[Giotto, Crucifixion, detail]

The Sacrifice: A Cantata

The music, by Red Dragon ( 2007), preceeds the text. Start the music and read down to the section that the music interprets. The consort includes Tenor (scripture), Baritone and Bass (alternate sections of the poem), violin, cello, bassoon and organ. (All instruments may be played by the organ. The text is from the Tenebrae Service based on "The Sacrifice" by George Herbert.)


Overture [begins as background] The poem expresses Christ, on the cross, reviewing the last hours of his life.

Section I: Prelude and "Oh All Ye Who Pass By Whose Eyes and Minde" (Stanzas 1-5).

OH all ye, who passe by,1 whose eyes and minde
To worldly things are sharp, but to me blinde;
To me, who took eyes that I might you finde:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

The Princes of my people make a head
Against their Maker: they do wish me dead,
Who cannot wish, except I give them bread;
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Without me each one, who doth now me brave,
Had to this day been an Egyptian slave.
They use that power against me, which I gave:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Mine own Apostle, who the bag did beare,
Though he had all I had, did not forbeare
To sell me also, and to put me there:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

For thirtie pence he did my death devise,
Who at three hundred did the ointment prize,
Not half so sweet as my sweet sacrifice:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?


Section II: "When Jesus Had Spoken These Words" and "Therefore My Soul Melts" (Stanzas 6-8).

GOING TO GETHSEMANE AND AGONY
A garden between the Kidron brook and the Mount of Olives, Late Thursday Night
JOHN 18:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.

Therefore my soul melts, and my hearts deare treasure
Drops bloud (the onely beads) my words to measure:
O let this cup passe, if it be thy pleasure:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

These drops being temper’d with sinners tears
A Balsome are for both the Hemispheres:2
Curing all wounds, but mine; all, but my fears:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Yet my Disciples sleep; I cannot gain
One houre of watching; but their drowsie brain
Comforts not me, and doth my doctrine stain:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?


Section III: "Arise, Arise, They Come" "And Judas Also Which Betrayed Him" and "With Clubs and Staves They Seek Me" (Stanzas 9-13).

JESUS PRAYS WHILE DISCIPLES SLEEP

Arise, arise, they come.  Look how they runne!
Alas!  what haste they make to be undone!
How with their lanterns do they seek the sunne!
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

JESUS BETRAYED, ARRESTED AND FORSAKEN
(Gethsemane, Friday, several hours before dawn.)
JOHN 18:2 And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples. 3 Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? 5 They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. 6 As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground. 7 Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. 8 Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way: 9 That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none. 10 Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. 11 Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?
With clubs and staves they seek me, as a thief,
Who am the Way and Truth, the true relief;
Most true to those, who are my greatest grief:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Judas, dost thou betray me with a kisse?
Canst thou finde hell about my lips? and misse 
Of life, just at the gates of life and blisse?
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

See, they lay hold on me, not with the hands
Of faith, but furie: yet at their commands
I suffer binding, who have loos’d their bands
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

All my Disciples flie; fear puts a barre
Betwixt my friends and me.  They leave the starre,
That brought the wise men of the East from farre.
                                              Was ever grief like mine?


Section IV: "Then the Band and the Captain" and "Then From One Ruler to Another Bound" (Stanzas 14-15).

FIRST STAGE OF JEWISH TRIAL: EXAMINATION BY ANNAS
(Friday before dawn)
JOHN 18:12 Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him, 13 And led him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year. 14 Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people. 15 And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple: that disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest. 19 The high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine. 20 Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. 21 Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said. 22 And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so? 23 Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?
Then from one ruler to another bound
They leade me; urging, that it was not sound
What I taught: Comments would the test confound.
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

The Priest and rulers all false witnesse seek
’Gainst him, who seeks not life, but is the meek
And readie Paschal Lambe of this great week:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?


Section V: "Now Annas Had Sent Him" and "Then They Accuse Me" (Stanzas 16-18).

SECOND STAGE OF JEWISH TRIAL: JESUS CONDEMNED BY CAIAPHAS AND THE SANHEDRIN
(Palace of Caiaphas, Friday)
JOHN 18:24 Now Annas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest.
Then they accuse me of great blasphemie,
That I did thrust into the Deitie,
Who never thought that any robberie:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Some said, that I the Temple to the floore
In three dayes raz’d, and raised as before.
Why, he that built the world can do much more:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Then they condemne me all with that same breath,
Which I do give them daily, unto death.
Thus Adam my first breathing rendereth:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?


Section VI: "Then Led They Jesus" and "They Bind And Lead Me Unto Herod" (Stanzas 19-21).

THIRD STAGE OF JEWISH TRIAL:
JESUS FORMALLY CONDEMNED BY THE SANDHEDRIN AND LED TO PILATE
(Jerusalem, Friday after dawn)
JOHN 18:28 Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.

