suffering Servant

The Holy Week Lectionary features the four Suffering Servant songs of Isaiah. Today through Wednesday, we are treated to three portraits of God’s loyal servant who will suffer for the commitment to God. Good Friday is reserved for the last, longest, and most profound of the group. To find them in the Bible, here they are:

These passages are seen as foreshadowing the faithfulness, suffering, and triumph of Jesus. And they certainly do. But it would be naive to think God’s revelation ends there.

While I do think these passages indeed portray the Son with poignant accuracy, they certainly describe the experience of anyone loyal to God in a setting of disbelief and antagonism. If we are serious about taking up our cross and walking with the Lord, we should take these passages seriously.

Take the first song:

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
Upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
Not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
A bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
Until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

How can the servant possibly be fruitful without crying out or shouting? What a difference from the clamor of voices shoving each other for our attention.

Long, long ago, I had the idea of composing a song cycle based on these four passages. The fourth song was certainly beyond me–I’ve never had a thought to attempt it. Not even now. But this would be a great inspiration for symphony, don’t you think? Four movements, starting with a very quiet first and ending with a passionate fourth. I’m surprised nobody has done a full set–unless there’s a setting out there I don’t know about.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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