It’s Holy Week for Christians around the world, a celebration and remembrance of the last days of Jesus Christ, prophet to some, Savior to others. There are many services, the most important of which are those for Maundy Thursday (last supper), Good Friday (crucifixion), and Easter (resurrection). On the nights prior to each of these services is the Tenebrae, a ceremony in which candles are extinguished while psalms are read, chanted, and sung. One of the psalms performed in these services (particularly those preceding Good Friday) is the Miserere, which translates to “have mercy.” This plea for mercy comes from a story, the kind of story that would implode Twitter if it happened today. Journey back with me to 1000 BC and then some…
So you’re the king of Israel, kicking it and doing your thing. You’ve got a baller ass palace and you’re like “I’m gonna take a walk on the roof of this bitch because it’s gorgeous outside right now.” While you’re out strolling, you see a hot chick taking a bath and you say to yourself, “Self, I wanna be IN that lady.” You’re the king, so this isn’t really a problem, but afterwards you feel guilty about the fact that she’s married to a dude who’s fighting in your armies and you done fucked around and got her pregnant. Rather than come clean and man up, you summon the dude from the campaign he’s fighting and try to get him to bang his wife so that he’ll think it’s his kid, but he refuses because it’s a rule in the kingdom (YOUR kingdom) for men in active service to abstain. After several attempts, you give up and order the dude placed in the front lines where he’ll be in harm’s way, and he dies like you intended. You then marry the hot chick from the bath and roll with her for the rest of your days.
You’re not going to believe this, but the God of the Old Testament wasn’t really feeling that approach. He sends a prophet to make you feel like shit about it. You do. What do you do about it? You get penitent as balls.
The King James version of Psalm 51:
1 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
15 O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
18 Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.
This text provided the inspiration for a lot of great music, but none is more famous than the setting by Gregorio Allegri (with a little help from his friends, and a little more help with people he never could have known). It’s one of the most stunningly beautiful things you could ever hope to hear, and it comes with an amazing back story to boot, one that directly involves the musical genius of two of the greatest composers in human history. Watch this video, learn some shit, crank the music to 11, and repent your own transgressions to whatever God or Humanity you choose.