SECOND STAGE OF THE ROMAN TRIAL: JESUS BEFORE HEROD ANTIPAS
(Jerusalem, Early Friday morning.)
They binde, and leade me unto Herod: he
Sends me to Pilate.  This makes them agree;
But yet their friendship is my enmitie:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Herod and all his bands do set me light,
Who teach all hands to warre, fingers to fight,
And onely am the Lord of Hosts and might:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Herod in judgement sits, while I do stand;
Examines me with a censorious hand:
I him obey, who all things else command:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Section VII: "But Ye Have a Custom" and "The Jews Accuse Me" (Stanzas 22-26).

THIRD STAGE OF ROMAN TRIAL:
PILATE RELUCTANTLY SENTENCES HIM TO CRUCIFIXION
(Friday, toward sunrise)
JOHN 18:39 But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? 40 Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.
19:1 Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. 2 And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, 3 And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. 4 Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. 5 Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! 6 When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. 7 The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. 8 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; 9 And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer.
The Jews accuse me with dispitefulnesse;
And vying malice with my gentlenesse,
Pick quarrels with their onely happinesse:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

I answer nothing, but with patience prove
If stonie hearts will melt with gentle love.
But who does hawk at eagles with a dove?
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

My silence rather doth augment their crie;
My dove doth back into my bosome flie,
Because the raging waters still are high:3
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Heark how they crie aloud still, Crucifie:
It is not fit he live a day, they crie,
Who cannot live lesse then eternally:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Pilate, a stranger, holdeth off; but they,
Mine owne deare people, cry, Away, away,
With noises confused frighting the day:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?


Section VIII: "Then Saith Pilate Unto Him" and "Yet Still They Shout and Cry" (Stanzas 27-38).

JOHN 19:10 Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? 11 Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. 12 And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar. 13 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. 14 And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! 15 But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. 16 Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away.
Yet still they shout, and crie, and stop their eares,
Putting my life among their sinnes and fears,
And therefore wish my bloud on them and theirs:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?	

See how spite cankers things. These words aright
Used, and wished, are the whole worlds light:
But hony is their gall, brightnesse their night:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

They choose a murderer, and all agree
In him to do themselves a courtesie:
For it was their own case who killed me:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

And a seditious murderer he was:
But I the Prince of peace; peace that doth passe
All understanding, more then heav’n doth glasse:4
                                              Was ever grief like mine?	

Why, Caesar is their onely King, not I:
He clave the stonie rock, when they were drie;
But surely not their hearts, as I well trie:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Ah! how they scourge me! yet my tendernesse
Doubles each lash: and yet their bitternesse
Windes up my grief to a mysteriousnesse:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?	

They buffet him, and box him as they list,
Who grasps the earth and heaven with his fist,
And never yet, whom he would punish, miss’d:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?	

Behold, they spit on me in scornfull wise,
Who by my spittle gave the blinde man eies,
Leaving his blindnesse to my enemies:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

My face they cover, though it be divine.
As Moses face was vailed, so is mine,
Lest on their double-dark souls either shine:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Servants and abjects flout me; they are wittie:
Now prophesie who strikes thee, is their dittie.
So they in me denie themselves all pitie:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

And now I am deliver’d unto death,
Which each one calls for so with utmost breath,
That he before me well nigh suffereth:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Weep not, deare friends, since I for both have wept
When all my tears were bloud, the while you slept:
Your tears for your own fortunes should be kept:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?


Section IX: "The Soldiers Lead Me To The Common Hall" (Stanzas 39-49).


The souldiers lead me to the common hall;
There they deride me, they abuse me all:
Yet for twelve heav’nly legions I could call:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Then with a scarlet robe they me aray;
Which shews my bloud to be the onely way
And cordiall left to repair mans decay:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Then on my head a crown of thorns I wear:
For these are all the grapes Sion doth bear,
Though I my vine planted and watred there:
                                               Was ever grief like mine?

So sits the earths great curse in Adams fall
Upon my head: so I remove it all
From th’ earth unto my brows, and bear the thrall:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Then with the reed they gave to me before,
They strike my head, the rock from thence all store
Of heav’nly blessings issue evermore:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?
			
They bow their knees to me, and  cry, Hail king:
What ever scoffes & scornfulnesse can bring,
I am the floore, the sink, where they it fling:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Yet since mans scepters are as frail as reeds,
And thorny all their crowns, bloudie their weeds;
I, who am Truth, turn into truth their deeds:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

The souldiers also spit upon that face,
Which Angels did desire to have the grace,
And Prophets, once to see, but found no place:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Thus trimmed, forth they bring me to the rout,
Who Crucifie him, crie with one strong shout.
God holds his peace at man, and man cries out:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

They leade me in once more, and  putting then
Mine own clothes on, they leade me out agen.
Whom devils flie, thus is he toss’d of men:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

And now wearie of sport, glad to ingrosse
All spite in one, counting my life their losse,
They carrie me to my most bitter crosse:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?


Intermezzo: Golgotha


Section X: "And He Bearing His Cross Went Forth" and "O All Ye Who Pass By Behold and See" (Stanzas 50-52).

THE CRUCIFIXION: ON THE WAY TO THE CROSS
(Inside to outside Jerusalem, Friday morning
JOHN 19:17 And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:
O all ye who passe by, behold and see;1
Man stole the fruit,5 but I must climbe the tree;
The tree of life to all, but onely me:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Lo, here I hang, charg’d with a world of sinne,
The greater world o’ th’ two; for that came in
By  words, but this by sorrow I must win:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Such sorrow as, if sinfull man could feel,
Or feel his part, he would not cease to kneel.
Till all were melted, though he were all steel:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?


Section XI: "Where They Crucified Him."

THE CRUCIFIXION: JESUS CRUCIFIED AND REVILED,
HIS THREE SAYINGS DURING THE FIRST THREE HOURS.
(Friday morning from nine o'clock until noon.)
JOHN 19:18 Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst. 19 And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. 20 This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. 21 Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. 22 Pilate answered, What I have written I have written. 23 Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. 24 They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did. 25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! 27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.


Section XII: "After This, Jesus Knowing That All Things Were Now Accomplished" and "But, O My God, My God! Why Leav'st Thou Me" (Stanzas 53-62).

THE CRUCIFIXION: DARKNESS THREE HOURS AFTER FOUR MORE SAYINGS,
JESUS EXPIRES, STRANGE EVENTS ATTENDING HIS DEATH
(Golgotha, outside Jerusalem)
JOHN 19:28 After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. 29 Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

But, O my God, my God! why leav’st thou me,6
The sonne, in whom  thou dost delight to be?
My God, my God ------
                                              Never was grief like mine.

Shame tears my soul, my bodie many a wound;
Sharp nails pierce this, but sharper that confound;
Reproches, which are free, while I am bound.
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Now heal thy self, Physician; now come down.
Alas! I did so, when  I left my crown
And fathers smile for you, to feel his frown:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

In healing not my self, there doth consist
All that salvation, which ye now resist;
Your safetie in my sicknesse doth subsist:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Betwixt two theeves I spend my utmost breath,
As he that for some robberie suffereth.
Alas! what have I stollen from you?  Death.
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

A king my title is, prefixt on high;
Yet by my subjects am condemn’d to die
A servile death in servile companie:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

They give me vineger mingled with gall,
But more with malice: yet, when they did call,
With Manna, Angels food, I fed them all:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

They part my garments, and by lot dispose
My coat, the type of love, which once cur’d those
Who sought for help, never malicious foes:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?
Nay, after death their spite shall further go;
For they will pierce my side, I full well know;
That as sinne came, so Sacraments might flow:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

But now I die; now all is finished.
My wo, mans weal:7 and now I bow my head.
Onely let others say, when I am dead,
                                              Never was grief like mine.


Section XIII (Coda): "Psalm 22: My God, My God."

Psalm 22

1 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? 2 O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. 3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. 4 Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. 5 They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded. 6 But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. 7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, 8 He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. 9 But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts. 10 I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly. 11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. . . . 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. 16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. 17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. 18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. 19 But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me. . . . (King James Version)

Everyone exits in silence.



[Giotto, Crucifixion]
For general information see Mark 14:43-15:41; Matthew 26:47-27:66; Luke 22:47-23:49; John 18:1-19:30. [Links have commentary, sermons and several translations of the text.]

1Quote from Lamentations of Jeremiah 1:12 Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger. (KJV) [Return] Link Lamentations 1
2 Hemispheres. half spheres = the eyes. [Return]
3 Reference to Noah, the flood and the dove that returned with the olive branch. [Return]
4 glasse. appear, show in heaven, know. [Return]
5 Reference to Adam’s Original Sin for which Christ is the sacrifice. [Return] For these and other Bible references, see Appendix.
6Quote from Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? (KJV) [Return] Link: Psalm 22
7 weal or wealth. As in "Commonwealth" meaning "common good." Man’s good. [Return]

Editor’s Note: In the 1633 edition the last line of the first stanza on each page reads "Was ever grief like mine?" The line of the other seven stanzas on that page read "Was ever, &c." to save type.


Sacrifice 1633 Edition Complete  Modern version Stz 1-10; Modern version Stz 11-21; Modern version Stz 22-32; Modern version Stz 33-42; Modern version Stz 43-52; Modern version Stz 53-end
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